Life After Loss: Huntington Widow Honors Husband 3 Years After His Death from Covid

Tulsi Patel and Luke Workoff were married in September 2019

Tulsi Patel, a 30-year-old Huntington resident, lost her husband, Luke Workoff, to Covid three years ago. 

He was 33, she was 27, and they had been married since September 2019 for nearly eight months. She looks back at their wedding as a wonderful moment. 

“I’m super happy that we had it,” she says. “Now I have all those great memories.”  Workoff died April 4, 2020 in the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

A vice president at Mizuho Bank, he took the Long Island Rail Road to work, but lived on and spent much of his time on Long Island. Patel and Workoff both caught Covid-19 in the first surge. While she recovered, he didn’t

Patel appeared on the news after he died, indicating Covid-19 was not a hoax when little was known about it. She joined Widowed Not Alone, a bereavement support group, to help navigate life after loss. Soon after what would have been Workoff’s birthday and just before the anniversary of his death, she spoke with Long Island Press about life, love, loss and living on after losing a loved one due to Covid-19.

Life After Loss: Huntington Widow Honors Husband 3 Years After His Death to Covid-19

What’s one example of Luke’s good qualities? 

Luke was the best advice giver. I try to think like him. What would Luke do? What would he tell me?

How does he influence you today if he does?

You push yourself to be the best version of yourself for them. That’s the way I look at it.

What is something that reminds you of him today?

I try to remember him as much as I can. Luke got me a dog, a Pomeranian. I still have the dog that Luke got me. I take care of him in such a gold standard. We didn’t have children. This was our child.

How did you meet Luke?

We met on Tinder. We dated. We come from separate cultures, but we made it work. We were together for close to six years. 

Can you tell me how Covid progressed with Luke early on in the pandemic?

Luke had some trouble breathing. On Thursday, he had enough energy to wash the sheets. We didn’t know how the virus goes on the sheets. He made the king sized bed. On Friday, I went to check on him. He wasn’t feeling well. Saturday, I woke up. When I went to check on him, I went, “How are you feeling?” No response. He had passed away in his sleep.  He passed away on April 4. I called 911. I ran outside and screamed for help. Nobody knew what the virus was. So nobody really wanted to help.

What happened then?

The medics told me to get out of the house. They were going to take him to Good Sam. Then they told us they rerouted Luke to another hospital, Southside.

How did you find out that he passed away?

I got the news, saying they did everything they could. They could not revive him. That entire time I was sitting by myself. The ER resident sat down next to me, held my hand.

Could you talk with people in person after Luke passed, especially since you had Covid?

People sat outside in my yard. I saw them that way. There was a lot of Zoom, a lot of FaceTime.

Have you lost sleep?

My therapist said, “You’re afraid of sleeping, because Luke passed away while he was sleeping.” It unlocks a whole new fear.

How are you able to live your life after this loss?

Life is not promised. I could sit, be sad, sulk. Or I can live the life Luke would want me to live. I chose the second.

What have you done since Luke passed?

I went out, got a job, took care of the dogs. Every milestone I pass, I think he would have been so proud of me and I’m sure he is. After he passed away, I got a job that I stayed at for two years.

How do you handle specific dates from your life with him?

This Friday is Luke’s 36th birthday. I’ll be celebrating. Every year I make the same chocolate cake. That’s been the tradition. Chocolate cake, candles. Sing happy birthday, blow them out, eat the cake.

How do you form relationships after a loss like this?

There’s a wonderful man I’ve been dating for two years. He always asks about Luke. I have pictures of Luke in the house. It feels so good. I met him when I was 28. For him to be dealing with somebody who went through this – it’s very accepting. He understands Luke will always be part of my life. It’s nice to know that he is accepting and understanding of my life.

Did you look for support groups after Luke died?

Luke’s boss said they have an employee assistance program. I found a therapist within a week who gave resources including support groups and I joined Widowed Not Alone, a support group founded by Kathryn Monaco-Douglas.

How did you get involved with Widowed Not Alone?

When I spoke to Kathryn, she made it so comfortable. I was able to be myself. I told her what happened. The group had been meeting for a few weeks. I jumped in. Those were the most incredible people that I have ever met. They were there for me. I’m there for them. We built a family-like bond. We share the grief, the loss. I was able to comfortably talk. I did not fear any judgment. They would reach out to me on the side to see how I was doing.

Are you still in touch with people from the group?

We would still get on Zoom and talk together, check in and see how everyone’s doing.  A lady I clicked with most graduated high school with my mother. Another lady was my brother’s music teacher at St. Anthony’s High School in Huntington.

Do you still meet with people from the group?

Two weeks ago, I met with two of the people from the group We met at the Bryant, a restaurant in Huntington, talked about life, had dinner, hung out, caught up. We’re more living life. We’re still here. We honor our spouses in any way we can. We live our life at the same time.