I'm sorry to hear about the loss of your work. I really hate it when that happens, too. When you are creating or editing documents the system (by default) automatically saves a draft every 30 seconds (by default) if anything has changed. What you're seeing in the update is the last draft that was autosaved and if you click "Use Recovered" it will replace whatever is currently in the editor with that saved draft.
Which version are you using? Did you press "Use Recovered" and, if so, did it recover what you expected?
The first time, when the browser crashed on me, I was not prompted for to recover anything when I went back to edit the document. The second time it wasn't that anything crashed, it was odd actually. In IE8, I think all I did was a "duplicate tab" on the tab that was currently editting the document. The duplicate tab then prompted me to recover.
Does that make sense?
Also, if there is a 30 second autosave, where does it live? If I don't get a prompt, can I pull it out of the database somewhere?
The auto-saved draft is saved in the jiveDraft table in the database, and if you try to author another document in the same container you'll receive the prompt about recovering the draft. I'm guessing, based on what happened in IE8 with the tabs, that an autosave draft was saved as part of your editing session at that point and when you opened the second tab to create a new document it detected the draft and presented the prompt.
In the database it is probably easiest to query for drafts by the userID.