Does the word "widow" conjure up the image of a somber, elderly woman dressed in black? Does it bring Queen Victoria or Mary Lincoln to mind? If such is the case, then SATURDAY NIGHT WIDOWS is sure to give readers a different perspective on grief, widowhood, and reinventing oneself now that one is no longer part of a couple. The IRS considers the surviving spouse "single," but single doesn't really carry the same connotation as "widow." Or does it?
Journalist Becky Aikman's solid and happy marriage of two decades ended when her husband succumbed to cancer after a lengthy and harrowing battle. A professional woman in her 40s with no children, she did not have a map with which to chart her course through grief and beyond. She did attend one grief support meeting, but that was no help. It actually made matters worse because the other widows were much older and very critical of her. The group's leader suggested that it would be better if she did not attend any more meetings. It's not hard enough to be rocking about in a boat called widowhood, but then not to even have a spot to drop anchor?
"SATURDAY NIGHT WIDOWS is written frankly from a very unique perspective, and is both reflective and hopeful. Every marriage eventually ends when one partner survives the other. This is the reality, and this well-written book is a gentle reminder of that sobering fact."
Becky found the theories of Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, who for many years had been the authority on death and grief, to be of no help. The five stages that Dr. Ross constructed really dealt with what the dying person goes through, not the grieving spouse. But many support groups continued to base their approach to grief on Dr. Ross's model. Surely there must be another way to learn to heal from grief. Being a journalist, Becky thoroughly researched her subject, talked to current researchers in the field of grief, and constructed a plan.
She gathered together a group of five women, total strangers; the only common thread was widowhood. The ladies ranged in age from late 30s to mid-50s. Some were career women, others were housewives. A few were mothers, some were not. Becky's goal was to meld these strangers into a community of support for one another. Some of the situations they faced were getting past their grief, learning how to trust their decisions, how to be a single parent, if and when to begin dating --- in effect, how to reinvent themselves.
Becky had already remarried before she organized the group that later became dubbed “Blossoms.” Lotus flowers only bloom in the mud. These women were in the mud, and bloom they would. As they began to share their personal stories, Becky realized that rather than lead the group, she would get drawn into it as well. Saturday night can be a lonely time, so they met one Saturday night a month. Among other things, Becky scheduled a private cooking class, group lingerie shopping, and viewing an art exhibit specially arranged to promote hope. In time, their outings became much more adventurous and far flung.
SATURDAY NIGHT WIDOWS is written frankly from a very unique perspective, and is both reflective and hopeful. Every marriage eventually ends when one partner survives the other. This is the reality, and this well-written book is a gentle reminder of that sobering fact.
Reviewed by Carole Turner on January 7, 2014
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