Perserverance is Amplifed in 9 Books About Widows
Widows are among the strongest people.
Books For Widows
While I know no book for widows is going to take the pain away, I do think they can help. Grief is a strange thing that goes through many forms and, the better we understand our grief, the more likely we are to persevere.
I have to be honest about two things. One, I'm not a widow. Two, I believe widows and widowers are some of the strongest people I know. My brother is two years younger than me and, only 10 months into his marriage, his new wife was diagnosed with cancer. He lost her just a year and a half after they got married. It's only been seven months and, for as hard as the loss has been on me, I can't even imagine what he's gone through at 26. I'm about to get married to a wonderful woman and am both happier and more terrified than I've ever been in my life.
I think most people assume widows need some space, may be depressed for a time, or need a fresh start, but unless you've gone through that loss, it's hard to relate to. The authors of these nine books for widows, however, can understand. They've been there and felt that same indescribable loss that comes with widowhood. Books won't make the hurt go away, but it's always soothing to know you aren't alone in what you feel.
1. Saturday Night Widows: The Adventures of Six Friends Remaking Their Lives by Becky Aikman
Author Becky Aikman became a widow far too young. In her memoir, Saturday Night Widows, Becky describes her makeshift group with five other young widows who lost their husbands to cancer, alcoholism, suicide, and accidents. Throughout the year, they meet once a month, sharing with each other things no one else in their lives would understand in a book that turns "traditional thinking about loss and recovery upside down." The book also chronicles Aikman's path through grief, love, and the touching yet unpredictability of life.
2. Newly Widowed, Now Socially Awkward: Facing Interpersonal Challenges After Loss by Eileen L. Cooley PhD
Eileen L. Cooley may be a licensed psychologist, but does being a professional really ever prepare you for your own loss? Her book Newly Widowed, Now Socially Awkward is filled with 45 different essays. Cooley expected her life to to change - how could it not? - but she wasn't prepared for how socially awkward everything became, upset with both others and herself. What's interesting about the book is that while many of the essays are in Cooley's "personal voice" that is consumed by her grief, she also uses her professional psychologist voice to try to identify what she "'can do for [herself]' to cope and move on."
3. A Widow's Story: A Memoir by Joyce Carol Oates
Five-time Pulitzer Prize nominee Joyce Carol Oates is a huge name in the literary world. She's also a widow. After the death of her husband of 46 years, she needed a way to deal with her loss and so began this memoir. Dealing with an indescribable loneliness of widowhood and the need to put on the back of the good widow and not let people see how deeply hurt she was, Oates slowly acclimated to her new life without her husband. Thankfully, she shares her deeply thoughtful story with us all.
4. The Loss of a Life Partner: Narratives of the Bereaved by Carolyn Ambler Walter
The Loss of a Life Partner by Carolyn Ambler Walter is a little different than some of the other books on this list. Rather than one person's story through grief, the book contains 22 different stories of people who have lost their husbands, wives, and longterm partners, and includes straight, gay, and lesbian stories. While the book was published before gay marriage was legal in the U.S., making some of the info a little outdated, it still has a big focus on relationships that are often overlooked. Walter's work "explores both socially sanctioned and disenfranchised grief" and doesn't believe people must "detach" from their lost loved one in order to move on.
5. The Widow's Journal: Questions to Guide You through Grief and Life Planning after the Loss of a Partner by Carrie P. Freeman PhD
This book is also a little different than others on the list. While The Widow's Journal may be a guided journal, it was created by Carrie P. Freeman, PhD, who lost her husband to cancer just before she turned thirty. With this journal, she wanted to create a book that would have helped her through her grief. The Widow's Journal contains more than 100 guided questions, both practical and profound, that will allow you to work through your grief over time and reflect on what you're feeling.
6. Confessions of a Mediocre Widow: Or, How I Lost My Husband and My Sanity by Catherine Tidd
Rather than celebrating, Catherine Tidd spent her 11th wedding anniversary planning a funeral for her husband. At the time, she was nearly 31, had three children under the age of six, and a resume covered in cobwebs. As she figures out how to become a single parent, support her family, and run her household by herself, Tidd realizes she gets to be in charge of the way she wants to grieve. If she wants to get a pedicure on a hard day, whose to stop her? And if she wants a sports car, there's no one to tell her no.
7. Lesbian Widows: Invisible Grief by Victoria Whipple
There isn't a lot out there that focuses on non-straight women losing their spouses, but I did come across Lesbian Widows by Victoria Whipple during my research. A widow herself, Whipple's book contains the stories of 25 women who lost their partners, detailing from when the couple met to the grief and after the loss. The book also offers a lot of practical advice, such as different coping skills and support resources for lesbians and women in relationships with women, including caregiving, legal and financial discrimination, starting new relationships, and more.
8. The Hot Young Widows Club: Lessons on Survival from the Front Lines of Grief by Nora McInerny
In the span of just six weeks while in her thirties, Nora McInery's life fell apart when she lost her husband, unborn child, and father. Since then, McInery has focused a lot on grief, including her podcast, Terrible, Thanks for Asking, and her book, The Hot Young Widows Club. The book is one-part shoulder to cry on and empathetic friend and one-part resource for folks experiencing indescribable loss. Drawing on her own experience, McInerny offers advice that is both heartfelt yet practical, educational yet supportive.
9. Epilogue: A Memoir by Anne Roiphe
Given the title, Epiologue by Anne Roiphe felt like an appropriate book to end our list. It is a memoir of Roiphe losing her husband of nearly 40 years. Nearly 70, Roiphe must survive her grief and depression and figure out who she is for a single person for the first time in decades. Later, when her daughters put a personal ad in a literary journal for her and she signs up for Match.com, Roiphe ventures out into the waters of dating again, all while trying to discover who she is now without her husband.
Let's Keep the Conversation Going...
What is the best book for widows you've read?