Friday, January 25, 2013

Saturday Night Widows

While much of our time in Cancer Land is spent with caregiving and managing the logistics of cancer, the thing that takes up most of our mental energy is the thing we talk about the least: Death

The thing about death that we, maybe, don’t talk about enough-- or admit-- is the part about what will happen to us after he/she dies. Yes, I know—you can feel that taboo right away even just reading it, right?

I know that were not “supposed” to think about ourselves. That’s not part of the “loving caregiver” image. We’re supposed to be thinking about them and their needs not our needs-- and certainly not our needs later, right? That’s a big “don’t” of caregiving.  But it’s also true that a lot of the real fear—the part that comes out in secret sobs in private moments-- is the, “What am I gonna do if he dies?” terror.

Of course we know what we’ll do; we’ll live. But that’s also what we’re afraid of. “Live how?” and “Will I ever be happy again?”

I know, I know, we’re not supposed to think such thoughts in Cancer Land. We’re supposed to be unselfish and loving and worry only about him/her. But, alas, we are human.

And now gratefully I have found a book about this very human part of life and loving: a book about the “What happens Later” part, and what happens after the love of our life dies.

The book is called, “Saturday Night Widows” and it is brand new. Written by Becky Aikman who was widowed at 42 after her husband’s death from cancer. What is startling and refreshing about this book and Aikman’s approach is that she tried the traditional route of recovery—debriefing and bereavement group but it was a bust. Her “failure” in traditional grief work led her to do a ton of research on grief and bereavement and she discovered that a lot of what we have been taught about the process of grief and grieving is mostly wrong.

For example, Aikman talks to grief experts who confirm that the Kubler-Ross “Stages of Grief” were never actually stages of grief. They were, and are, stages of the dying process. Kubler-Ross worked with people who were dying but over time we told and retold those famous “stages” as grieving gospel. Not true. No stages. More like waves that diminish over time.

And another myth Aikman debunked: you don’t have to talk, talk talk. In fact the over-telling is re-traumatizing. Turns out that new experiences and happy experiences are the real medicine for grief. 

So “Saturday Night Widows” is full of great info, facts and the latest research but it’s more than that. It’s also a really fun and inspiring story. Aikman gathered a group of new, youngish widows and tried out the new ideas for all of their healing. The cooked, shopped, traveled, made things. And yes they cried, worried and talked about their spouses too, but it was a very different experience than what you’d see in a traditional grief group.

This is the book for your friends who have had a death. The book is about widows but it fits men too and maybe siblings as well. It’s a book that I hope cancer care centers and oncologists will make available. It might even be a wonderful book to read as a caregiver. It offers hope that while, yes, we do fear his/her death we can be and we will be just fine later.

No comments: