Sunday, February 17, 2013

Saturday Night Widows

In long-term recovery we have a lot of gratitude for how far we have come and we are always thinking about “What Comes Next…”: What will come next in our relationships, in our careers, in our families. While we don’t often think that far ahead its true that what comes eventually is death and dying.

The old joke: “How do you get to be an old-timer? Answer: Don’t Drink and Don’t Die.” That’s true. Up to a point. People we love will die. That too is part of recovery.

Think about it. If we are going to stay in recovery a long time then we are agreed that we’ll experience everything that people do who live a long time: illness, injury, disability and death. I know, I know…but this does not have to be morbid.

I have just read a wonderful new book about this very human part of life: What can happen to us after our spouse or partner dies.

The book is called, “Saturday Night Widows.”  Written by Becky Aikman who was widowed at 42 after her husband’s death from cancer, this book is startling in it’s positive approach to a subject many of us turn away from even in our recovery conversations. What is refreshing about Aikman’s approach is that she tried the traditional bereavement group after her husband’s death but it was a bust. Her “failure” in traditional grief work led her to do years of research and she discovered that a lot of what we have been taught about grieving is mostly wrong.

Aikman talked to grief experts who confirmed 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.

Another myth that Aikman debunks: You don’t have to talk, talk talk. In fact the over-telling of grief may be re-traumatizing. Turns out that new experiences and happy experiences are the real medicine for grief. This, I think, is a great reinforcement of our process in recovery groups.

“Saturday Night Widows” is also an inspiring story of the group of women that Aikman gathered and how they cooked, shopped, traveled, cried and laughed their way to healing.

This is the book for people in recovery who have had a death in their family. It is a perfect book for a woman in recovery who has lost a partner. Aikman offers hope that while we may fear death we can be, and we will be, just fine later.

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