The Widow Project
At the beginning of December, two weeks after Frans’s death, I started what I will call “The Widow Project”. I am not sure of a structure for the final work yet, but I know it will include poetry, reflections, imagined dialogues, and a narrative history of Frans and me. It will likely also include some of the letters and emails I have written to people describing the process of his illness this past year and how I am experiencing the fact of his death. It may also include the insights of other writers, widows, and poets.
A research project with other widow participants may also evolve. In particular I’m interested in meeting and talking to widows who wrote about their experiences (e.g. suddenly felt compelled to write poetry; started writing at the time of illness/death; joined writing groups afterwards etc.)
Across from me as I write is Frans’s empty chair, but it isn’t just a sad reminder of him being gone — it’s a reflection of him as my dialogue partner and muse. The chair sits silent, which will give me the space to write. The chair is not silent, it is full of memories of the myriad conversations we had in life. From the perspective of the self as dialogical (see the work of Hubert Hermans for more on this) I will still be ‘in conversation’.
A request: if anyone comes across articles, books, or blogs about widowhood, grief, bereavement, narrative healing, and you feel the work is worth sharing, please would you send a link or the title to me?
I am also glad to receive any writings on dynamic intellectual couples and their work together (e.g. Carolyn Ellis & Art Bochner). The summer of 2017 I read “Final Negotiations” by Carolyn Ellis about her great love for her partner Gene Weinstein and his death of emphysema. It’s strange but when a friend asked what I thought about the book, I told her that I appreciated the vulnerable and ruthless honest sharing and then added, “I feel it might prepare me”. I said that because of the 20-year age gap I had with Frans – it was always in the back of my mind that he would likely die before me, though I expected him to reach at least 80 years. Frans was not sick at that time and we had no idea that he would become sick. This summer an article I co-wrote two years ago on bereavement, with a student who lost her husband to cancer, was also published in the British Journal of Guidance and Counselling. It’s almost as if there is some part of our soul secretly preparing us for the next thing.
McClocklin, P., & Lengelle, R. (2018). Cures for the heart: A poetic approach to healing after loss. British Journal of Guidance and Counselling 46 (3), 326-339.
The words of other poets arrive to comfort me…Wallace Stevens writes, “After the final no, there comes a yes, And on that yes, the future world depends”.
And so the work begins.