Writing the widowed self (progress on book project)

The “Widow Project” manuscript now has a new working title and below is a short summary. I’m completing edits and the book will be reviewed by an academic publisher in 2020.

Writing the Widowed Self: a story of love, grief, and resilience

Losing loved ones is our common fate. Yet, death is something we frequently (and perhaps wisely) ignore until we are faced with the reality of the loss of a beloved or our own impending death. Our resistance may in part be fuelled by worries about how we would cope and the assumptions we may make about loss and grieving. For instance, we may believe, contrary to current research, that we are not likely to be resilient, or that grief must unfold in particular stages within an acceptable timeframe, or that we must “stay strong” to cope well. This autoethnographic exploration of the death of the author’s spouse is an invitation instead to be vulnerable and open and allow loss and grief to be what they will and learn to surrender to or inhabit grief’s rhythms, while also engaging actively and reflexively with the thoughts and feelings that arise. 


Reinekke Lengelle tells the story of her work and life partner, Frans Meijers, who develops a rare cancer and dies within seven months of his diagnosis. She speaks about the way in which they openly faced the news of his illness, how he made end of life choices, and how poems she wrote while he was ill and after his death became a means by which to express, stay close to Frans, and live life well without him. The story, as told here, begins on a December morning, two weeks after Frans’s passing, when Reinekke returns alone from their home in The Netherlands to her home in Canada and writes in detail of her feelings, daily living in Frans’s absence, and the history of their relationship. As a professor of “writing the self” (i.e. writing for personal development), she practices what she teaches her students: how to use poetry, narrative, and research findings to reflect, explore, and articulate what a painful experience might have to teach. Writing is a productive and steady companion: it helps her make sense of the myriad and sometimes uncomfortable feelings that accompany the grieving process, allows her to experience continuing bonds with Frans via memories and imagined dialogues, and results in nourishing insights about bereavement in her first year of grief.