Note: This is the first of three parts.
Becky Aikman is a journalist like me.
And like me, she lost her husband, Bernard Lefkowitz, to cancer. That was in 2004 when Becky was 49.
Our stories continue to be parallel because Becky’s loss also compelled her to write a book, but her memoir, “Saturday Night Widows: The Adventures of Six Friends Remaking Their Lives,” is very different from mine.
Mine begins with meeting Ed, and it ends just after the first-year anniversary of his death. It is about slogging through the first year of grief, trying to accept the loss and find hope that life does indeed go on.
Becky’s book begins 18 months after her husband died, when she was ready to examine what beginning again would look like. It focuses on Becky’s story and the stories of six other widows who came together every Saturday night for a year to help each other reinvent themselves. It is a story about friendship, dating, sex, love and marriage, and it’s a celebration of women.
I interviewed Becky in mid-March so that I could write press releases about her appearance at an event to be held on Thursday, April 25 at the Delaney House in Holyoke sponsored by Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, an event series for women produced by The Republican newspaper.
Becky will tell the story behind the book, and then – in their first public appearance all together since the book was published in January – she and all five of her widow friends will take questions from the audience about what it was like to reinvent their lives.
The group started in January 2010, not long after Becky went to a bereavement group and found it too heavily focused on grieving at a point where she was ready to consider what the future would look like. She had also studied up on grief and learned, primarily from researchers at Columbia University, that it was healthy for people to move on, to create new experiences and not feel guilty about it. She expressed her thoughts to the facilitator, and she was asked not to return to the group.
Instead, Becky found five other widows, and she started her own group. The idea was that Becky would facilitate and then share the stories in a book after a year’s worth of gatherings. But then Becky and the others –Denise Roy, Dawn Jiosi, Marcia Wallace, Lesley Jacobs and Tara Nicholson Olson – became the fastest of friends.
At first, Becky said it was kind of awkward because the women were all so different. Marsha is a high-powered lawyer, and she’s scary and blunt, and then there’s Leslie, who was married at 20, is a homemaker and has a randy sense of humor.
But as they took on new adventures each Saturday and tried things they’ve never tried before, they came together and bonded over their desire to reinvent themselves. Becky said the goal was to have fun and not talk about sad things.
They took a cooking class. Had a spa weekend. Tried on lingerie together. They helped one woman move. They volunteered at a camp for bereaved children and had a private tour of the Metropolitan Museum in New York City. They organized a meeting with a group of widowers to hear what the grieving process was like for men.
“It was a wildly different experience,” Becky said. “They were getting a lot of sympathy sex – a concept we weren’t too familiar with.”
The big finale for the group was a trip to Morocco in November 2010. It was a fantastic trip where they had new experiences every day and night and were far removed from everyday life.
Becky invites women who want to reinvent themselves – and women who just want to listen and celebrate life and friendship – to come to the Delaney House on April 25.
Tickets for the event are $46 and include dinner and can be purchased at girlsjust.eventbrite.com or by calling 413-735-1645; individual tickets can be purchased, and tables of 10 are also available.
The Odyssey Bookshop of South Hadley will be selling copies of “Saturday Night Widows” at the event.
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