This upcoming Thursday, our book club members will be discussing our February Selection, Saturday Night Widows: The Adventures of Six Friends Remaking Their Lives by Becky Aikman. As a young widow, Becky was kicked out of her first widow support group. So what does she do? She formed her own widow support group, but with a twist. I’m excited to have Becky answer some of our members’ questions about her book and The Blossoms, the support group she formed.
From Left to Write: We’re going to start with the question that everyone has been asking. It’s fair to say that our members have even become attached to the Blossoms. How do the Blossoms and their families feel about the book?
Becky Aikman: One of the scariest moments for me in the whole process was sending the final manuscript to the other Blossoms. We had all agreed that we wanted our story to be true, so we held nothing back as we shared the many adventures we encountered in the process of reinventing ourselves. Still, I knew it might be shocking for them to read such intimate stories from their own lives on the page. I was delighted when they and their families rallied around the book, teasing each other about some of their quirks, like Lesley’s racy humor and Tara’s penchant for drama. I had told them I could give any of them aliases in the book if they preferred, but no one did. Tara said, “I feel completely naked, but also very brave.”
FL2W member Jennifer at MamaWolfe asks: Was it a conscious decision to disband the group, and if so, why?
Becky Aikman: Our original plan was to meet formally for one year, mostly to give a finite ending point for the book, but there was really no stopping us after that. We still get together often, just not on a schedule.
FL2W member Julia Coney at All About the Pretty asks: How has writing the book changed the way you view the grieving process?
Becky Aikman: When we started, I wondered whether the experiences of the Saturday Night Widows would confirm what I learned about grief from researchers, and it certainly did. We learned that people are naturally resilient, that it’s good to get out into the world with friends, that humor is strong medicine. I wish I had known the others sooner. I think I might have re-engaged with life sooner, too. While sadness is certainly part of the grieving process, so is starting over with optimism.
From FL2W member Marianne Thomas at Writer-Mommy: If I read correctly, you were already remarried when you started this group for widows in hopes of chronicling the year long journey the group would undertake. What were the challenges you faced, if any, both personally and within the group since you were already at such a further stage (remarried) in moving forward with your life than many of the other women who had lost husbands fairly recently?
Becky Aikman: I thought there might be a bit of a gulf between us because I was already remarried, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. People tend to think, “Problem solved!” when a widow or divorced person remarries, but the other Blossoms and I still shared many emotions and many questions about how to go forward. Understanding what we had all gone through in losing the people we loved created a powerful bond. And on a practical level, we were all reinventing ourselves, so I appreciated their guidance on the many issues I still faced — where to live, how to accommodate a new person in my life, how to interact with his daughter, how to launch this new career writing a book. They appreciated my perspective on some of the issues I’d already faced — dating again, forging a new identity. We were all coping with similar dilemmas, and there was plenty for us to learn from each other about all of it.
FL2W blogger SavvyWorkingGal asks: What did you learn about strength and perseverance from your experiences with the Blossoms? Is there anything you or the others did that you felt detracted from strength?
Becky Aikman: I learned that people who don’t consider themselves heroic in any sort of epic way can show real fortitude. It’s hard to think of anything that detracted from our strength, except perhaps guilt. We had to fight against feeling guilty when we pursued pleasure, and what a shame that was. We often wondered what useful purpose guilt served for people in our position. It can be such an exasperating obstacle to moving ahead.
FL2W member Michelle from Honest & Truly! really wants to know: Can you share the recipe for the cookies? I was SO hoping that would be at the end of the book, but no such luck!
Becky Aikman: What a good idea! Maybe I should put it in the paperback. Lauren Groveman, the cookbook author and teacher who led our cooking class, has the recipe for the cookies on her website. Look at your own risk — they are irresistable:
FL2W member Amy of Using Our Words asks: Did you think this group was more successful because you didn’t know each other with spouses? Or do you think friends could start something similar?
Becky Aikman: Such an interesting question — I can’t really know. In some ways, it was easy to open up about what we were facing heading into the future by bonding with people who didn’t know us in the past. Perhaps it made us freer to think creatively about what to do next. On the other hand, who wouldn’t benefit from having great fun with great friends? I think anyone in any situation in life — married, widowed, single — could benefit from a Saturday Night adventure plan, any day of the week.
FL2W: Several members have requested an update on the Blossoms. What is the work, life, family, etc update for them? How long ago did they leave the group?
Becky Aikman: We stopped meeting officially once a month in January 2011, but we still see each other constantly, sometimes in twos or threes, or often with the whole group. In a flash we fall back into our usual ways, sharing all our personal secrets. A few weeks ago, the others threw a surprise party for me to celebrate the book publication, with a hilarious cake that depicted me popping out of a lotus blossom. I put pictures of it on my facebook page. And they even chipped in to bring our guide from Morocco, Saida, to the US for the first time. She stayed with Tara and Marcia, and we showed her everything. This time we were the guides.
Spoiler Alert! I’m reluctant to give too much of an update on everyone — so stop reading if you haven’t finished the book yet. For the rest of you, here goes: My husband, Bob Spitz, and I both had our books published in the last few months (he wrote Dearie: The Remarkable Life of Julia Child, a New York Times bestseller!) My stepdaughter is in college now and looking forward to living here in Brooklyn this summer. Dawn is planning a wedding. Denise edited a current bestselling book — Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker by Jennifer Chiaverini. Marcia is still thriving at work and planning ever more adventurous travel. Lesley and Tara are happily involved with men they met during the course of the book. Those two Blossoms have moved to homes a few blocks apart and see each other often. Jealous!
FL2W: Is there anything else you’d like to let our readers know?
Becky Aikman: Just how grateful I am to the other Saturday Night Widows for sharing their stories — by turns bittersweet, inspiring, instructive, touching and hilarious — with readers, and with me.
Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us!
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