We were very excited to have Becky Aikman join us at Library Journal’s The Digital Shift: Libraries, Ebooks and Beyond virtual conference. Becky chatted with librarians about her touching new memoir Saturday Night Widows and shared with us some of her moving behind the writing of the book stories. Below you can read the transcript of our chat with Becky.
Saturday Night Widows is the story of six marriages, six heartbreaks, and a shared new beginning. At the age of forty-seven, Becky Aikman became a widow. Married for twenty years, she found herself adrift both in the world she and her beloved husband Bernie had made for each other, and in the larger world of widowhood and mourning. In this transcendent and undeniably wise memoir, Saturday Night Widows, Aikman convenes a group of five widowed women who together change their lives.
Meet the Saturday Night Widows: ringleader Becky, an unsentimental journalist who lost her husband at the conclusion of his two-year battle with a rare cancer; Tara, mother of two, whose alcoholic husband died in the midst of divorce proceedings; Denise, a widow of just five months when the group first meets, who now finds herself struggling to stay afloat financially; Marcia, a hard-driving corporate lawyer and grown-up tomboy; Dawn, a voluptuous self-made entrepreneur whose husband and father of their two children was killed in an ATV accident; and Lesley, who stepped out one day on an errand and returned to find her husband had committed suicide, leaving her with two college-age children.
The Saturday Night Widows agree to meet once a month, beginning in January, and over the course of a year they learn to live past the worst thing that can happen. And they do it together. Using their monthly city meetings and later farther afield adventures as an anchor, Saturday Night Widows tells the story of six love affairs, six heartbreaks, and countless–and often very funny–attempts to honor grief and celebrate life. Through it all is the story of Becky Aikman’s own happy ending: her love affair with her now-husband, Bob, and her commitment to help her fellow widows reach the other side of grief, where life and possibilities return. In a transporting story of what women can achieve when they hold each other up, Saturday Night Widows is one of those rare books that will make you laugh, think, and remind yourself that in spite of life’s utter unpredictability and tragedy, it is also precious, fragile, and often more joyous than we recognize.
BECKY AIKMAN CHAT:
Becky Aikman: Hi Everybody. Thank you for coming to the chat about my book, “Saturday Night Widows.”
Belinda: Tell us about your book–I’m sorry I haven’t read it.
Becky Aikman: My book grew out of my experience as a young widow. I started a group with five other young widows. We met for a year as we helped each other remake our lives
Becky Aikman: When we first met, I thought, “Wow, did I make a mistake.” We were very different personalities. Our only common bond was that each of us had suffered a tragedy. But I was surprised that we formed an intense and meaningful bond.
Becky Aikman: Yes! We love getting together, and we always laugh ourselves silly.
Krista: What in your own life made you want to become a writer?
Becky Aikman: I was a newspaper reporter, because I love learning about new things. After myhusband died, I realized that losing someone close to you is one of life’s most common experiences, but very little has been written about how to move forward afterwards. I decided to learn more about that. In the process, Iearned a lot about how friendship can make all the difference.
RH Erica: Where did the term “misfit” widow come from?
Becky Aikman: I felt like a misfit widow, because I hated conforming to the stereotypes of widows. That they are perpetually sad, depressed, unable to move ahead. I met with scientists who study grieving and found that many of these stereotypes are untrue. Human beings are naturally resilient, and they can benefit in grief from positive experiences, new experiences and friendship. The theory of the group was based on those findings.
Becky Aikman: I’m inspired by good writing in general. On this subject, I was most inspired that the book I wished I could read about it didn’t exist. I wished there had been more to help me see my way forward from the depths of grief. One book by a researcher helped me understand the science behind resilience: “The Other Side of Sadness” by George Bonanno, a professor at Columbia.
RH Erica: Do you mind sharing a little with us about how you found love again with your husband? I love love stories!
Becky Aikman: Don’t allow social expectations to limit you. It’s easy for someone who has lost a person close to them to feel guilty experiencing pleasure and planning for a future. You are entitled to have a happy and full life.
Becky Aikman: It took a while before I was ready to consider falling in love with someone new. I couldn’t face the possibility of losing someone else. Over time, I found the courage to try. A friend introduced me to someone, and I knew right away that this was the guy! Because we both had complicated lives, it took some logistical work to make it happen. It’s harder to begin a new relationship at midlife than it is when you’re in your twenties, still waiting to be formed.
Kelly: When my mother became a “widow” her friends that were still part of couples seemed to shy away from her- do you think that is common?
Becky Aikman: Many of the women in my group experienced that. I didn’t so much feel that friends shied away from me, but I felt I no longer fit in so well. Also, all my friends were busy with families and work, so it was hard to fill the void left by the loss of my husband. I formed the group of the Saturday Night Widows to help us all find understanding company. Especially on Saturday night, the toughest one for widows.
Sara: A good friend of mine is a young widow and I can’t wait to recommend this book to her. I, too, have noticed that friends have seemed to shy away from her. Have you found that this book has helped friends and family members better relate with and talk about a tender subject?
Kelly: I like this idea- I am sure you made such a big difference for them- my mother always said that Saturday nights were the worst.
Becky Aikman: Since the book isn’t out yet, only a few people have read it so far. The widows who have read it seem t connect with it in a passionate way, seeing their thoughts finally given a voice. Many of them have read it quickly and then immediately sat down to read it again. Those who aren’t widows seem to find the ideas in it helpful for anyone overcoming some kind of adversity. The women who appear in the book are very excited to be part of helping to get the word out about what loss and recovery are.
Becky Aikman: Really like.
Kelly: You are right- there are not a lot of books that deal with this subject- I am sure people will gravitate to your book- especially with such a great title
Becky Aikman: Thank you, Kelly. It was hard to come up with a title that fully protrayed the book — that it was about a tragive experience, but that it was about looking to the future with hope. I like the stars on the cover, too.
Kelly: Me too — and it is always great to read about strong women friendships that women form.
Becky Aikman: I didn’t realize that the friendship would become as strong as it did. That was a wonderful side effect of doing the book.
Becky Aikman: When I formed the group, it had been a few years since I had lost my husband. It was more recent for the others. I thought I would be the journalist chronicling our story. But i found that all of us were working throught hemany changes in our lives set off by the losses of our husbands. We were changing jobs, relationships with families and friends and children . Most of thw eomend began looking for love again, and some, like me, were forming new long-term relationships. I learned a tremendous
Becky Aikman: Amount about how to manage it all myself, from our talks and from the examples set by everyone. That’s one of the great ways women learn from each other.
RH Erica: Thanks for joining us.
Becky Aikman: Thanks. It was fun.