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Table for One: Essays from a Widow’s Journey Authored by TTN Member Deb Spungen

October 1, 2018

Part of the attraction of joining an organization such as The TRANSITION Network (TTN), is that we get to meet and learn from women our age who have experienced a painful life transition and have come out on the other side, more resilient, transformed and willing to share their journey.  Such is the tale of TTN member, Deb Spungen, who recently published “Table for One:  Essays from a Widow’s Journey”, telling her personal experience of the pain and grief of widowhood while also describing how her journey back into the world slowly unfolded. 

This is an intimate, compelling, tender and gracious account about widowhood and loss and is meaningful to anyone confronted with life’s painful experiences ... which is just about everyone at some time in our lives.

When I sat down with Deb, she emphasized this was not a book about her husband, Frank; rather, this was about how Deb dealt with her new status “as a person irrevocably changed in ways that she couldn’t even begin to fathom.”  She wonders, “Who will I be if I am not the same me that I was when I woke up this morning?”

I am one of the lucky few to be part of Deb’s TTN Peer Group.  We’ve watched in awe as this book unfolded over the past several years, giving Deb a forum to read sections of the book aloud, to text her frequently and ask “did you write today?, and offering our encouragement. The book includes over 40 essays on encounters in everyday life, from going out to dinner with other couples, going to the bank and getting new signature cards, going to the movies alone (just knowing there were others sitting nearby was helpful and only the widows were laughing), rebuilding new social connections.  As Deb told me in the interview, you start living your life as best as you can, you find ways to connect, you realize there is another life out there.   And it’s OK to smile, to laugh and to still enjoy life.

TTN gets a few shout-outs in the book, especially in the essay entitled “New Friends”.  Deb describes a sudden panic attack driving to her first Peer Group meeting where “It felt like I was going to my first day of kindergarten.”   We quickly learn that Deb persisted (she’s going on her 7th year as a TTN member) and she “found that TTN had become very important to me as it introduced me to additional friends that I would not have met otherwise.  These widening circles provided me with a doorway to new activities and new people.”

The book wrote itself, without Deb knowing what direction she was going in, or what or why.  She started with post-it notes and scraps of paper; transferred her writings into a journal given to her as a gift, then finally onto her computer.  Writing her story became part of the process of healing and discovering that she can have a happy and productive life again.   

Deb looks back now and misses the process of writing even though she knows she can’t keep writing the book forever.  Since publication this Summer so many have reached out to Deb, both women and men, to meet with her personally and let her know she got it right, to thank her for her insights and for making a difference in their everyday life.  One reviewer said “At unexpected times and places, the book made me chuckle out loud”.  Spungen shows us that amid all the pain, laughter and pleasure peek through.

Deb states, “I became a different person than I was before my husband passed away, not better, not worse, just different.  Slowly the reinvention of me began to develop.  These changes occurred slowly and I can only recognize them in hindsight.”  “Do you ever get over it?  Getting over it should not be a goal because it is unattainable.  The goal is to integrate the loss, not to get over it.”       

Deb concludes the book by noting that as the pain of being alone began to subside, “these days I even enjoy a solitary meal, at my table for one.”

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Our TTN Philadelphia Chapter will offer a special speaking session/book signing with Deb in early 2019, and will collaborate with others on a program on Loss and Resilience.  

There is a public book signing session on October 4th at the Narberth Bookshop at 7pm. 

Order Deb’s book on Amazon using this LINK.

For more information, email Deb at pacmc10@gmail.com.

Check out this recent article in the Philadelphia Inquirer:  Joy in the Age of Loss.