“Faith plays a big role in this book. What advice do you have for women who do not have a strong spiritual life?”
The executive editor of Women and Wealth Magazine raised the question when she interviewed me a few weeks ago on Nantucket. It’s a fair question. Does Reclaiming Joy have a place beyond the Christian book market?
My answer to the second question is an emphatic YES! I did not set out to write a religious book, in spite of the fact that my inspiration and outline come from the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Philippians. I write in my introduction, “A Letter to My Fellow Widows”:
Practical advice from Paul’s letter to the Philippians is the thread that stitches my vignettes together, but this is not intended to be a religious book that adheres to any narrow creed. Occasionally I have been explicit about my faith experience; but for the most part, faith is implicit in my story of moving through grief to acceptance and ultimately to joy.
Universal Dimensions of Grief
As grief expert Dr. Helen Harris explained to me, the spiritual is one of four or five universal dimensions of grief, along with the physical, social and psychological. Everyone who experiences loss of a loved one is impacted in some way by what she does or does not believe. A believer may be angry with God or she may lean more closely than ever on her faith. She may turn to the church…or she may turn away to avoid the pain of being alone on the pew. Each of us is unique and our grief is also unique.
My answer to the interviewer was simple. I try not to give advice. New widows get too much advice from people who haven’t been there, who don’t know what they’re talking about. Instead of writing a prescriptive, how-to book, I simply share my own story and the story of other widows I’ve observed. I conclude my introductory letter:
What works for one person does not necessarily work for another. Your circumstances may be very different from mine. Write your own script.
I hope that by writing openly and honestly about my own journey and sharing what I have learned along the way, I will help you see that you are not alone. You are not the first woman to start on this journey. You will emerge from the overwhelming cloud of grief. Life is not over. Make the years ahead good ones.
Where Do You Find Your Hope?
My question to those who are not religious is this: Where do you find your strength, comfort and hope? George Fox, founder of Quakerism, called it the “inner light…that of God in every man.” Where do you find your inner light? What source do you draw from when you are discouraged, depressed, anxious, worried, heartbroken?
When I turned to Philippians in those early hours after Lev’s death, I found timeless practical advice for moving from grief to joy. To me, Philippians is wisdom literature, like other ancient sacred texts. The four sections of Reclaiming Joy—paralleling the four chapters of Philippians—are a natural, logical progression of the attributes we need to develop to master our grief:
- Love overcomes fear.
- Unity strengthens relationships.
- Maturity brings wisdom.
- Peace leads to joy.
I start with grace and end with generosity, and in between are 26 more chapters dealing with subjects like gratitude, courage, humility, serenity, friendship, priorities and acceptance. And joy…three separate chapters. That is what I wish for everyone who reads my book to find.
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In a recent article published by the Baptist Standard, Prichard Writes Practical Guide for Widows, I describe in greater detail my desire to write a practical book that speaks to women of all faiths and no faith.
Reclaiming Joy: A Primer for Widows will be published by 1845 Books, an imprint of the Baylor University Press, on September 15. You can preorder on my updated book page, where I also include a list of my upcoming events and media coverage.