Small Press Story #25: How I Came To Write A Self-Help Book With Mom

It all started because we were in the same profession. Doing similar things.

Ruth (a.k.a. “Mom”), and I were both clinical social workers. In our practices, we both ran support groups for the widowed and other bereaved.

One day I mentioned to Mom that I’d noticed group members bringing in small articles or pamphlets on how to cope with loss. They seemed drawn to these because when grieving, it’s difficult to concentrate on lengthier forms of advice such as typical bereavement books. Mom had also noticed this in her own groups.

Then it hit me: why not create a self-help book for the widowed that was easy to use? Having been widowed herself at 45, Mom’s personal experiences would also add a “been there” quality to our professional insights.

We agreed to title the book, Lost My Partner – What’ll I Do? A Clear, Practical Guide for Coping and Finding Strength When Your Spouse Dies.

First, we outlined the contents.

Then started writing. We soon discovered that my strengths lay in envisioning the “big picture” and doing the actual writing. Mom’s strengths were providing the most authentic “voice” for the narrative and editing.

Eventually we created a working process:

1. We would agree on a chapter topic.
2. Mom would dictate. I would add my three cents worth.
3. I would draft the words into chapter form.
4. Mom would edit.
5. I would rewrite.
6. Mom would edit.
7. Then on to the next chapter.
8. Repeating the above.

The writing and publishing processes were definitely challenges to our relationship. Family gatherings became punctuated by my sister’s protestations of “No talking about the book!” whenever Mom and I became engrossed in shop talk.

But Mom and I persevered, eventually publishing a book that has been praised by widowed readers as “the only bereavement book I’ve been able to actually use.”

We’ve recently launched the “Revised and Expanded Edition of Lost My Partner.”

And fortunately, my sister hasn’t disowned us. Yet.

submitted by Laurie Spector, McCormick Press