Very occasionally, I read a book that seems to speak closely of my own experience, and Joyce Carol Oates's A Widow's Story is just such a book. Written in the (almost immediate) aftermath of her own husband's death, it is a poignant and very personal account of her own experience of widowhood, and as I read it I wondered whether readers who have never experienced anything like this can identify with it in the way that I did.
Everything is there. The isnomnia, the despair, the fear, the feeling of beng apart - different, isolated - from the rest of the human race, the terrible aloneness, and perhaps most of all, the ever-present possibility (opportunity?) of suicide: the door through which the bereaved can choose to pass if the experience becomes totally unbearable. When it happened to me, I wondered whether I was more than a little mad. The answer (from this book) is yes. But that's okay. That's normal. Bereavement is a form of madness.
Joyce has no children. This in a way is the elephant in the room (elephant in the book?) because while her relationship and her marriage are described in detail, there's no mention of children; of whether they wanted and couldn't have them, or whether they decided against having a family. I had children. They were my reason for staying alive. Her reasons are not so clear. Friends, her writing, life itself perhaps? But nearing the end of the book, I wonder whether, without my beloved children, these things would have been enough for me.