The Alchemy of Loss: A Young Widow's Transformation

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Health Communications, Incorporated, Jul 1, 2008 - Biography & Autobiography - 288 pages
1 Review

"MY DEAD HUSBAND'S CLOTHES closet held me hostage for almost four years. In the early days after Arron's death, his clothes hung patiently in his closet waiting for his return. I would open the closet doors to see his shoes staring at me expectantly, longing for the warmth of his feet. I would stand inside the folding louver doors and cry deep, wet tears into his blue terrycloth bathrobe that still smelled of him. I fingered the striped flannel shirt that everyone hated but him. His socks were piled impossibly high in a rolling wire mesh basket. Another level of the basket held his underwear. They waited for him, as did I. I would close the closet doors and fling myself face down onto the bed in dramatic sobs.

The closet became a litmus test of my grief. Open door, cry, close door, pass test. Still grieving. Repeat in four weeks.

Soon, the act became almost masochistic. A crying dry-spell would send me back to the closet for a rain dance of tears. A whiff of his bathrobe was a reliable shaman. The tears would cleanse my body, releasing me from the grip of grief. Relief washed over me--I still mourned for my husband honorably, appropriately, with tears and sobs.

My brother [Matt] and Arron's best friend, Bruce, visited for Thanksgiving. I saw my opportunity to bestow some of Arron's favorite items on the people he loved. Giving his clothes and shoes to loved ones seemed preferable to hauling garbage bags full of him to Goodwill.

I watched as my brother tried on his cowboy boots--tall, slender, and full of swagger. Matt shrank in my mind to a ten-year old boy, trying on his older mentor's boots, proud, but not certain he would ever fill them. He strutted around uncertainly claiming to be honored to own them. I knew he would never wear them. Those boots were so ubiquitous with Arron that they would be unfathomable on anyone else. I had hoped that my brother might take on some of Arron's characteristics when he wore them, that the boots were somehow magic, but his tiptoeing inside of them, not wanting to fully plant his foot into them revealed the truth.

Bruce pulled Arron's favorite leather jacket around his torso, trying to make the buttons meet. The coat, which had fallen to Arron's hips, reached halfway to Bruce's knees. It took on a new persona on Bruce's body and molded itself instantly to him. It no longer resembled anything Arron had ever worn.

Despite the ill-fittings, I was glad for these reminders to be gone; to be the responsibility of someone else. I suspected that they would wind up at Goodwill someday, but I didn't want to know, I didn't want to be the one who took them there.

My brother and Bruce walked off feigning pleasure at their new acquisitions, but really I think they were pleased at having helped me through a difficult process. They seemed to understand by the look in my eyes, my relief at having purged a little of Arron in a loving way."

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User Review  - thetometraveller - LibraryThing

September 11, 2001 changed Abigail Carter's life forever. In the space of one morning she became a widow, the single mother of two small children and she claimed an unwanted spot at the center of a ... Read full review


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Carter's husband died in the Twin Towers on 9/11; this is the ably told story of her enlightening journey from utter shock and emptiness to inner calm and wholeness. Throughout her grieving, she ... Read full review

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About the author (2008)

Abigail Carter was an expatriate Canadian living in New Jersey with her husband and two children, when her husband was lost in the attack on the twin towers on 9/11. Following the catastrophe, Abby moved to Seattle with her children and began keeping a journal to try to come to terms with what had happened to her family. That act opened another world to her and Abby now works as a full-time writer. She lives in Seattle, WA.

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