FAQ with the Authors of Suddenly Single After 50
Q: Why did you decide to write this book, and in such a personal, straightforward style?
A: We both learned so much during our journeys, from great sadness and being alone and frightened to becoming healthier, happier, and emotionally stronger. But along the way, so many asked us how we knew to do this or that. We didn't. We figured things out through trial and error. We knew that only an authentic narrative of our progression from sadness to happiness could provide the ultimate reward--a legacy to share with other women facing similar travails, who could overcome them, and be more schooled in what to do and expect. For those who may not have our network of family, friends, and resources, Suddenly Single After 50 can be a welcoming, life-saving, and friendly resource.
Q: What makes your book stand out from others on similar topics such as Diane Rehm’s recent book, On My Own?
A: In sharing our parallel journeys, we covered both death and divorce, which most books don't do. As long-time writing partners and close friends, we could combine our similar yet different experiences. Barbara and Margaret's pain and heartache were different, but we each greatly empathized, helped the other, and learned. We also combined our personal stories with prescriptions to cope, offered well-vetted financial and legal tips, as well as other women's stories.
Q: What were your goals and intentions for this book, and do you think you achieved some or all?
A: To tell our stories--from heartache to happiness--very honestly so we could help other women 50-plus, who face similar challenges. To protect others' privacy, we decided not to use names, locations, and certain incidents since we never wanted to hurt or embarrass anyone. And yes, we think we accomplished what we set out to do, although the book is more personal and revealing than we thought it would turn out to be.
Q: What are the biggest changes you’ve experienced since your losses?
A: Our lives are vastly different now and will never be the same. And that’s okay. We've come to accept being single--walking into a party alone without feeling a giant "D" or "W" on our chests or putting it on forms, doing many more things alone including traveling, having different financial situations than we had and not being bitter about that, living in new homes, and, in Barbara’s case, a new city, and having different familial situations for our children, whom we've taught by example, we hope. As a result, we have become more aware and compassionate toward others' situations, though we'd like to think we've always been kind.
Q: Who is the audience for this book?
A: Single women over age 50, who are divorced and widowed, or for others who know someone divorced or widowed, and need caring advice, a hug, and a fabulous resource such as Suddenly Single After 50, a “friend” in print.
Q: Can you provide us with three important themes and tips in the book?
A: First, how to cope and survive with a huge change in your life circumstances, since stuff happens and often requires you to be more assertive and flexible than you're accustomed to being;
Second, to widen your circle beyond your former comfort zone both personally and socially and get actively involved in whatever you love doing--even trying out new activities and conquering new challenges;
Third, knowing that you're not alone and can count on others because each of us will be alone at certain points in our lives, and we must make the most of what happens when life throws us a curve;
And we'd like to share a fourth. Neither of us had lived on our own; we married right after graduating college. We know now that singlehood offers many rewards, and while each of us has a guy in our lives, we're happy on our own, too.Q: Did any of your children read the book and their reaction?
A: Barbara's younger daughter wanted to and offered some advice but was very pleased; her older daughter didn't want to, and she didn't offer the book to her mother in advance of publication. Margaret’s youngest sister read the book and gave us two thumbs up.
Q: What did friends or family members not know about what you experienced throughout your time of losing a spouse?
A: Many of Barbara's friends knew she had had an acrimonious divorce but didn't know its extent and that it had been so tough financially on her and for so long; they also didn't know the extent of her dating once divorced; she kept track and the number totaled 350!
Margaret’s spouse had handled all their finances and investments. Most of her family and friends didn’t realize how clueless she was. Long before he died, Margaret had asked her spouse to show her what they had and where, he shooed her away. He had a will but refused to discuss his funeral or where he wanted to be buried. As he was dying in the hospital, Margaret’s attorney had him sign papers to put holdings in both names. And when he passed away, Margaret had to quickly plan a funeral, purchase a cemetery plot, piece together what money they had left and where, find what life insurance, if any, they had and with whom, unearth important papers, and more at the worst point in her life. Unsure if she could afford to stay in their home, she began to cut back on everything.
Q: How did you each survive?
A: We're both resilient and were determined not to let these horrific experiences color the rest of our lives. We wanted to stop starting each thought and sentence about our loss and move on, though we knew we'd never forget. We talked a lot to friends and family, worked and kept very busy, cried, raged, shut down, and picked ourselves up. For Barbara, mention of her former husband sometimes still stops her cold; for Margaret, who credits therapy and joining a grief support group in helping her heal, milestones of his birthday and the anniversary of his death still prove gut-wrenching. Although the pain has eased for both of us, we accept that it will never be completely gone.
Q: Can you share a story that's especially meaningful to each of you and why?
A: For Barbara it was about being more gutsy than she expected; she learned to travel alone to visit her daughters and mother, dated strangers, went up in one date's small airplane when she hates flying even in jumbo jets, bought a house on her own in a place where she had never lived, and finally found love again after her divorce and so much online dating. She was fixed up by long-time friends just once, and it proved bershert, or the Jewish word for good fortune.
For Margaret, it was learning to take charge out of necessity. Her husband had been command center during their 42-year marriage. He also never threw anything away. And when Margaret decided she wanted to downsize, she hired contractors to fix up her home, almost single handedly cleared out 37-years of accumulated stuff that took her six months to do, hired movers, and set up a new life in a new home.
Q: What do you think most characterizes your writing of this work?
A: A combination of great ingredients--honesty, sadness, humor, helpfulness vetted by experts--and all woven into compelling stories that could be any woman’s story.
Q: What was the hardest part of writing this book?
A: Definitely reliving the painful parts of losing our spouses--to divorce and death, and finding ourselves constantly crying, fighting off migraine headaches in Margaret's case, Barbara worrying all the time about not having enough money at the end of the month, and wondering if we'd ever feel complete again. It was tortuous at times. Also, getting very personal war hard such as admitting to readers, many of whom will know us, that we got intimate again! Everyone always wanted to know if we were dating and what the chemistry was like at our age.
Q: What did you enjoy most about writing this book?
A: Working together again; we've written many books since our first Corporate Bloodlines: The Future of the Family Firm back in 1989 with Carol Publishing; we have fun communicating on the phone, in person, and online. We had kept emails through all these years and went back to reference many of them. We also felt great joy when finished and pleased with the result. People are still amazed that two women can still write together and be the closest of friends as well after 30 years. "You're still getting along?" many asked. Of course, we replied. We also wrote a blog titled, Howdy Partner, about how we make it work. The link is our weekly blog post: lifelessonsat50plus.com.
Q: What is the biggest fact that people think they know about your subject that isn't true?
A: That they know how you feel; many have no clue what we each went through and how we felt. Some said the right things but were merely parroting what they thought we wanted to hear or what they thought they should say.
Q: What is the most important lesson that people don’t know about your subject they should know?
A: That it's still tough being alone in this Noah's Ark world, especially after great sadness and countless difficulties. For Margaret, losing her husband was like losing an appendage. And like a phantom limb, it seems at times like that part is still with her.
Q: What projects are you working on at the present?
A: Thinking and writing our weekly blog entries for our lifelessonsat50plus.com, speaking engagements for the book, signings, as well as our next book! We’re toying with a couple of topics but not ready yet to talk about them.
Q: What question do you wish that someone would ask about your book, but nobody yet has?
A: For Barbara it's a question that Margaret often asked: Tell me what you loved about your former husband and miss? Nobody does since all assume since he wanted the divorce that she thinks he's a terrible person. She thinks what he did was awful but she had once been in love, married him, had children with him, and now needs to have a cordial relationship for their children and grandson. She's also stayed close with many of his relatives; one suggested she go on a dating site when she first separated!
For Margaret it’s: How can you lose the love of your life, move on and find someone new to love? It’s different and difficult. Margaret said countless times that she’d never date or be with another man. However, that changed when she ran into a former high school boyfriend whom she started dating again after 50 years. Margaret didn’t know that she could compartmentalize love –love two people simultaneously--because her late husband was her first and only love, so she thought. But love the second time around is good, even if vastly different.
Q: So, we're dying to ask: How is intimacy different this time around?
A: More fun since there are no children in the next bedroom, we can't get pregnant, our outlook on life and marriage are very different, and we're not holding our breath for the engagement ring or big wedding. We’re just trying to live in the moment and have a good time!
Q: How have two women managed to work together for more than 30 years and remain friends?
A: We developed a system and a formula that involves nine steps that work for us: a contract, division of labor, ways to handle copy changes, trust and respect, listening to each other, adding value with our different writing styles, respecting each other’s stress points, taking responsibility for mistakes, and accepting compliments for both of us. No solo bows for us.
Q: How do you write together, especially when you've sometimes lived in different cities?
A: One of us will come up with an idea or an assignment. We’ll discuss what the idea might entail, decide how to approach it stylistically–sometimes with a rough outline, and then divvy up the research and interviews. One of us, and there’s no set pattern, will start it. When an initial draft is done, it’s sent to the other for adding to, editing, tweaking, or major or minimal rewriting. We typically send it back and forth several more times. We can critique each other’s work because we adhere to the credo that every writer needs a good editor–open and honest but kind. We don’t take any criticisms personally but view them as necessary to make the final product the best it can be. When we think we’re done, we usually send the piece back to the other for another read and spell check. And we always try to remember to laugh; that helps a lot especially when some assignments get tough.