Poems help heal La Jolla author and others after loss of a spouse
By Linda Hutchison
When you’ve spent your life helping others, how do you help yourself when life delivers one of its worst blows, the death of a long-term, beloved spouse? If you’re La Jolla author, business consultant and social worker Dr. Natasha Josefowitz, you write a book that is very different from your previous 19.“This is my first sad book,” Josefowitz said. “I had no choice but to write it.” After her husband of 35 years, Dr. Herman Gaden, died four years ago, Josefowitz turned to writing poetry to express her intense feelings of grief. An active 87-year-old, she is often out in the world, but said that after the death of her husband, she felt alienated despite her best intentions to put on a smiling face wherever she went. “So I came home and wrote, with no thought to anyone else,” she said. “I had no idea how it would help me with my journey.”
The result is a collection of almost 100 poems, “Living Without the One You Cannot Live Without: Hope and Healing after Loss.” The books is available online through Amazon.com and locally at Warwick’s. It is receiving positive responses from reviewers and those who counsel grieving people, including mental health professionals, ministers and rabbis.
For Josefowitz, her 20th book is a departure from her usual subject matter. She has written many humorous books of poetry for different groups of people (family, friends, lovers) at different stages of life (mid-life, retirement, aging). A well- known business consultant and social worker, she has also written several books for women in management, including “How to Be An Effective Leader,” “You’re the Boss,” “Paths to Power,” and “16 Ways for Women to Succeed at Work.”
Josefowitz describes herself as a late bloomer. Born in Paris, France to Russian Jewish parents, she came through Ellis Island in 1939 with them and grew up in Beverly Hills, where she’s in the Beverly Hills High School Hall of Fame. She earned her bachelor’s degree in philosophy from Scripps College in Claremont, Calif., married and had two children.
Not until she was 40 did she go back to college (Columbia) to earn a master’s degree in clinical social work and then a
doctorate in social psychology at the age of 50, while living in Switzerland.
It was there she met, began working with and eventually married Swiss-born Dr. Herman Gadon. Together they taught classes in business management, moving to New Hampshire, where Josefowitz taught the first class for women in management in the United States. They continued teaching after moving to La Jolla, with Gadon at UC San Diego and Josefowitz at San Diego State University.
A speaker and business consultant, Josefowitz has appeared on TV shows, including “Larry King Live” and “All Things Considered,” and hosted her own radio show. Today she writes columns for local publications.
Although she wrote her latest book to help herself, she is delighted that it is helping others. “I like to make a difference,” she said. She is also using her social psychology skills to do research into how people grieve after the loss of a spouse. After interviewing 24 survivors, ages 60-90, she says she learned that people go through several steps to healing: First, there is the pre-grief of the caretaker; second is shock and numbness when a partner dies; third is disbelief, “this can’t be real”; fourth comes when reality sets in and there is a feeling of alienation, of walking around like “half a couple”; finally, there is becoming a whole person, re-inventing oneself, with being alone the “new normal.”
Not surprisingly, she sees a difference in how men and women cope with the loss of a spouse. Men don’t like to talk about it and will tell friends who have lost a wife, “don’t dwell on it.”
“Men have a 6 percent higher suicide rate, they’ve lost a caregiver, but within a year they are usually hooked up with a casserole,” Josefowitz said. Speaking of food, men alone usually eat take-out with their hands standing up at the kitchen sink. Women, on the other hand, like to talk through grief and will go over and sit with a friend who has lost a husband. “And women will sit at a table and eat, even if it’s not elaborate,” Josefowitz said.
■ La Jolla author and social psychologist Natasha Josefowitz wrote ‘Living Without the One You Cannot Live Without’ after losing her husband of 35 years, Dr. Herman Gadon. Among the poems appearing in the book are the following:
Lost in the Periphery
After my husband died
I was no longer the center of anyone’s life
nor is anyone
the center of mine
family and friends
are supportive and comforting
but they are peripheral
as I am peripheral
in their lives
they can continue
as I am supposed
without the one person
I cannot live without
Two childhood dreams:
becoming a famous poet
and falling madly in love
I became a poet
and married that love
and now that he is dead
what is left
are the poems
they will have to do
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