Epilogue of a Marriage By Anne Roiphe
Anne Roiphe is a New York City writer and journalist. Writing is what she does, so when she is suddenly widowed, it is natural that she should keep a record of her experience. I think she begins mostly for herself – the writing is a way to have some control in a situation where she feels that she has very little control.
Hers was a long and loving marriage; she depended on her husband to be there. When suddenly he is not, she is adrift.
Having watched my mother-in-law experience the same loss in the past year, I read Epilogue of a Marriage thinking of her. I knew I liked the writing of Anne Roiphe, and I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would definitely recommend it to any widow.
Anne Roiphe’s daughters suggested that she might think of finding a new husband to ease her loneliness. I felt it was too soon for her to be looking for a new relationship, but that aside, I think her story would help someone grieving the end of a marriage and the loss of the dream of spending a long old age together.
It is the on-again, off-again search for a new partner that provides the most humourous parts of the book – as unrealistic as it may seem, it is often a very funny book.
Everyone goes about grief in their own way, and part of the journey for Anne Roiphe was to include the men she meets. Despite the funny bits, this is a serious book; she writes honestly about her anger, her sorrow, the solitude, the fear of breaking down in tears, the thought that “my task is to manage.”
It is her ability to see the funny in any given situation that saves her – she can observe herself and her behaviour.
A poignant passage described the necessary job of selecting a gravestone, the act of having to choose the lettering, approving it and making payment - and observing the ritual of bringing the family together again, as they were for the funeral, to observe the “unveiling” of the stone.
As the months pass, there is time spent alone. She tries to read, she phones a friend, or a daughter, she writes – “still, time is sluggish.”
She must also take on all the household tasks once done by her husband, the finances – and the fact that the cost of the funeral and all of the other expenses after his death are causing her anxiety.
She feels that “everything she had was gone,” but she goes on to recognize that “everything” is an exaggeration.
“I have my children and grandchildren. I have my work. I have my apartment with its books and its drawings and its furniture. I have my photos and my memories and I have friends. I have, at least for now, my health.”
But, as we all know, when someone we loved has died, we’d give that all up in a minute to have that person with us. That is grief.
As Anne Roiphe struggles with her grief it is suggested that she take anti-depressants. She does for a very short time, realizing that “I am not depressed. I am sad, a condition that seems entirely reasonable under the circumstances.”
Good for her. She dreams of her husband, both disturbing and comforting. She forces herself to go out, to attend some social events, and sometimes, on coming home, realizes that she had a good time.
She sometimes finds it difficult to concentrate enough to read. Thinks of calling her daughter, but doesn’t want to be a burden.
She finds she misplaces things, misses the touch of another person. All of the many faces of grief.
There is the first family holiday dinner. In this case the Passover Seder, when her husband would have led the telling of the story of Passover at the dinner table.
The tradition is taken over by a son-in-law. The sense of peace on her way home – another difficult day is over and she survived.
Anne Roiphe is determined to have a life, “I will not let grief become my constant companion,” she declares in the end. I found myself very much liking this woman, and I wish her well in the rest of the story of her life.