Death traditionally evokes strong feelings in individuals. The first reaction of an individual to death is shock, especially if a close person dies. However, people always have to cope with effects of death because the life carries on and they should learn to live without people who faded away. But many people face substantial difficulties with coping with negative effects of death of close people. In this respect, the book “The Year of Magical Thinking” by Joan Didion is particularly noteworthy because it gives insight toward the internal world of the author after the death of her husband. In fact, the author depicts in details her personal experience of the overwhelming, destructing impact of the death of her husband and the further recovery after the death in difficult circumstances the author found herself in.
The book “The Year of Magical Thinking” conveys in details the author’s personal experience of mourning on the death of her husband. However, the author was in a very difficult situation because her husband deceased, when their only daughter was in coma. In fact, health problems of the daughter have probably caused the death of the author’s husband but, for Joan Didion situation has grown unbearable after the death of her husband. She has lost her husband, whom she loved and whom she lived with for about forty years. The poor woman had no one to support her because her only daughter was in coma.
In such a situation, the author had to cope with her problems on her own. Her first feeling was not even anxiety, it was a kind of shock. However, she pretended to stay cool, although anxiety grew stronger in her. Joan Didion felt anxious and desperate because tragedies in her life seemed to accumulate and to occur over and over again. The author was a bit surprised to experience strange feelings she had and these feelings were quite different from what she expected to have: “We might expect that we will be prostrate, inconsolable, crazy with loss. We do not expect to be literally crazy, cool customers who believe that their husband is about to return and need his shoes.” (Didion, 78). In such a way, the author’s anxiety steadily outgrew into the denial.
In fact, the denial implied the denial of the fact of the death of her husband. Joan Didion was unwilling to believe that her husband had passed away and he would never have come back again. She felt being doomed to loneliness and this was probably why she denied the death of her husband. The denial could be traced in routine actions and life of the author: “Marriage is not only time: it is also, paradoxically, the denial of time. For forty years I saw myself through John’s eyes. I did not age.” (Didion, 97). As the matter of fact, the denial was the most difficult stage to cope with the anxiety and grief after the death of her husband. In such a situation, the author needed the support of someone, especially her daughter. Nevertheless, the author had to cope with her anxiety and grief on her own and she faced a serious dilemma because she had to stay cool, while inside she was overwhelmed with strong feelings and emotions.
She had to accept the death of her husband and that was the last stage of her recovery after the death and grief that overwhelmed her. In fact, the acceptance was very challengeable because Joan Didion had spent a considerable part of her life with her husband and she could not even think of herself separately from her husband. As she pointed out in her book, she was accustomed to view herself with her husband eyes. However, the death of her husband had changed her life forever and she had to accept it. To accept the death of her husband, Joan Didion attempted to find other reasons to live for and her daughter was her primary concern. She understood that her daughter needed her badly and this was probably why she kept her external coolness, although deep inside she was overwhelmed with grief and loneliness. Nevertheless, she was conscious of the fact that her daughter needed her and her support was essential for her daughter. In fact, the recovery of her daughter became a strong stimulus for her recovery after the death of her husband.
Eventually, Joan Didion had learned how to live without her husband and his support. Her life had changed but her experience was and still is very important, especially for those people, who have suffered a similar loss as Joan Didion did. Her tragedy was great but many other people live through such tragedies too. This is why her book help them to learn how to cope with the grief and how to recover after the death of a close person. The way to recovery is hard and may be long but, after anxiety and denial, acceptance must come.
Didion, J. The Year Magical of Magical Thinking. New York: Knopf, 2005.
Saramago, J. Death with Interruptions. New York: Random House, 2008.