The sub-title to Ella Wall Prichard’s Reclaiming Joy is “a primer for widows.” And that’s exactly what this book does. While it acknowledges the overwhelming grief one feels at the loss of a spouse, the narrative moves the reader/widow along to practical advice about how to find joy and reclaim one’s own life. Her insights into the small steps and big leaps that one must take to move from grief to acceptance to joy are rich with wisdom and tempered by her own experience and her reflections of the experience of other widows. She also acknowledges times when she faltered and how the knowledge she gained from those missteps further shaped her journey in a positive way. Throughout, she celebrates and shares the discoveries that allowed her to envision a life once again filled with joy.
Ella became a widow in 2009 when her husband of 46 years, Lev Prichard, died from congestive heart failure. She immediately assumed responsibility to learn and run the family business, a task from which she had been “protected” during Lev’s life. What an enormous set of tasks to assume when one is first smacked by loss and grief! Five years later, Ella was at a point where she was able to draft an outline for the book she wished had been available when she first became a widow. The sweet irony is that Ella started the writing process on Nantucket during her second visit to the island in 2014!
I share Ella’s status as a widow. I, too, wish there had been a book like hers when I first lost my partner. Like Ella, I put my head down and went to work and I stumbled around looking for human connections. Our life circumstances are different – I didn’t have a family business to lead, my partner was another woman, and I’m several years younger than Ella. But the truth spoken in this book can aid and ease anyone struggling to form a new identity after a partnered life has ended. Her public talks and private conversations about grief and loss and seeking joy are filled with the same wisdom, truth, and practicality as one finds in the pages of Reclaiming Joy. I often found myself nodding and smiling as I found connections between her writing and my experiences.
Ella is unabashedly a woman of faith. She employs the wisdom of Paul’s Letter to the Philippians to guide the themes of the book, and sections from the Epistle head each chapter. But, you don’t have to be a person of faith to find value and good advice in this book. This is a life-affirming book and its author is gracious and generous in taking the risk to put so much of herself into this memoir/primer.