Carl Steinbaum was diagnosed with Stage 4 colon cancer in December 1995 and died 10 months later. He was 58 and left behind his wife Ellen and their three daughters. College sweethearts, the couple married when she was 20, he was 24.
Though Ellen knew what the likely outcome would be, his death stunned her. “Death wasn’t something I thought about,” she says. “I realized how innocently I had lived my life.” She had lost beloved grandparents, aunts, and her father, but no one “out of generational sequence.”
Obituaries invariably state that the deceased “is survived by” various loved ones. A group of such women survivors has just published a moving anthology of poems dealing with the deaths of their husbands or significant others. The poems deal with grieving, coping and beginning anew.
“The Widows’ Handbook: Poetic Reflections on Grief and Survival” is a collection of poems from 87 American women of all ages, “legally married or not, straight and gay, whose partners or spouses have died,” according to its editors.