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    Sharing hope after losing a loved one

    Patricia Comeau-Simonson (seated) and Helen Cogan compiled “A Book of Hope.”
    Helen Cogan
    Patricia Comeau-Simonson (seated) and Helen Cogan compiled “A Book of Hope.”

    Patricia Comeau-Simonson and Helen Cogan both lost husbands to cancer years ago. Eventually, they found their way through the grief.

    They want to help others do the same with “A Book of Hope,” a compilation of stories of people who have suffered a loss, fought through it, and transcended the hard times.

    “We believe it will give a message that people do heal,” said Comeau-Simonson. “Helen and I are living proof.”


    Comeau-Simonson, 68, of Ipswich, lost her husband, David Comeau, 22 years ago to colorectal cancer.

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    A hairdresser for 20 years, she took over her husband’s heating company. And, after experiencing his end-of-life care, she became a hospice volunteer.

    Comeau-Simonson eventually joined the staff of Hospice of the North Shore, now called Care Dimensions, and went on to get a certificate in thanatology, the study of death and dying, from Mount Ida College.

    She then founded the training and support group program, Hope and Healing with Peers.

    Comeau-Simonson met Cogan, 55, of Lynn, who had lost her husband, Bob Cogan, to oral cancer in 2009, when Cogan was a participant in the program.


    “Our paths never would have [otherwise] crossed,” said Comeau-Simonson.

    As it turned out, Cogan, in her grief, had turned to photography. “I fell in love with it and what it did to my heart,” she said.

    The two women collaborated, with Comeau-Simonson generating essays from the people who participate in her bereavement groups and Cogan providing the photography (

    “People shared part of their lives with us, and the stories and photographs just fell into place,” Cogan said.

    Comeau-Simonson said the book addresses several kinds of loss, from a spouse to an adult child, a sibling, or a pet.


    All the pair wants in the long run is that the essays “came away hopeful.”

    “It never goes away,” Comeau-Simonson said of the heartache of losing someone close. “But it does soften; you carry it with you and it becomes your friend. We are honoring our late husbands by the work we do.”

    A book signing with Comeau-Simonson and Cogan will be held from 5 to 8 p.m. Aug. 20 at Rolly’s Tavern on the Square, 338 Broadway in Lynn.


    Wendy Killeen can be reached at