An intensely moving and revelatory memoir of enduring and emerging from exceptional grief
To grieve after a profound loss is perfectly natural and healthy. To be debilitated by grief for more than a decade, as Andrea Gilats was, is something else. In her candid, deeply moving, and ultimately helpful memoir of breaking free of death’s relentless grip on her life, Gilats tells her story of living with prolonged, or “complicated,” grief and offers insight, hope, and guidance to others who suffer as she did.
Thomas Dayton, Andrea Gilats’s husband of twenty years, died at 52 after a five-month battle with cancer. In After Effects Gilats describes the desolation that followed and the slow and torturous twenty-year journey that brought her back to life. In the two years immediately following his death, Gilats wrote Tom daily letters, desperately trying to maintain the twenty-year conversation of their marriage. Excerpts from these letters reveal the depth of her despair but also the glimmer of an awakening as they also trace a different, more typical course of the grief experienced by one of Gilats's colleagues, also widowed. Gilats’s struggle to rescue herself takes her through the temptation of suicide, the threat of deadly illness, the overwhelming challenges of work, and the rigor of learning and eventually teaching yoga, to a moment of reckoning and, finally, reconciliation to a life without her beloved partner. Her story is informed by the lessons she learned about complicated grief as a disorder that, while intensely personal, can be defined, grappled with, and overcome.
Though complicated grief affects as many as one in seven of those stricken by the loss of a close loved one, it is little known outside professional circles. After Effects points toward a path of recuperation and provides solace along the way—a service and a comfort that is all the more timely and necessary in our pandemic-ravaged world of loss and isolation.