August 8, 2018

Health and Wellness Through the Life Span—Finding the Words to Reckon With Loss

by Charity Shumway

In 2013, Martha Cooley, author and professor of English, went on sabbatical with her husband to a medieval village outside Parma, Italy. There, amid colorful characters both human and animal (particularly feline) and surrounded by the natural world and remnants of the region’s rich past, she contemplated the loss of 10 friends in 10 years, all of whom were under 60, and the declining health of her elderly parent.

She’d planned to write a novel but instead wrote the memoir Guesswork: A Reckoning With Loss (Catapult,2017).

On January 24, 2018, Cooley hosted a Meet the Author event at the East Meadow Public Library on Long Island to discuss grieving and read excerpts from her book. The deaths hadn’t been worked through, she explained, and she was finding it difficult to write. In the book, she said, she reflects “on permanence and mutability, an awareness of history and things sustained, and the ever-changing-ness of the natural world, and I realized my feelings were mutable too. I didn’t have to be stuck in my place of loss.”

There are no bromides or blatant takeaways in Cooley’s book; readers will take from it what they will. As Cooley, who finds wisdom and solace in the words of great writers such as Emily Dickinson and e. e. cummings, writes, “Stories, novels, plays, poems—they have beginnings and endings. (Though not really: they are written, read and rewritten in their readers’ minds. A cycle, a continuous stirring.)” And hopefully they too will find the strength to move past their place of loss.

This story is part of “Health and Wellness Through the Life Span,” from the 2018 issue of Adelphi University Magazine. Read the rest of the story here:

Before Birth: The Best Possible Start

Babies and Toddlers: Forming Secure Early Relationships

Early Childhood: A Low-Tech Approach

Elementary School: Fun, Games and Fitness

Teens: The Right Way to Discuss Suicide

Middle Adulthood: Becoming a Caregiver

Late Adulthood: Getting the Right Nursing Care

All Ages: Healing Body, Mind and Soul

Improving Health in Costa Rica and Guatemala

More Adelphi News

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Adelphi University, New York, is a highly awarded, nationally ranked, powerfully connected doctoral research university dedicated to transforming students’ lives through small classes with world-class faculty, hands-on learning and innovative ways to support academic and career success. Adelphi offers exceptional liberal arts and sciences programs and professional training, with particular strength in our Core Four—Arts and Humanities, STEM and Social Sciences, the Business and Education Professions, and Health and Wellness.

Recognized as a Best College by U.S. News & World Report, Adelphi is Long Island’s oldest private coeducational university. It serves almost 8,000 students at its beautiful main campus in Garden City, New York—just 23 miles from New York City’s cultural and internship opportunities—and at dynamic learning hubs in Manhattan, the Hudson Valley and Suffolk County, as well as online. 

More than 116,000 Adelphi graduates have gained the skills to thrive professionally as active, engaged citizens, making their mark on the University, their communities and the world.

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