She was born with severe cyanosis and nearly died of oxygen deprivation after being choked by her umbilical cord during delivery. She appeared to have suffered no brain damage and was released from the hospital eight days after birth. Though she excelled academically, she had few friends during her elementary-school years. She allegedly threatened to kill a babysitter with scissors and attempted to batter her psychiatrist, who accused her of "acting out" for attention. In January , she ran away from Devereux Manor and attempted suicide by slitting her wrists with scissors. When she was 15, her psychiatrist diagnosed her with schizophrenia.
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Never miss the best stories and events! Get JewishBoston This Week. Her original book set in s Philadelphia had stuck with me, and I felt as if I knew her family, even though I definitely did not. In a peculiar way, I felt sad to know that Frank was dead. He was a character who had come to life for me.
Deborah Spungen Courtesy photo I ordered the new book for my friend, but I ended up reading it myself first. I have. I talked to Spungen about the book and lessons learned as a newly single person. How do you get up and get going when the entire day stretches before you? My mother had been widowed three times, and I always felt like she was my role model.
She kept her head up and walked through life. It was part of it. I think my own spirit helped. You need to do an awful lot to sit down on me and stay there. A couple we were very friendly with when we were living in the Hamptons would tell me where they went to dinner, what movie they saw. But I never noticed her asking me. I would enjoy it.
She never asked me, even after that. I like to tell people what I want and need. I have always hated Saturdays. How do you fill time on a weekend if everyone, such as your kids, appear busy? We text, we email. Unfortunately, I have a bad knee impatiently waiting to get fixed. I used to take the train up to New York. Many people in my apartment complex have been widowed. They took the lead from me. Some of them knew my husband.
They talk about their husbands too. How do you navigate a restaurant or social situation that you would typically attend with a spouse? Try to go someplace with someone if you can. Or, when you get somewhere and see someone you know, make a beeline for that person and start a conversation. One day, a certain movie was playing within walking distance. He had been dead five years. I could get strength from you. Most everyone has had a trauma.
One day, I went to the movies by myself. Would you like to join us? What if friends pull away? Just the fact that you said something is very important. Other people are out there happy to be your friend. I make it for two. Freeze it. I get carried away.
In my new apartment, I put in an eating bar. I read the paper and watch TV. I wanted to move within six months. Spell out what you want from the other person. I was getting a blood infusion. Do you ever feel envious or resentful of people with living spouses? Take advantage of the time you have. We were friends from a long time ago. To remember.
Do you date? I did not get online. I made a lot of new female friends. They are always around. I thought about it, thought about it, thought about it. I had 54 years of a really good marriage. Of course there were issues, but it was a good marriage. A man I went to college with [at the University of Pennsylvania] saw the listing.
And he called me! Something made me answer the phone. We have had a couple of dates, and we laugh a lot. I always thought it would have to be like that. I have a number of women say to me, or men, who remarry, that they still think a lot about their first spouse.
I lead my life. How has Judaism played into your grieving process? He asked if I was living and asked if he could call me. The rabbi called and wanted to come to pay a visit to my home, and he did. It was an eye-opening experience. I am a spiritual person. I celebrate the holidays and things like that, and my son and his family are kosher. He spent almost two hours with me, and he sort of made what was wrong with the world better.
It can go either way. A woman I know on my floor, her year-old grandson had cancer. She has become less religious and her husband has become more religious.
You have to take it as it comes. And sense of humor helps. It helps you heal, I think.
Deborah Spungen will speak on Thursday Jan. In the early morning hours of July 2, , Frank Spungen passed away, just seven weeks after becoming ill. Deb soon realized she had no preparatory course in becoming a widow. There was no handbook to read. Deborah told me that Nancy was an emotionally disturbed child who was diagnosed with schizophrenia at age
Mother of murder victim to speak about latest book in West Mt. Airy
Deborah Spungen on Living Meaningfully After Widowhood