A year-long journey by the renowned psychiatrist and his writer wife after her fatal diagnosis, as they reflect on how to love and live without regret.
Internationally acclaimed psychiatrist and author Irvin Yalom devoted his career to counselling those suffering from anxiety and grief. But never had he faced the need to counsel himself until his wife, esteemed feminist author Marilyn Yalom, was diagnosed with cancer. In A Matter of Death and Life, Marilyn and Irv share how they took on profound new struggles: Marilyn to die a good death, Irv to live on without her.
In alternating accounts of their last months together and Irv's first months alone, they offer us a rare window into facing mortality and coping with the loss of one's beloved. The Yaloms had numerous blessings — a loving family, a Palo Alto home under a magnificent valley oak, a large circle of friends, avid readers around the world, and a long, fulfilling marriage — but they faced death as we all do. With the wisdom of those who have thought deeply and the familiar warmth of teenage sweethearts who've grown up together, they investigate universal questions of intimacy, love, and grief.
Informed by two lifetimes of experience, A Matter of Death and Life is an openhearted offering to anyone seeking support, solace, and a meaningful life.
‘For over half a century, the eminent psychiatrist Irvin Yalom has dazzled the world with his stories of the human psyche packed with wisdom, insight, and humour. Now, with stunning candour and courage, he shares with us the most difficult experience of his life: the loss of his wife and steadfast companion since adolescence. Partners to the end, including in the co-writing of this book, they share an indelible portrait of bereavement — the terror, pain, denial, and reluctant acceptance. But what we are left with is much more than a profound story of enduring loss — it's an unforgettable and achingly beautiful story of enduring love. I will be thinking about this for years to come.’
Lori Gottlieb, New York Times bestselling author of Maybe You Should Talk to Someone
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‘A Matter of Death and Life is so much more than a book. It is an indefatigable love story. It is a text that traverses past and present. It is exquisite, candid, and vulnerable — absent the too-common defenses of artifice and pomposity — as it approaches the untenable pain of separation and unyielding yearning of loss. Every person would benefit from multiple readings of this intelligently relatable book, both to confront dying as we inch toward our own mortality and, perhaps more importantly, the grief when one so beloved precedes us in death. I am deeply enriched for having absorbed this intimate narrative, as I wipe the tears from my eyes. Irv and Marilyn's love story, ending in the tragedy of endings, is yours, mine, and all of ours.’
Dr. Joanne Cacciatore, author of Bearing the Unbearable
‘This is a remarkable book — as remarkable as its authors, Irv Yalom, the master existential therapist and widely read author, and Marilyn Yalom, an accomplished scholar and writer. Summoning immense courage, the Yaloms co-write the story of their emotional and moral caregiving for each other. A Matter of Death and Life is the culmination of the Yaloms’ career-long quests for wisdom in the art of living and dying. It is a book that transforms the reader — I couldn't put it down.’
Arthur Kleinman, author of The Soul of Care
‘The Yaloms are not just honest, but astonishingly generous with their readers. This book takes its immediate place in the canon of great end-of-life memoirs.’
Caitlin Doughty, founder of The Order of the Good Death
‘A Matter of Death and Life is both a sweet reminiscence and a path to discovery. Two eminent professors, authors, and lifelong partners grapple with ageing, fragility, and death. In the process of honestly meeting the precariousness of life, they come to a deeper appreciation of its preciousness.’
Frank Ostaseski, author of The Five Invitations: discovering what death can teach us about living fully
‘This book is illuminating and vivid, a beautiful examination of the consolation of a life well-lived, and a beacon of hope to all of us who will be bereaved. And of course, it is an exposition of how we who are mortal learn to live with that very truth about ourselves.’
Kathryn Mannix, Sunday Times bestselling author of With the End in Mind: dying, death and wisdom in an age of denial
‘A collaborative memoir that provides an honest reckoning with the end of a long, fruitful life … The book has countless pieces of wisdom for anyone confronting death. As the two authors alternate chapters, the love between them manifests on the page through their mutual care and sense of togetherness. What emerges is an uncommonly tender portrait of what a strong marriage feels like on the inside … The Yaloms’ distinct voices are complements to each other and gifts to readers. A profound love story with lessons for how to live as well as how to die.’ STARRED REVIEW
Praise for Becoming Myself:
Irv Yalom is the psychiatrist who thinks like a philosopher and writes like the fine novelist he also happens to be. Becoming Myself delivers not only the engrossing story of one exceptional individual's life. It shines with revelations regarding life as it ought to be lived.’
Rebecca Newberger Goldstein, author of Plato at the Googleplex
Praise for Creatures of a Day:
‘Dr Yalom has written a magical book. Anyone who has ever thought about his or her own ageing or mortality will love this book. The result will be that of meeting, up close, a truly wise man, a really kind man, and of feeling deeply understood.’
George Valliant, professor of psychiatry at Harvard University, author of Triumphs of Experience, and Ageing Well
Praise for The Spinoza Problem:
‘Irvin Yalom is the most significant writer of psychological fiction in the world today. I didn’t think he could top When Nietzsche Wept or The Schopenhauer Cure, but he has. The Spinoza Problem is a masterpiece.’
Martin E. P. Seligman, author of Flourish