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Westchester widows unite to write book on grieving

Published: Monday, Sept. 30, 2013 12:12 p.m. CDT
(Photo provided)
Westchester resident Susan Troppito lost her husband, Joel, after a sudden heart attack on Easter in 2010. After becoming friends with Nancy Steker through a church group for widows, Troppito and Steker teamed to write a book about their experience as widows.
(Photo provided)
Westchester resident Nancy Steker lost her husband, Chuck, in 2005, after his seven-year battle with kidney cancer. Steker and friend Susan Troppito recently released a book about their experience as widows.

WESTCHESTER – After Susan Troppito's husband died of a sudden heart attack on Easter in 2010, she joined a group for widows at her church led by Nancy Steker.

Steker, an instructional aid at Divine Infant School, had worked with Troppito's kids when they attended there. But despite their families living a block apart, the two women never got to know each other. 

After a year, the widows' group had lost most its members, leaving only Troppito and Steker. They became friends and spent two years talking about their grieving. One night, they went out to celebrate their birthdays and decided they should write a book about all the feelings they'd shared with each other.

"I don't know at the time we really thought we would do it," Steker said.

Steker set a goal of completing the book by her 60th birthday. Three days before her birthday, the book, "A Grieving Widow's Journal: A Collection of Thoughts," was released.

The 115-page book reveals their personal journey of loss and their experiences as widows. For Troppito, who had just lost her husband, Joel, a few years earlier, writing was a way to process the flood of feelings she was having. 

"I felt like I could relate to the people from 9/11, the suddenness," said Troppito, who heard a thud when her husband collapsed. "The brain takes a lot to react to that; the guilt I felt for not being able to say things to him."

Steker thought Troppito needed to write the book and that it would be good for her. She was right, as the process helped Troppito release her feelings.

"When I felt like I wanted to talk to him, I'd go write," Troppito said. 

It wasn't as simple for Steker, whose husband, Chuck, died in 2005 after a seven-year battle with kidney cancer. Steker had to reach back further in her memory and revisit emotions that she'd willingly let fade.

"It was hardest for me, I think, to write because she was writing all of her feelings as they were happening to her, whereas I was writing going back six or seven years … There were a lot of things I didn't want to write or have to relive again," Steker said.

As they talked more and more and wrote their book, Steker and Troppito realized how similar their husbands were. Joel Troppito and Chuck Steker were both handymen who stored loads of wood and tools in their garages. They drove pickup trucks and enjoyed their reclining chairs. Both bought their wives special ornaments for Christmas. 

"They probably would have been best friends," Troppito said. "So it's really a shame … But [now] we don't hesitate about texting each other at one in the morning."

Several widow support groups have used their book for discussion. Both said they never intended to make any money off the book, but simply wanted to share their experiences.

"When my husband passed away, I couldn't get enough to read," said Troppito, who wanted to tell other widows that their feelings were normal.

"A Grieving Widow's Journal: A Collection of Thoughts," is available for purchase for $12 plus shipping at

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