The sun shined on Hospice of Santa Barbara and Congregation B’nai B’rith on Sunday afternoon at a special event honoring the publication of Sissy Taran’s new book, The Sun Will Shine Again: Life Lessons from a Year of Grieving, with all proceeds going to support the two organizations.
“This is the first time in history of Hospice of Santa Barbara that we’ve ever sponsored a book,” said executive director Gail Rink, who interviewed Taran and Rabbi Steve Cohen about their experiences working together. Taran and Cohen wrote the book — which documents Taran’s first year of grieving the death of her husband, Bernie — through a series of conversations. They met once a week for seven months, primarily at the Breakwater Restaurant, to share the journey Sissy took.
Cohen said he viewed the project as a unique opportunity to learn more about the grief process. He was with the Taran family when they learned of Bernie’s cancer diagnosis, and with them shortly afterward when he passed away.
“It was a wonderful but very short-lived period of intimacy,” he said, and he welcomed the opportunity to extend it through collaboration on the book project.
Cohen initially decided to become a rabbi because it was important to him to be close to people in key moments of their lives, and he saw this project as a rare opportunity for that type of closeness.
One of the most important lessons he learned was that there is not a linear progression from devastation to happiness, Cohen said.
“We walk it all differently, but it’s our individual walk,” Taran said. “So this, somehow, and I don’t know why, this book was burning within me. Somehow. Because I’ve never written and if I had to sit down at a computer I still wouldn’t have written a book.”
Taran taped all of her sessions with Cohen and pieced together the book from the transcripts, with the help of editor Laurie Deans Medjuck.
“We ended up throwing out about 75 percent of it,” Taran said.
Even though she was, and still is, grieving, Taran said she doesn’t feel sorry for herself.
“How can you have pity for yourself when you have someone who’s there for you with so much love,” she said of her collaboration with Cohen.
“I don’t know how I or Sissy or any of us would have faced this journey alone,” said Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara, who was widowed in 1997. “You’ve created a beautiful thing out of most deep and personal pain. What a lesson and what a gift!”
“Through writing this book I found something within me that wanted to help myself and other people,” Taran said. “Today’s benefit is my way of giving back to two organizations close to my heart.”