Book chronicles journey of grief
Former New London teacher writes journal
When former New London High School teacher Callie Cochran-Hager lost her husband of 31-plus years to cancer, she found writing about it to be cathartic.
Her journal eventually evolved into a personal memoir that chronicles her grief journey.
The book, “Widow’s Walk: A Journey Home,” is available in softcover and kindle form through Amazon.
A New London resident from 1999-2020, Cochran-Hager was married to former New London City Administrator Kent Hager, who was set to retire after 20 years of service. Two weeks before he retired, he received a cancer diagnosis and succumbed five months later.
His cancer, cholangiocarcinoma, also known as bile duct cancer, had spread to his liver, and was incurable. He met his fate with courage and grace, she said.
“We were shocked,” she said. “Kent worked so hard and looked forward to retirement. We had planned to eventually return to my home state of Colorado and resume our life in the high country, travel and play.”
Following his death and the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, Cochran-Hager finished her 19th year of teaching English and language arts at the high school and retired in June of 2020. Her final year brought no closure, she recalled.
When schools closed in March and did not resume, she was unable to say good-bye to her students or colleagues. Working from the home she shared with her late husband felt awkward and lonely as well, and the decision to move came easy.
“My heart pulled me back to Colorado,” she said. “After losing Kent, I wanted to live near my mom and brother, so I found a house in my hometown and purchased it virtually, which was risky.”
She and their younger daughter, Erin, headed west. Older daughter Quinn soon followed after an August 2021 wedding to Joshua Hager. They all live and work in southern Colorado and find comfort in one another and the memories of husband and father.
All this time she continued to write.
“The book is made up of snippets of the grieving process,” she said. “I was able to be creative with a variety of narratives. I used vocabulary lists, letters, stream-of-conscious musings, and pictures to tell the story. As it progressed, I thought the book might provide an opportunity to share my story of loss and to validate others’ journeys.
‘What people often don’t understand, unless they personally experience profound loss, is that grief is not linear. You don’t start at Point A and move to Point Z. Grief is circular. It has no beginning or end. Folks unrealistically expect the grief stricken to get over it and move forward. There’s no getting over it. Our lives are forever changed. We are forever changed.”
Assisted by editor and layout designer Phyllis Peterson of Magnolia Studio in New London, Cochran-Hager launched the book in late August. The memoir has received positive reviews, and she is scheduled to participate as a reader with local grief groups at churches and bookstores in Colorado.
“I’m grateful to Phyllis for her honesty, expertise and professionalism as we worked to make a rough and raw draft into a real book. I’m proud of our partnership and the product,” she said. “I couldn’t have done it without her. She helped with every step of the publishing process.”
Cochran-Hager, who taught creative writing to her students, said it’s important to “write what you know.” She did not, however, dream she would write a memoir about death and survival. “I always dreamed of writing the great American novel. I guess nothing is stopping me now. This book is essentially my love letter to Kent. I hope it shares our story and offers grace and hope to others.”
“Widow’s Walk: A Journey Home” is available through Amazon at https://amzn.to/3ASK75S