New Beginnings brings back a sense of joie de vivre
When well-known radio personality, inspirational speaker, and writer, Roslyn Basserabie, lost her beloved husband in a Vespa scooter accident last year, it upended her world. But Basserabie is no stranger to crisis and upheaval, and coupled with her indomitable spirit and resilience, she has been able to transform her grief into a will to live.
As a new widow – “a horrible word” – Basserabie knew her late husband of 46 years, Dennis, would want her to continue to live life fully and inspire others in a similar position to do the same.
When she met Jessie Kay, the co-founder of Nechama Bereavement Services in Umhlanga last year, Kay was visibly moved by Ros’ positivity and joie de vivre in spite of living with grief and having recently lost the love of her life.
“I remember how Ros marvelled at the sea, the blue sky, and the seagulls,” said Kay, “Even with her pain, she was still able to find joy in nature and the small things.” Basserabie’s resilience and exuberance reminded Kay of an idea she had been toying with for a while.
“I thought of my peers in similar life positions who found themselves living alone, and was inspired by Ros’ outlook to act,” said Kay. Her idea was to find a way to motivate people who lived alone to embrace life and actively seek joy again.
Since that meeting at the seaside, the two women have found common ground and purpose. Together, they recently launched a social group called “New Beginnings” for people who find themselves living alone after the loss of a partner.
“It isn’t a dating service or a charity, nor is it the new Tinder or a grief counselling service,” says Basserabie.
“New Beginnings aims to create a thriving, vibrant group of women – although men have shown an interest – who have lost their partners and have become widows. We want to ignite their lives after loss, whether recent or long ago,” she said.
Basserabie’s motto is, “For those who are living, life is to be lived.” With this in mind, New Beginnings plans to organise a variety of activities from outings to the theatre, movies, hikes, walks, and tours.
They have been blown away by the number of people who have shown an interest in joining and the number who arrived at the first and second meetings last month.
“It has pressed a button in the community,” said Kay, “We know this group will grow, the problem is how fast.” There’s already a mailing list of 215 people, and more than 65 people attended the meetings.
“It meets a need in the community, especially after two and a half years of isolation caused by COVID-19. People need to get out of their homes and gardens, learn to socialise again, and meet new friends,” said Kay, a social worker who has spent the great part of her working life in grief counselling. “New Beginnings is for people who want to make the most of their life. It’s a much-needed platform for like-minded people to meet and rekindle their passion for living after loss.”
Kay is the grandmother of the late Eli Kay, who was murdered by a Palestinian terrorist last year in Jerusalem.
“I had the idea of a social group before he tragically passed, but when I returned from Israel, I found it hard to summon the energy to get it off the ground.” She knows her grandson would’ve encouraged her to do it. “I know he would’ve said, ‘Go for it, gran!’.”
Basserabie said she felt her late husband’s presence daily. “I feel him around me like a guiding, gentle, protective murmur. I don’t feel alone,” she said, although when she retires for the night after a long day, she’s alone. “I’m not lonely, there’s a difference, but it’s me and the four walls. I want to live my gift of life with purpose and meaningfulness. That’s the only way to live in spite of the knocks that come our way.”
“While my late husband lives on in so many of the breaths I take, I’ve been blessed with perspective gleaned over many years.”
She recalls how their home burnt to the ground in 2006, and how in those moments of anguish, she was able to summon the resilience and strength required to face the turmoil. Her book, From My Heart To Yours Enhance Your Life With G.R.A.C.E, deals with this.
“So, with Denny’s passing, I found I was walking the talk. I have positivity in my core, and it kicks in particularly in a time of crisis,” she said.
Starting afresh, “packing away pain, struggle, disappointment, and sadness” isn’t easy, “but it’s a must if one wants to go forward with joyful anticipation and the ability to glean pleasure from life,” she told the SA Jewish Report.
With New Beginnings, the pair wish to create a place in the community for men and women who are single to meet and participate in interesting and entertaining activities.
“It aims to provide companionship, and a platform to perhaps develop relationships in a safe, convivial environment,” said Basserabie.
“COVID-19 and lockdown helped to fester aloneness and even worse, loneliness,” she said.
Many became “house huggers”.
“There are those who have the privilege of caring families, support systems, and many friends, but in so many cases, they still have to return home to face the furniture and walls – alone,” said Basserabie.
“At night, single women are reluctant to go out and drive on their own, so they forfeit the enjoyment of attending places and activities and are trapped in a way that they weren’t when their husbands or partners were with them,” she said.
New Beginnings will hold monthly meetings with inspiring speakers and refreshments.
In a Facebook post, Basserabie said she looked back on a “rich, magnanimous relationship” with her husband, which had given her the “opportunity to hope, positivity, and excitement in living”.
“My Denny has prepared me optimally for my new life ahead and because of it, I don’t feel lonely, abandoned or fearful. I feel empowered and hopeful,” she wrote.
New Beginnings needs volunteers, donors, and a secretary. For those wishing to get involved in this life-fulfilling endeavour, contact Roz Basserabie, 082 568 6016, or Jessie Kay, 082 449 3147. The next meeting is on Sunday 1 May at Pine Street Shul at 10:00.