Jai Pausch – Dream New Dreams: Reimagining My Life After Loss

by J-Stacknik

Jai Pausch has written "Dream New Dreams" telling the story of her life with Randy Pausch and his diagnoses of cancer.

Jai Pausch was the wife of Randy Pausch, the Carnegie Mellon University computer science professor, who inspired millions with his last lecture. Randy had pancreatic cancer and was dying, and he held a lecture at Carnegie Mellon called The Last Lecture, it was recorded and became a youtube hit viewed by over 15 million people to date. He also wrote a book titled The Last Lecture and became a spokesperson for facing death in a positive way appearing on shows like Oprah , Good Morning America and The Today Show and was featured in Time and Newsweek magazine. Through all of this his wife Jai was by his side; supporting but also serving as his main caregiver.

Randy passed away in 2008 and in the four years since, Jai has had to deal with raising three young children as well as grieving the loss of her husband. She gave a talk about being a caregiver and from that words just flowed out. She was surprised that the words came so easily and it made her see that she needed to explore this further so she has written it all down in a book called Dream New Dreams: Reimagining My Life After Loss.

What that talk did was make her realize that she had lived with these feelings inside of her with no one to share them with. Unlike health care workers who deal with sickness and dying on a regular basis and have a network of other professionals that they can share their experiences with, Jai had no one. It was just her, struggling to maintain a normal home for her three young children and supporting Randy as his cancer got worse. She was surprised to learn that she wasn’t the only one going through this experience, there were others who were looking for a network.

She said writing the book was also good therapy and that it helped her heal herself. Going back to that talk it made her realize that her experience was valid. There was no voice for the caregiver who sits unnoticed. She found her voice. It was painful at times, hard at times and she was writing a year after Randy died so wounds were still fresh. It was painful, but it was necessary.

When asked if she still has nightmares Jai replies “I’m at the point now where I can look back on the experience and see some positives. There are the precious moments I can take away from that. I can refer to Randy. I don’t cry all the time anymore. My family has a rhythm to it now. There is more harmony in the family now. But we were swimming in a vortex of grief, trying to survive the undertow.”

Jai recently married Rich Essenmacher, a retired navel officer and said that when she made the decision to date again it was a mark that she had healed enough – that she could share her life with someone again. “I had to give myself permission to live again. I’m still alive. It’s okay for me to be happy,” and the kids are doing remarkably well.

Jai hopes the book will create a dialogue for caregivers who are often times overlooked and who play a critical role and need tools to give better support. The best advise she can give to a caregiver is to be able to forgive yourself. You were not trained to to this and at times you will make mistakes, forgive yourself and remember you are doing the best you can.

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