Sunday, October 29, 2023

Q&A with Diane Papalia Zappa




Diane Papalia Zappa is the author of the new book Dear Bobby: My Grief Journey. It focuses on the loss of her late husband, Bob Zappa. She also has written the book The Married Widow. A psychologist, she taught at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.


Q: What inspired you to write Dear Bobby?


A: When Bob passed away in December 2018, I was in shock and grieving. Although he had been suffering from hereditary amyloidosis for several years, his death at the age of 75 was sudden and unexpected.


To cope I began to write letters to him telling him how I was doing and reminiscing about shared memories. These letters are the centerpiece of Dear Bobby: My Grief Journey.


Here are two examples:


Dear Bobby,

So I think this will be my new project. Writing to you as the spirit (so to speak) moves me. I really miss being with you, having dinner, cooking, joking around, the cocktail hour. The little things that make up a life together. I miss turning down the sheets with you before we go out. I miss you turning on the music before we would go to sleep. I haven’t been able to do that since you passed. I miss you asking me if I’m cold, and then turning your back to me to warm me up. I miss checking if that solitary hair has grown back on your nose. I simply miss you.





Dear Bobby,

How I loved our cocktail hours. That was our special time amid many special times. One tradition that meant so much to me was right at the beginning. I’d be scurrying around getting drinks and snacks together. And every night you would stand there with your back to the counter, look at me so lovingly, and motion for me to come to you. Then you would take me in your arms and say, “ Never gonna let you go.” And I’d sigh and tell you those words were magical to me. Are magical to me. And they always will be.




Q: How would you describe the relationship between your new book and The Married Widow?


A: Published in 2021, The Married Widow: My Journey With Bob Zappa describes the evolution of Bob, younger brother of iconic musician Frank Zappa, and my relationship from when we met in 1986.


At that time Bob was marketing manager for one of my textbooks. We both felt an instant intense connection, but we could not be together until 2013.


We married in 2015 but sadly he passed away after only three short years of marriage.

Many readers told me they were intrigued with the many afterlife signs and visits I received from Bob as well as with the two life-changing readings I had with a reputable psychic-medium. They encouraged me to write more about this and also about grief, coping, and how writing helped me process my loss.


So Dear Bobby grew out of The Married Widow, although it is a stand-alone book.


Q: What do you think the book says about grieving?


A: It says there is no one “right” way to grieve, nor is there one “right” timetable for grieving. People grieve differently.


It also says that “closure” is a myth. We don’t get over the loss of a loved one (achieve closure), rather we move forward and through grief, integrating the loss so it becomes a part of us. This allows the bond with the loved one to continue, albeit in a different form.


Although grief may soften over time, it will always be there. And some days will simply be harder than others.


Q: The writer Maria Leonard Olsen said of you and the book that “now [Zappa] is using her grieving experience to help others cope with loss by sharing her experience and excellent tips.” What do you think of that description, and what do you hope readers take away from your story?


A: I think that’s an excellent description of my motivation behind sharing my experiences. I want the tone to be hopeful and helpful.


To that end I’ve also provided a selection of writing prompts, mainly quotes from famous people such as Keanu Reeves and Queen Elizabeth II, so readers can begin their own writing journey. Writing has helped ease my pain and I hope theirs too.


The book ends with an appendix of resources such as books, films, and support groups for those who are grieving. So it’s also a reference book as these resources can be accessed at any time.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I’m putting the finishing touches on my new website ( and I’m planning to start a blog there. I’d also love to write a third book and hope ideas will come as I see comments about Dear Bobby.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: I wrote my letters as Bobby’s widow. But regular letter writing and/or journaling without concern for grammar or punctuation can be cathartic for any profound loss such as that of a child, parent, or dear friend. Just let the words flow!


I found writing and having readings from a psychic-medium to be the most helpful things I did.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a previous Q&A with Diane Papalia Zappa.

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