RIP, E. Devers Branden (1933-2023)

I awoke this morning to the very sad news that Estelle Devers Branden passed away on July 26, 2023, after a long illness. Devers was a very dear friend of mine.

Born on October 2, 1933, Devers was a businesswoman who subsequently turned to the profession of psychotherapy. She married writer and psychologist Nathaniel Branden in 1978, and though they later divorced in 2002, they remained close friends. With Nathaniel, she coauthored The Romantic Love Question and Answer Book (1982, subsequently republished as What Loves Asks of Us). Her enormous impact on the lives of those who were touched by her perceptive insights and caring guidance—both in Nathaniel’s various intensives and in her therapeutic practices—will be remembered by anyone who had the privilege of getting to know her.

In the aftermath of Nathaniel’s death in December 2014, The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies published a grand symposium on his life and legacy. Devers provided us with a photo of Nathaniel for that December 2016 double issue. Of the sixteen featured essays in that symposium, several discussed Devers’s various contributions, including Deepak Sethi (“Personal Reflections on Nathaniel Branden”), Andrew Schwartz (“Adler, Branden, and the Third Wave Behavior Therapists”), Joel F. Wade (“Nathaniel Branden and Devers Branden and the Discipline of Happiness”), and my very close friend, the late Michael Southern, whose essay “My Years with Nathaniel Branden” explored, on a very personal level, the ways in which Devers’s innovative Jungian subpersonality techniques helped him through enormous mental health challenges. Nathaniel credited Devers for having enabled him to integrate these techniques into his eclectic arsenal of psychotherapeutic practices.

I first met Nathaniel in 1993; he had provided me with invaluable feedback on an early draft of my book, Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical. Nathaniel’s influence on me was immeasurable—not just as the author of countless essays during his years of association with Ayn Rand, not just for his pioneering work in the realm of the psychology of self-esteem, but also as a person who would become a dear friend over the years, a source of immeasurable love and support. So, it was only a matter of time for me to finally meet Devers. The two of them visited me in Brooklyn in the spring of 1998, and I took them for a whirlwind tour of the borough. From Nathan’s hot dogs in Coney Island to pizza at L&B Spumoni Gardens, from the mansions on Bedford Avenue to the waterfront at Manhattan Beach, we had a wonderful time. I still have vivid memories of the two of them dancing on the famed pedestrian bridge in Sheepshead Bay. Before they departed for the airport, I asked them both to inscribe my copy of their coauthored work, The Romantic Love Question and Answer Book (an image of which appears below).

The following year, my sister Elizabeth and I took an early spring trip to California. We had left New York City, which was enjoying temperatures in the 80s, to travel to Sunny California, where it was snowing in the San Fernando Valley. Snow aside, that trip would not have been complete without a visit to the Beverly Hills 90210 home of Nathaniel and Devers (image of me with them below). It was a spectacular experience. Our lengthy conversations spanned from the personal to the professional, the spiritual to the intellectual. We shared so many stories, we ate well, we laughed, and we held each other in a warm embrace before we left. Though that was the last time I saw Devers, we continued to talk on the phone for many years thereafter, a source of enormous joy for one another.

I last spoke to her in mid-April 2023, knowing how sick she was. She had told me that she had made her peace with death. But there was still so much life left within her. Knowing how enormous my grief was in the wake of my sister’s passing in November 2022, she comforted me. She knew how much my sister meant to me and how deeply my sister loved me. I cherished her gentleness with me.  We ended our phone call saying “I love you” to one another. At her request, I sent her copies of all my recent essays, and she sent me a recent photo of her with her beloved dog, Gigi (image below).

Devers was a kind, humane, caring soul. And a remarkable human being. I will miss her enormously.

I extend my deepest condolences to her family and friends.

Also see my Facebook post.

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