After I write grief material, I find it helpful to read strong positive reviews. This is not to get a pat on the back, it’s to learn what has been helpful. It shows if the resource has met a need in a reader’s heart and mind. And it also shows that which we hope will be important, has proved its purpose. Thanks, Paul.
The following review is written by the Rev. Dr. Paul Miller, Ministry Support: Waterloo Presbytery of the United Church of Canada:
Good Grief People. By Alan Anderson, Glynis M. Belec, Barbara Heagy, Donna Mann, Ruth Smith Meyer and Carolyn Wilker, 2017
Review by Rev. Dr. Paul Miller
Death, and the experience of loss and grief that it brings, is both universal and intensely personal. Good Grief People captures that two-fold aspect of grief beautifully and profoundly.
The authors include writers, an editor, a minister, a counsellor, but they all have this in common: each has been touched very personally by grief.
Three things stood out for me as I read this book.
First, grief is not an event, but a journey. Many of us have been taught that there are “five stages of grief.” But this book illustrates that it is not a straightforward progression, but a road with many twists and turns that takes a lifetime to travel.
Second, grief is a shared journey. I was moved by how the authors, and in many cases, those who were dying, invited others to take the journey with them. Family, friends, church communities were all given permission to participate in the process of death and grieving. This is in contrast to the death-denying ways of our wider culture.
Third, honesty is crucial. There are no empty platitudes in this book, no sugar-coated euphemisms. There is no attempt to hide from the truth. The authors advocate facing the reality of death openly, and finding comfort and hope through honesty.
The book is helpfully organized to show that there are different kinds of dying, and different kinds of grieving. There is death over time, from cancer, ALS, dementia, heart failure. There is death that strikes suddenly – accidents, suicide, murder, and that special trauma, the death of children. The book gives space to miscarriage – a form of grief that is often the most confusing and frightening to those who experience it.
Good Grief People is unabashedly Christian in its approach. The authors are people of faith, and the resources of faith are critical to their journey towards healing. But faith is interwoven into the narratives unself-consciously and with great authenticity.
The book has some excellent practical counsel on how to approach situations of death and grief as a friend, family member, or helping professional. It includes quotations from well-known authors, personal testimonies, and a lists of “What to say” and “What NOT to say” to those who are grieving.
The subtitle of the book clearly states its purpose: “Easing the sting of death by recognizing and respecting the individuality or grief and the reality of hope.” I would warmly recommend it to anyone who is taking the journey of grief.
Jot a few notes to help follow the above information and apply it to your life.
Donna Mann can be found at donnamann.org