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Courage to Grieveby Judy Tatelbaum
Synopses & Reviews
The Courage to GrieveAnd ever has it been that love knows not its own depth until the hour of separation.
-- The Prophet
The death of a loved one is the most profound of all sorrows. The grief that comes with such a loss is intense and multifaceted, affecting our emotions, our bodies, and our lives. Grief is preoccupying and depleting. Emotionally, grief is a mixture of raw feelings such as sorrow, anguish, anger, regret, longing, fear, and deprivation. Grief may be experienced physically as exhaustion, emptiness, tension, sleeplessness, or loss of appetite. Grief invades our daily lives in many sudden gaps and changes, like that empty place at the dinner table, or the sudden loss of affection and companionship, as well as in many new apprehensions, adjustments, and uncertainties. The loss of a loved one throws every aspect of our lives out of balance. The closer we were to the person who died, the more havoc the loss creates. Love does not die quickly. Hence to grieve is also "to celebrate the depth of the union. Tears are then the jewels of remembrance, sad but glistening with the beauty of the past. So grief in its bitterness marks the end . . . but it also is praise to the one who is gone."
During the months of mourning after a death, we learn to face the reality and the pain of our loss, to say good-bye to the dead loved one, to restore ourselves, and to reinvest in life once again. In a sense, mourning is a time of new mastery over ourselves and our lives. Recovery comes in the days ahead, when mourning is completed and a new balance is found. But before we recover we have many experiences that trigger our grief anew until those feelings truly dissipate. Finishing orcompleting grief comes when we are able to let go of our feelings of grief and our intense connection with the deceased. Although our love never dies, the pain of our loss can eventually dissolve.
Although we may feel ignorant about grief, grief is in fact like a neighbor who always lives next door, no matter where or how we live, no matter how we try to move away. Grief may result from any significant change or loss in our lives. Whether we want to or not, every one of us has to learn to let go, to move forward without someone or something we wanted very much.
Life is change. We undergo change, loss, and grief from birth onward. Every venture from home, every move, every job or status change, every loss of a person, pet, belief, every illness, every shift in life such as marriage, divorce, or retirement, and every kind of personal growth and change may be cause for grief. These are what Elisabeth Kubler-Ross calls the "little deaths" of life.
If we would face everyday changes and practice letting go in our daily lives, perhaps loss and grief would be less traumatic. Even though we have a multitude of opportunities for learning how to handle grief, we usually avoid our feelings of loss. We bear up and force ourselves onward. Because we deny the full measure of our grief in our everyday changes and losses, when the big griefs come then grief feels unfamiliar, frightening, and overwhelming. Nonetheless, the death of a loved one is so great and so final a loss that our past experiences with "little deaths" may never adequately prepare us.
Most of us have had some experience with healthy grieving. For example, although we often feel isolated in our personal grief, mourners acrossour nation were helped together to work through their grief when President Kennedy was assassinated. On television we saw images of Kennedy, his life, the circumstances of his death, and his funeral over and over again for several days. We talked with each other about the loss of our president. We read about his life. This then is the essential process of grieving — repeating again and again the images of, and feelings about, our lost loved one until the mourning process is completed.
That we can grieve and recover often seems an amazing feat, yet human resilience is amazing. Just as a forest can burn to the ground and eventually grow anew, or a town can be devastated by a flood and rebuild, so each of us can be overcome by our grief, have the enormity of our loss overwhelm us, and still eventually recover and restore our lives. This is nature's way. This book is as much about recovery, completion, and restoration as it is about the grief experience itself. This is a book of hope. Even though at times it may seem impossible, we can conquer grief, heal, and even grow from the experience.
Grief is a wound that needs attention in order to heal. To work through and complete grief means to face our feelings openly and honestly, to express or release our feelings fully, and to tolerate and accept our feelings for however long it takes for the wound to heal. For most of us, that is a big order. Therefore, it takes courage to grieve. It takes courage to feel our pain and to face the unfamiliar. It also takes courage to grieve in a society that mistakenly values restraint, where we risk the rejection of others by being open or different. Open mourners are a select group, willing to journeyinto pain and sorrow and anger in order to heal and recover.
Unfortunately, our misconceptions about grief keep us from developing the courage we need to face grief. Many of us fear that, if allowed in, grief will bowl us over indefinitely. The truth is that grief experienced does dissolve. The only grief that does not end is grief that has not been fully faced. Grief unexpressed is like a powder keg waiting to be ignited. We also misunderstand tears. A slang expression for crying in our society is "to break down." We act as if weeping is wrong or akin to illness, while tears actually afford us a necessary release of our intense feelings. Another misconception is that if we truly loved someone, we will never finish with our grief, as if continued sorrow is a testimonial to our love. ...
This unusual self-help book about surviving grief offers the reader comfort and inspiration. Each of us will face some loss, sorrow and disappointment in our lives, and The Courage to Grieve provides the specific help we need to enable us to face our grief fully and to recover and grow from the experience. Although the book emphasizes the response to the death of a loved one, The Courage to Grieve can help with every kind of loss and grief.
Judy Tatelbaum gives us a fresh look at understanding grief, showing us that grief is a natural, inevitable human experience, including all the unexpected, intense and uncomfortable emotions like sorrow, guilt, loneliness, resentment, confusion, or even the temporary loss of the will to live. The emphasis is to clarify and offer help, and the tone is spiritual, optimistic, creative and easy to understand. Judy Tatelbaum provides excellent advice on how to help oneself and others get through the immediate experience of death and the grief that follows, as well as how to understand the special grief of children. Particularly useful are the techniques for completing or "finishing" grief--counteracting the popular misconception that grief never ends. The Courage to Grieve shows us how to live life with the ultimate courage: not fearing death. This book is about so much more than death and grieving it is about life and joy and growth.
Includes bibliographical references (p. -173) and index.
About the Author
Judy Tatelbaum, M.S.W., attended both Syracuse University and the Simmons College School of Social Work in Boston. She worked for several years as a psychiatric social worker at the Payne Whitney Clinic of New York/Cornell Medical Center; the Columbia University School of Social Work; and the Massachusetts Mental Health Center. She now lives in Carmel Valley, California, where she has her private practice.
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