The Other Side of Sadness: What the New Science of Bereavement Tells Us About Life After Loss by George A. Bonanno (New York: Perseus Books; 2009; Hardcover; 231 pages with Notes and Index).
This is the most current book of which I am aware reporting on this subject and directed toward the general population.
Bonanno examines the evidence for the validity of the conventional five-stage grief model and finds it not just lacking but non-existent. His own research reporting begins with the human capacity for resilience and demonstrates that most of us possess and use this trait in the aftermath of any tragedy. His findings show that we regularly experience brief moments of happiness and joy even in the earliest days of our bereavement/loss. Grief, like other bodily processes, fluctuates in an oscillatory pattern in our lives; Bonanno says this is especially true of emotions and their claim on our attention and actions.
While Bonanno does not discount those who experience deep despair following the death of a loved one, he does report that many of us move back into our normal lives without significant impairment within six months of the loss event. This book and Bonanno’s work deserve much wider attention than they have received to date.
How to Survive the Loss of a Love by Melba Colgrove, Ph.D., Harold H. Bloomfield, M.D., and Peter McWilliams (Los Angeles: Prelude Press; 1991; Hardcover; 212 pages).
A physically beautiful book that addresses romantic loss from many viewpoints including divorce, separation, break-ups, and death. This deceptively small book is a comprehensive guide with practical tips, poetry, prose and pithy tidbits, and some sneaky humor.
The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion. (New York: Alfred A. Knopf; 2005; Hardcover; 227 pages). Didion tells us “this is my attempt to make sense of the … weeks and then months that cut loose any fixed idea I ever had about death, about illness … about marriage and children and memory … about the ways in which people do and do not deal with the fact that life ends, about the shallowness of sanity, about life itself.’” This book is a personal account of grief and the myriad of ways it showed up in Didion’s life in the first year following the death of her husband, John, and around the life-threatening illnesses that concurrently and subsequently imperiled the life of their daughter, Quintana, during that same year. Dedicated to John and Quintana, it is by turns searing and poignant. True to the spirit of grief, there are some very funny moments and there are some very painful moments. Near the end of the book, Didion writes: “I realize as I write this that I do not want to finish this account.” She laments for all of us who mourn the death of a loved one.
Solace: Finding Your Way Through Grief and Learning to Live Again by Roberta Temes, Ph.D. (New York: American Management Association; 2009; Hardcover; 146 pages with Appendix of Resources, Bibliography by Chapter, and Index).
Temes has a remarkably compassionate and caring voice. Early in the introduction, we read, “You are experiencing this death in your unique way. Your experience is valid for you. Your response is right for you. Your way is the right way for you, for now. Don’t let anyone suggest that you are mourning the wrong way. You are your own expert.”
A few pages later, Temes tells us: “Countless survivors of unspeakable tragedies have managed to endure precisely because they refused to speak about their ordeals. Often, after decades, these people finally felt emotionally protected from their painful memories. And that is when they began to speak …. Sometimes, silence gives strength.”
Immediately following, we find these words: “Similarly, if your family is a family of wailers I suspect your mourning cries will be heard by many, and then you, too, will return to your regular routine. Loud volume is part of the bereavement process for you.”
This book is well-organized and well-written. It includes an immense amount of material without being overwhelming. If I was limited to recommending just one book that comforted and offered practical steps for the bereaved, this would definitely be in the running.
Necessary Losses by Judith Viorst (New York: Simon and Schuster; 1986; Hardcover; 447 pages with Notes, Bibliography, and Index).
This book is a classic. As foundation for understanding how loss operates in our lives from our earliest days, it is well-written, soundly-researched, and decidedly worth the read. Viorst asserts that loss is central to, and pervasive in, everyone’s life. She divides our losses into four major categories: 1) the losses of childhood and the becoming of a separate self; 2) the losses of accepting the limitations of our power and potential including the forbidden and the impossible; 3) the losses of our dreams of ideal relationships to the reality of imperfect human connections; and, 4) the losses of people we love to death.
In one passage, Viorst tells us: “In fantasies and dreams, in all of our searchings for the dead, we try to deny the finality of the loss. For the death of someone we love revives our childhood fears of abandonment, the ancient anguish of being little and left.” Is it possible that every loss to death touches the inner child? What a provocative and compelling idea! If true, that retouched anguish may have far-reaching consequences. By itself this is more than adequate reason for each of us to do our part in integrating and embracing loss as part of life.
Healing the Adult Sibling’s Grieving Heart: 100 Practical Ideas After Your Brother or Sister Dies by Alan D. Wolfelt, Ph.D. (Fort Collins, CO: Companion Press; 2008; Quality Softcover; 111 pages).
The cover of this book claims “compassionate advice and simple activities to help you through the loss of your sibling” and that description fits. Wolfelt has authored many other publications on grief and mourning; he is an acknowledged grief expert. Although Wolfelt is very good about emphasizing the unique nature of each person’s grief, he does not mention the latest research on resilience; see my review on The Other Side of Sadness by George Bonanno for more details on this normal trait found in the majority of us. This is a telling omission and especially important in the incomplete listing found in Idea #96, Let Go of Destructive Myths About Grief and Mourning.
As the title states, this action-oriented guide is specifically languaged for the death of a sibling; however, the ideas apply equally as well to many other losses. I particularly like the Carpe Diem (seize the day) invitations on the bottom of each page.
In addition to the books above, I have either read and used information from the following books and articles in graduate coursework or I have read and own them. For various reasons, I found each useful and of support. I will be writing and posting short reviews on them in the near future; however, I wanted to give you titles and authors now.
Akner, Lois F., C.S.W. and Catherine Whitney. How to Survive the Loss of a Parent: A Guide for Adults. New York: William Morrow and Company, 1993.
Bozarth, Alla Renee, Ph.D. Life Is Goodbye Life Is Hello: Grieving Well Through All Kinds of Loss. Center City, MN: Hazelden Foundation, 1994.
Brumet, Robert. Finding YourSelf in Transition: Using Life’s Changes for Spiritual Awakening. Unity Village, MO: Unity Books, 1995.
Caldwell, Gail. Let’s Take the Long Way Home: A Memoir of Friendship. New York: Random House, Inc., 2010.
Collins, Judy. The Seven T’s: Finding Hope and Healing in the Wake of Tragedy. New York: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Penguin, 2007.
Commins, Patricia. Remembering Mother, Finding Myself: A Journey of Love and Self-Acceptance. Deerfield Beach, FL: Heath Communications, Inc., 1999.
Dyregrov, Atle. Grief in Children: A Handbook for Adults. 2nd ed. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 1991.
Fenwick, Peter and Elizabeth Fenwick. The Art of Dying: A Journey to Elsewhere. London: Continuum, 2008.
Friedman, Russell. “The Grief Connection: From Stockton to Red Lake.” Grief Recovery Institute Educational Foundation, ND (presumed March 28, 2005). http://www.grief.net/Media/grief_connection.htm [ac-cessed March 9, 2011].
Friedman, Russell. “The Ink-Link to Grief and Recovery: Flinging Ink on Emotional Wounds.” The Grief Recovery Institute Educational Foundation, ND. http://www. grief.net/Media/flinging_ink_on_emotional_wounds.htm [accessed March 9, 2011].
Gewirtz, Matthew D. The Gift of Grief: Finding Peace, Transformation, and Renewed Life After Great Sorrow. Berkeley, California: Celestial Arts, 2008.
Keeley, Maureen P., Ph.D. and Julie M. Yingling, Ph.D. Final Conversations: Helping the Living and the Dying Talk to Each Other. Acton, MA: VanderWyk & Burnham, 2007.
Konisberg, Ruth Davis. “New Ways to Think About Grief.” Time Magazine. January 24, 2011. http://content.time.com /time/magazine/article/ 0,9171,2042372-1,00.html [ac-cessed September 12, 2013].
Konisberg, Ruth Davis. The Truth About Grief: The Myth of Its Five Stages and the New Science of Loss. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2011.
Kubler-Ross, Elisabeth, M.D. Questions and Answers on Death and Dying. New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc., 1974.
Kubler-Ross, Elisabeth, M.D. On Death and Dying. New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc., 1969.
Kubler-Ross, Elisabeth, M.D. and David Kessler. On Grief and Grieving: Finding the Meaning of Grief Through the Five Stages of Loss. New York: Scribner, 2005.
Levine, Stephen. Unattended Sorrow: Recovering from Loss and Reviving the Heart. Unknown: Rodale Inc., 2005.
Marasco, Ron and Brian Shuff. About Grief: Insights, Setbacks, Grace Notes, Taboos. Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, Publisher, 2010.
Moody, Jr., Raymond A., M.D., Ph.D. and Dianne Arcangel, M.S. Life After Loss: Conquering Grief and Finding Hope. New York: HarperSanFrancisco, 2001.
Morris, Sue. Overcoming Grief: A Self-Help Guide Using Cognitive Behavioral Techniques. New York: Perseus Books, 2008.
PBS This Emotional Life Website. http://www.pbs.org/ thisemotionallife/topic/ grief-and-loss [accessed Sept 12, 2013].
Price, Steven D. What to Do When A Loved One Dies: Taking Charge at a Difficult Time. New York: Skyhorse Publishing, 2009.
Wolfelt, Alan D., Ph.D. Companioning the Bereaved: A Soulful Guide for Caregivers. Fort Collins, CO: Companion Press, 2006.
Wolpe, David. Making Loss Matter: Creating Meaning in Difficult Times. New York: Riverhead Books, 1999.
Zhang, Baohui, M.S., Areej El-Jawahri, B.S., and Holly G. Prigerson, Ph.D. “Update on Bereavement Research: Evidence-Based Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Treatment of Complicated Bereavement.” Journal of Palliative Medicine. October 2006, 9(5): 1188-1203. http://www.liebertonline.com/doi/abs/10.1089/ jpm.2006.9.1188 [accessed March 11, 2011].
Zonnebelt-Smeenge, Susan J., R.N., Ed.D. and Robert C. DeVries, D.Min, Ph.D. Getting to the Other Side of Grief: Overcoming the Loss of a Spouse. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1998.