Prepare yourself for something very dreadful: today’s book is depressing. Sort of.
The holidays are a happy time, full of joy and anticipation. But for many people, they are also messy and hard, stirring up all kinds of complicated feelings. For those who have experienced a fresh loss, they can be just plain terrible.
It’s time to dust off my copy of this book you’ve never heard of, right now, in the midst of the holidays.
It’s The Grief Recovery Handbook: the Action Program for Moving Beyond Death, Divorce, and Other Losses including Health, Career, and Faith by John James and Russell Friedman, and its message will change your life.
I worked through this book in therapy a few years ago. I couldn’t have been more surprised when my therapist handed me a copy, because I didn’t think my issues had anything to do with grief.
It turns out that the umbrella for “grief” was much larger than I expected. Grief is a normal and natural emotional response to loss—any sort of loss, not just the obvious ones like death or divorce.
People grieve any number of things that we don’t typically associate with “grief:” a move, a diagnosis, a job loss. A loss of faith, a dysfunctional childhood, a rejection. We grieve (or rather, we need to grieve) anything we wish had ended “different, better, or more.”
This book helped me understand grief, the way it affects people, the way it has affected me.
There are two reasons to read this book.
First, read it for your own sake. Unresolved grief will wreck your life.
Everyone’s experienced loss, and it doesn’t always look like you expect. This book helps you understand and accept your own losses, instead of minimizing them. (A crucial distinction.)
(On your own, it’s an interesting and helpful read. Many people will need to go through the material with the help of a therapist, like I did.)
Second, read it for the sake of those around you. This book helps you be a better human being.
As a culture, we are terrible at grief—our own or others. We say horrible things to people who are grieving, like it was for the best, it could be worse, look on the bright side. You’ll learn how to engage with grieving people in a way that is actually helpful, instead of hurtful.
You’ll also learn some fascinating and eye-opening things, like how often things like fender-benders correlate with times of grief.
This book is about sad stuff, but it’s not a sad book. It’s interesting and enlightening and hopeful, and it deserves to be better known.
Books mentioned in this post: