It has recently come to my attention that several of the readers of my blog are suffering from grief: others are grappling with the knotty problem of the faith they grew up with being challenged by the dreadful realities of life. Here is my contribution to the discussion for what it is worth.
Firstly, today, for those in the immediate aftermath of a death I would recommend the following book, which was in turn recommended to me by a doctor at a time of bereavement. Tomorrow I’ll post the second part of this discussion.
I include two reviews from Amazon.uk which also echo my experiences of this book: I too carried it with me everywhere for some months, clutching on to it as to a life raft. Some of the contributions were meaningless to me, of course, since we are all so different, but others were essential. I had to pick my way through, and dip in anywhere I could, to find what I needed. It couldn’t take away the pain, or stop the process, but it was something, a real companion, in a sea of nothingness.
All in the End is Harvest: An Anthology for Those Who Grieve by Agnes Whitaker (Editor), Sue MacGregor (Introduction), and Colin Murray Parkes (Forward) (Paperback – 6 Oct 1984)
A great support in difficult times, 16 Jun 2003
My mother and I were each given our own copy of this book when my father died very suddenly ten years ago. Since then, I’ve sent it many people as a comfort in their bereavement.
Its selection of poems, writing and thoughts on grief were invaluable to me. So much so that, for a period of time, I carried it with me everywhere with pictures of my dad kept in the pages of the book, marking poems I particularly liked.
It may not be to everyone’s taste at hard times in their lives, but this book helped me.
In the dark hours of our lives there is no better help than this book, 8 Mar 2009
A bereavement councillor gave this book to be when I was deep in grief, and it made all the difference to me. When you are grieving it is difficult for people to help you, try though they may; and of course they do try, and that is wonderful. It does help, but you need something more, because all too often the pain is so deep that no relative or friend can really touch it.
This is where this wonderful book comes in. If I say, and it is true, that when I was given it I suddenly felt less alone, it may seem bizarre. But that’s how it was. The book addresses you. Many of its extracts come from those who have grieved themselves, and this actually does reach the pain, because while you are reading it it is as though you are in the presence of a fellow sufferer, who understands what you are going through, and can help. And what this tells you is that, painful though grieving is, terrible as the pangs of grief are, that all in a way is well. Grief needs to be expressed and lived through.
Various ideas are put forward as to why the pain is so great, and I found the best of these to be that grief is the price we pay for loving. Grief is a very intense and painful experience, but if we loved the person who has died, then in a way we owe them the tears we shed. Beside such thoughts you will find the promise of recovery. It seems impossible to the person deep in grief that he or she will ever recover, but the promise of this book is that, though it may take a while, the sufferer will eventually return to his usual self. It actually says that grief can, eventually, bring out the best in you.
Many, having gone through it and been shattered by it, wish to help others so stricken, and accordingly join bereavement care organisations. I did.
Since reading this book in the darkest hour of my life, I must have bought some twelve copies, which I’ve given to those suffering a great loss. It is written in a style that may be dipped into, and every type of grief is addressed, from losing a spouse, a child, a dear friend, a parent, to losing someone who may have taken their own life. It is worth reading even if not in grief – and it is certainly worth having a copy by one’s side to pass on should a friend, or an acquaintance, be in need. I have two copies on the side, and sooner or later they will be in the hands of those who need them. Wonderful book.