When it comes to required academic reading, I can be a rather fussy reviewer. After all, I don’t get to choose the books that I read – they’re required. However, Life after Loss is a purposeful and very well thought-out book. Author Bob Deits paints a picture of grief in a very honest, if not blunt, manner that seldom repeats itself. The anecdotes used (even if he used the annoying tactic of making them up) were engaging and inspiring. Each chapter was concise, uncluttered, and easy to read, and bullet points were used sparingly and to good effect. In this soup to nuts introduction to the grief process, the physical, emotional, and relationship elements of this difficult topic were presented in a strength based and compassionate way.
Sadly, life is a terminal illness, and dying is a natural part of life. Deits pulls no punches as he introduces the topic of grief with the reminder that life’s not fair. This is a concept that most of us come to understand early in life, but when we’re confronted by great loss directly, this lesson is easily forgotten. Deits compassionately acknowledges that grief hurts and that to deny the pain is to postpone the inevitable. He continues that loss and grief can be big or small and that the period of mourning afterward can be an unknowable factor early on. This early assessment of grief reminded me of Prochaska and DiClemente’s stages of change, and how the process of change generally follows a specific path.
As in the stages of change, pre-contemplation or denial is followed by the slow understanding that a profound alteration in our lives is occurring. In this early stage, Deits encourages the reader to focus on the immediate personal needs of the grief stricken. Early in this process, there will be a need to prepare for confusion and chaos – within and outside of us, attend to our physical and emotional self-care, and gather our emotional resources such as friends and family. Developing a willingness to use those resources can be a challenge to self-image; however, there is no shame in getting aid from others, or needing to talk about your loss. We’re reminded that some people may be able to move on quickly, but that you may not be ready to do that for some time. Keeping resources at hand is a wise choice, and using them is not a selfish act.
As there are many varieties of individual, and many varieties of loss, there are a great many paths to recovery and no judgments should be made about what is an appropriate way to grieve. Grief is relativistic. An individual’s grief response is an appropriate response, relevant to each person uniquely and individually. As such, one grief recovery plan does not fit all and any plan that is put together should be done with care, and with the planning process focused on the grieving individual personal needs.
Grief is not an enemy; it is a process. With a beginning, a middle – and with work, an end. Life’s not fair, but that does not mean that...