Top positive review
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This book helps readers to deal with the pain of bereavement
on 6 November 2001
Although first published in 1983, this book always seems new, and fresh, to me. I have also bought countless copies over the years, to give away to friends and relatives who are facing, or have suffered, the loss of a loved one.
I have often wondered how I could draw this book to the attention of the many millions of people who might gain comfort from it, and suddenly it came to me that by writing a review for Amazon, I might achieve just that aim.
"The Courage to Grieve", although written by a Gestalt therapist, is written from personal experience, which gives it both credibility and authenticity. The author was just 17 when her elder brother was tragically killed in a car accident. The book has its roots in her terrible pain and anguish, but is given structure and wider knowledge through her dealings with her own, and her clients' search for a constructive way to deal with, and accept, death.
Anyone who is touched in any way by death, or the dying, could do no better than to explore this book for help. Its chapters deal not only with the post-death experience, but also with facing the death of a dear one, and understanding their feelings and responsibilities during this period. The back of the book contains an Appendix, which is, for me, one of the most important documents. This is "The Dying Person's Bill of Rights" and seeks to guide those of us remaining behind to act and respond in a way most helpful to the one facing their final journey. All too often we try to "do our best" for this person, and try to give them everything we think they need. This can result in a kind of control over the dying person's last months, weeks or days which, although offering an easing of guilt (maybe for a lack of attention up until now) does nothing for, and indeed hinders, the dying person's last wishes and needs.
The book deals with sudden death as well as the pre-death period of, for instance, a cancer patient. Each Chapter is preceded by a short quotation from another of my favorite books - The Prophet, by Kalil Gilbran. It is an ideal document from which to borrow words of extreme comfort and love.
Whatever an individual's circumstances - whether losing a parent, sibling, a child or a friend, and whether a child or adult themselves - this book offers both sensitivity and sensible advice and encouragement. It not only explains why we feel some of the emotions we do (such as anger, disbelief, pain, depression) but also how to understand, and deal, with these. It is an unhurried book, which gently coaxes one along a path, rather than at a forced pace. It is therapeutic, but not cloaked in therapists' language. It takes one on a physical, mental and spiritual journey of understanding and insight. After my own mother's death, it was the only book I read which seemed to echo, in its pages, how I truly felt. I only read the Chapter on "Finishing" 10 years after she had left us, knowing that the author had enabled me to give myself permission to take as long as I wish to reach the stage when I could truly say goodbye to her.
Judy Tatelbaum writes simply, but eloquently. I felt her empathy, and some of the personal pain she clearly went through not only after her brother's death, but also after the loss of a number of close friends. For the first time, I found someone who felt, as I do, that lingering deaths (such as any terminal illness) can be positive, because we have "the opportunity to confront dying and death directly" and because "survivors can give comfort, support and companionship, which can ease the pain for the person dying".
The book even reaches out to those who are themselves dying. Ms Tatelbaum writes of the chance this offers to celebrate relationships, and to thank people for their love and friendship, and be thanked in return. Getting ready for a journey offers many more opportunities to put one's affairs in order, both literally and metaphorically, and to know that those left behind are left with time to grieve, rather than the rather messy business of trying to clear up the world of someone suddently no longer there.
I would encourage all to read this book, and thus to equip themselves with the understanding and the tools to deal with that most mysterious, and feared, journey: be it our own death, or someone else's.