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After so many positive reviews... a voice of dissent
on 23 February 2016
Last year I suffered a bereavement and have had a few bad days since. I was looking for a self-help book and based on the reviews here thought I’d give this a go. I’m afraid to say it didn’t work for me.
First, there’s the tone which I found a bit simplistic and patronising. It’s also very much geared towards the US market. The book is repetitive, going over the same material again and again. It is highly critical of distractions from grief, for example (on p. 34) telling you to keep-busy or later to avoid fantasy films/books as a way of escaping. Obviously you can’t avoid your grief indefinitely – but equally, I feel you are entitled to moments of relief. If that means escaping for a couple of hours in a film, that’s fine. And what’s the alternative to keeping busy? Doing nothing and just collapsing into a slump? I found the book was too blunt, suggesting you should avoid such things altogether rather than allowing yourself some respite while making sure they don’t become a crutch.
I didn’t find the whole drawing a loss history graph helpful. Again, it might work for some people but my brain didn’t respond to it at all. I kept thinking of that Robin Williams line in ‘Dead Poets Society’ (where the text book tries to gauge the quality of a poem by means of a graph): it’s poetry, you’re not laying pipe! Similarly with the ‘Grief Recovery book’. Grief is a complex emotion. For lots of people, drawing a graph will be an exercise in pointlessness. If anyone is familiar with Myers-Briggs, I’d guess the writers of the book are very much S-type personalities. Everything is about systems; there’s little room for intuition or instinctively feeling you way through the emotion of grief. If you want further proof of this, on p.130 it tells you the exact measurements of the paper you need to deal with grief: 8 ½” x 11”. Clearly their system doesn’t work, nor can grief be ameliorated, if you’re using paper of other sizes.
By this point I was getting angry! Which brings me on to my biggest criticism of the book. Towards the end it states how its trademarked recovery system works for everyone and – crucially – if you’re not feeling better it is something to do with you. You are failing in moving on from your grief because you have not understood or used the book properly. I felt this was a very ill-judged attitude to take, especially to people who may already be fragile because of a loss.
The above is obviously only my personal opinion. Clearly for other readers it has worked and I’m glad they have found comfort in these pages. But I wanted to be a voice of dissent and say this rather dogmatic book might not be for everyone. I certainly got no help from it. Doubtless devotees of the system will shoot me down which (if it happens) will be revealing in itself. Buy the book and make up your own mind, but if you’re feeling vulnerable after a loss, please be careful.