grief is not something that i have a lot experience with as a counsellor, so it was interesting to read through psychologist roberta temes’ solace – finding your way through grief and learning to live again. the book’s no-nonsense, empowering tone is set right in the first paragraph of the introduction:
you are experiencing this death in your unique way. your experience is valid for you. your response is right for you, for now. don’t let anyone suggest that you are mourning the wrong way. you are your own expert.
that resonates with me. there was a time when i felt ashamed that my father’s death had not affected me as much as my dog’s did; it would have been lovely to have heard these words.
like any good book about a specific subject in psychology and therapy, the principles used apply to more than just the topic, like this, for example:
trends come and trends go. philosophies are in vogue and out. stop listening to bereavement experts; they will change their minds and what is considered abnormal today will be obligatory tomorrow.
for example, there was a time when experts claimed that you must talk about the death, cry about the death, wail about the death. you were instructed to go directly to a psychiatrist if you were unable to loudly express your grief.
today we know better.
in line with this down-to-earth approach, temes peppers her books with a wide variety of suggestions from people who survived the death of a loved one, for example
suggestions from marion, a dog lover
my pets saved my life. when i couldn’t pull myself out from under the covers for anything else, i did for my pets. i recommend you get a pet or two or borrow on from a friend or a neighbour.
these suggestions are supplemented by people’s stories, told in their own words. i prefer these little biographical vignettes over the long-drawn-out narratives that often spike self-help books. you know the one: “one day, babette walked into my office. she was a tall brunette and worked at a prestigious bank in downtown san francisco. when she took off her jacket, i noticed her well-manicured hands shaking …” etc., etc. so thanks for getting to the point, roberta.
chapter 3 immediately drew my attention: “helping yourself” this is where you can really see roberta temes’ practical, life-affirming approach. the subheadings read
work is therapy
socializing is therapy
organizing is therapy
taking action is therapy
food is therapy
planning is therapy
religion is therapy
writing is therapy
art is therapy
learning is therapy
reading is therapy
she also doesn’t clobber the reader with simplistic “think positive” advice; in fact, in her appendix, where she lists more authors to read – something that i always appreciate in any book – she promises that the list will not contain anything that will estrange readers through overly confident and positive “smugness”.
the last page contains these words:
i wish your days to be filled with kindness and goodness and many reasons to smile. i wish your nights to be filled with secure sleep and sweet peace. i hope you follow a life-affirming path and i wish you a fine life ahead, full of good memories and laughter and love.