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LivingHealthReview: 'Bearing the Unbearable: Love, Loss, and the Heartbreaking Path of Grief'

Review: ‘Bearing the Unbearable: Love, Loss, and the Heartbreaking Path of Grief’

Did you know that Home Hospice North Lanark has special sections in our local public libraries that hold a curated collection of books that deal with serious illness, death and dying, grief and bereavement, and other relevant subjects? Each month we feature a review written by someone in the organization to assist in choosing titles. All the reviews can be found here: https://hhnl.ca/public-education-events.

Book Review

Bearing the Unbearable: Love, Loss, and the Heartbreaking Path of Grief by Joanne Cacciatore, PhD

Review written by Ruth DuBois, Board member, HHNL

This book is impressive in its capacity to at once provide compassionate heartfelt balm for the reader who is suffering the anguish of death of a loved person while educating those who reach out to help someone regain their footing on the path of grief. Written from the heart by someone who has endured her own traumatic losses—a young daughter, her parents, and dear friends and clients—Dr. Cacciatore captures the essence of grief pain and describes its profound ramifications at the time of the death, and long after. She acknowledges the sometimes-ineffective though well-intentioned ways by which concerned others attempt to help the person who is lost in grief, and offers many examples taken from her experience as a grief therapist and from her personal life. Her gentle words are honest, caring, and exactly right as she shares her wisdom without a coercive prescription for “recovery.”

The book is framed as a path over which one travels when deep love for someone is impacted by the death of that person, and there is an unasked-for need to recreate a life without them. She ascribes to the belief that grief has no expiry date, and that in a death-aversive society like that of the West, those surrounding the griever frequently communicate in action and word an expectation that grief is like an illness, something to be recovered from in due time.  Dr. Cacciatore delves into the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual reactions many have to grief, especially when the loss is traumatic (e.g. death of a child, death due to a suicide, an accidental or violent fatality), and narrates the stories of many clients and others, including herself, as they were able to move forward in life without their loved one. Sprinkled throughout, she includes poems, quotes, letters, analogies, and metaphors that perfectly capture and enrich multiple aspects of grief and bereavement. She also suggests several activities or reflections that may assist mourners to shift contexts, reimagine life, name and express feelings more authentically, and do something with their grief.

This book is meant for those at various junctures in their path of adjustment to a significant loss where reading and reflecting assist one in self-exploration and discovery. It is also a handbook of guidance for those who work in helping fields with people suffering the pain of grief, traumatic losses, and bereavement. While grief theories are well explained with illustrative examples, the vocabulary can be somewhat challenging and may require an energy from some readers beyond what they want to expend at certain vulnerable points. But apart from that one caveat, I would highly recommend this book for its deep compassion and considerable practical assistance in addressing what are, arguably, the most perplexing experiences common to all humans who love deeply.

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