My Sunday Book Review is for Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross and David Kessler’s, On Grief & Grieving – Finding the Meaning of Grief Through the Five stages of Loss.
As many of you know, after losing my husband three months ago and moving very recently, I haven’t had a lot of time to read, and when I do read it’s comfort and information I crave to learn in this new journey of onehalfness I’m wading through. I know these books I’m trying to read right now may not be everyone’s genre, but it’s a bridge that we’ll all have to cross at some points of our lives, if we haven’t already, and it’s good for people to learn what to expect, find that you are not crazy, and even if you aren’t a griever, will learn what goes on with a loved one when they grieve.
Shortly before her death in 2004, Elisabeth Kübler-Ross and David Kessler, her collaborator, completed the manuscript for this, her final book. On Grief and Grieving is a fitting completion to her work. Thirty-six years and sixteen books ago, Kübler-Ross’s groundbreaking On Death and Dying changed the way we talk about the end of life. Now On Grief and Grieving will profoundly influence the way we experience the process of grief.
On Death and Dying began as a theoretical book, an interdisciplinary study of our fear of death and our inevitable acceptance of it. It introduced the world to the now-famous five stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. On Grief and Grieving applies these stages to the process of grieving and weaves together theory, inspiration, and practical advice, all based on Kübler-Ross’s and Kessler’s professional and personal experiences, and is filled with brief, topic-driven stories. It includes sections on sadness, hauntings, dreams, coping, children, healing, isolation, and even the subject of sex during grief.
“I know death is close,” Kübler-Ross says at the end of the book, “but not quite yet. I lie here like so many people over the years, in a bed surrounded by flowers and looking out a big window….I now know that the purpose of my life is more than these stages….It is not just about the life lost but also the life lived.”
In one of their final writing sessions, Kübler-Ross told Kessler, “The last nine years have taught me patience, and the weaker and more bed-bound I become, the more I’m learning about receiving love.”
On Grief and Grieving is Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’s final legacy, one that brings her life’s work profoundly full circle.
My 5 Star Review:
Anticipatory grief – knowing your loved one is going to die, and fearing in silence without wanting to talk to anyone in this mode.
I learned this ‘pre-grief’ grieving before I learned about the mourning grief aftermath. Kubler-Ross calls it anticipatory grief – “When a loved one has to go through anticipatory grief in order to prepare for the final separation from this world, we have to go through it too.” Only, we, the ones left behind have to live it twice. There is no one response to loss and grief that two people will share. Every grief is unique as the relationship the griever shared with their lost loved one.
This book was confirming as it goes through the stages of grieving, and more about grief, and how it forever changes us.
Maria Shriver wrote a most beautiful Foreword for the anniversary edition of this book. She states that in her lifetime she has come to know grief only too well coming from the Kennedy family, and says, “We are a grief-illiterate nation.” She continues by saying that Dr. Ross and Kessler teach us how to grieve in this book and goes on to tell us that where she came from, nobody outwardly showed or talked about their grief. She attests to Dr. Ross’s book helping her through, stating, “When you’re grieving, sometimes your only constant companion is a book.” Shriver continues to say, “We live in a society where everyone wants us to get back to normal as soon as possible. . . but it doesn’t work that way.” “We find hope in other people’s journeys.”
This book is a great companion to grief. In it, Dr. Ross shares her stories and stages of grief and goes into them with her own experiences and sharing stories of others she witnessed as she studied many people on their last journey before death. She takes us into specific losses and incidence and how the left loved ones endured the stages of grief. In working with the dying, Ross gave voice to all who couldn’t speak for themselves. But from this book, I choose to share a list of poignant sentences that rang true and comforting to me as I proceed through my own grief for the recent loss of my husband.
“There is a saying that if your writing doesn’t keep you up at night, it will never keep anyone else up at night either. In creating this book I often felt that if it didn’t make us cry, if it didn’t help us heal our own grief, it would never help anyone else.” ~ Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross
Elisabeth always said, “Listen to the dying. They will tell you everything you need to know about when they are dying.”
“Denial and shock help us to cope and make survival possible. . . it’s nature’s way of letting in only as much as we can handle.” “These feelings are important; they are the psyche’s protective mechanisms.”
“The will to save a life is not the power to stop a death.”
Dr. Ross takes us through the five stages of grief: Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.
Loss: “An unimaginable, indescribable loss has taken place. It has inficted a wound so deep that numbness and excruciating pain are the material of which it is made.”
She goes on to talk about how grief overtakes us at a moment’s notice – and will continue to. And tells us that after our loss, the need to feel our loved one around is important. And the need to be able to talk about the lost loved one becomes dire for the one(s) left behind. Our stories of grief contain an enormous amount of pain, often too much for one person to carry. By sharing our stories, we ease the pain – just a little. Survivor’s guilt kicks in for many, (I can attest to this). Elisabeth tells us, once you have loved and lost, you will never be the same. I’m already there.
On Isolation: “You were with someone, now you’re not.”
“The only way out is through it.”
“The trouble is that in grief, a moment feels like a year, and a year feels like an eternity.”
“Why do we find nothing unusual about talking to an unborn child in utero, but if we talk to the deceased, people might think we’re crazy?”
The most difficult job of all was packing up my beloved’s belongings.
Dr. Ross goes into how difficult holidays become for mourners. Birthdays, anniversaries, death anniversaries, Christmas, and the like will never be the same and are often marked with sorrow instead.
She offers ideas to comfort, such as writing our feelings, writing to our loved one to express what’s left inside us. Writing is a therapy for many.
“You don’t ever bring the grief over a loved one to a close.”
“There is no better or worse death. Loss is loss and the grief that follows is a subjective pain that only we will know.”
“To avoid the pain and the loss would be to avoid the love and life we shared.”
“Death is a line, a heartbreaking dividing line between the world we and our loved one lived in and the world where they now are.”
“Grief is the intense emotional response to the pain of a loss. It is the reflection of a connection that has been broken. Most important, grief is an emotional, spiritual, and psychological journey to healing.”
“The reality is you will grieve forever.You will not ‘get over’ the loss of a loved one; you will learn to live with it. You will heal, and you will rebuild yourself around the loss you you have suffered.”
This book has been a comfort to many, as the almost 2000 reviews will state. Dr. Ross breaks down the process in bite-sized and life altering moments and helps us grasp all that’s involved in this grueling journey of grief in efforts to lay out what we can expect to endure, why, and how going through the stages take us into an eventual path to ‘healing’, which will never be a complete healing journey, but more about how to learn to live through and navigate the waves of grief that will continue to swell as long as we remain on this earth.