Sunday Book Review – On Grief & Grieving – Elisabeth Kubler-Ross & David Kessler

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.

 

 

Blurb:

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.

 

©DGKaye2021

 

 

 

 

Moving – Closure and Erasure, and #Grieving

I recently did the big move two Saturdays ago. It was a horrendous journey from the getgo. Barely two weeks had passed after my husband’s death when I was informed there was a one bedroom coming available in July. I probably wasn’t in my rightest mind, but I did know I didn’t want to pay exuberant rent living alone in the big place, so I agreed to take the early departure.

 

But before any packing could be done, I had to go through a lifetime of everything we owned. I had to downsize to at least half of everything – furniture, clothes, shoes, and other assorted big things taking up space. I barely had time to mourn over the seperation of the so many things that have been a part of my life, our life, for decades. But there was no choice. And there was barely a helping hand to help me sort out our life and condense it into boxes and smaller spaces. Trauma teaches us just how many are really in our life, and how many actually give a shit. I found out – not many.

I was referred to the clown movers by ‘a friend’ in my building. My good friend Vinnie had brought me over a large moving trolley a month before the move, telling me to use it to transport stuff downstairs as soon as I got the keys early. I did many loads and unloads, alone, and by the time moving day came, it should have been a four hour deal. Only, the mover guys came with no moving tools, didn’t bother taking a shower before coming to our air-conditioned building that was working overtime with some of the worst humidity from a temporary heatwave that hit on moving day, making the breathing more unbearable – even through a mask. These clowns needed me to guide and babysit them, so there was no way I could be down in the new place doing anything constructive. You may be wondering, so no, NOBODY came to help me on moving day.

After over ten hours of moving, scraping, dragging my furniture up and down hallways, I fired them at almost 9pm. My bones all felt broken, and I fell into a very dark place. It wouldn’t be until the Monday, two days later that the cavalry – my good friends Vinnie, Tonie and Alison showed up to help turn my place into a home. There were a few more visits over the last two weeks from my lovely friends, as everyone is busy and has their own life issues to deal with, but I learned a lot. And I couldn’t help thinking about a famous quote from Maya Angelou – “When someone shows you who they are, believe them.”

Through my journey of grief, I haven’t been working on a book, heck, I haven’t been writing regularly, but I have been writing. I found myself writing snippets of life and what I learned and felt through the days of my husband’s illness, through his dying days, and the emotional fallout afterwards that I continue to live daily. Late at night is when my inspirational moments of recall become crystal clear, and I write these thoughts down in one Word doc that will surely become elaborated on and condensed into a book – eventually – when I regain my balance and begin to stomach rereading the enormity of my life this past year. But in the interim, I will share snippets of my thoughts, here on my blog:

 

Closure Erasure

I scream at the top of my lungs when the pain gets too much. I have to release it or I may just spontaneously combust. Since the day you went away I have been running on auto pilot. From the shock of your death to making funeral arrangements, to burying you, to trying to swallow the five lonely weeks you lived from your death edict diagnosis.

The paper work, the banks, investments, will, and income tax to be done too, kept me in a tailspin between tears. Then, the last thing in the world on my mind was moving, yet, I knew I had to. We had planned to move in the early fall before we even knew how very sick you were. What I really wanted to do when you died was lay in bed with covers over my head, for however long I wanted to – days? Weeks? Who knows how long I’d allow myself. But it was as if you intervened when I surprisingly found out in gest there was a smaller unit in the same building. I truly believe you made that happen. But in the midst of the madness of preparing for this 180 degree move for me, it felt more like a total 360.

Life was a merry-go-round of fun, spontaneity, and love. We traveled, we laughed, and we loved, and we had a great life. Once again, I’m suddenly on my own and moving back to a one bedroom apartment, like I did when I left home at eighteen. Only then, it was exciting and freeing. This time it’s painful and lonely.

I’ve given all your belongings to your family, as I was forced to take on the ‘cleaning out’ process as half our stuff would not fit the new place. In the span of my life taking a 180, losing you, and clearing out our life, every picture, sock, piece of furniture, had me and you all over it. A monumental task that I still to this day, do not know how I had the strength to keep moving through while my heart is shattered. But I did. And often I felt I wasn’t even in my own body. Like some invisible force was keeping me going – like a friend calling to offer a hand just at the right moment -like my bestie Zan who still calls me twice a day from the other side of the world, because other than you, my love, there is nobody left living on this planet earth who loves me to nth degree and unconditionally, but Zan.

Erasure and closure everywhere I look. Bare walls embedded with leftover nails sticking out the walls from photos and mirrors now sold or packed away are what reflect back to me now. I think about how many homes we’ve built and sold and downsized each time, yet, we kept so much, like the huge two shopping bags full of every card for every occasion we’d ever given each other in our almost twenty-five years together. When I was getting rid of a lot of things, someone remarked to me that I should toss those bags too. I told her what they were and she remarked they’re no good to me now. Did you hear that? They are ever more important to me now. And one day, when my heart is ready to smile about our good times, I’d like to look back at those cards and smile in my heart again.

 

©DGKaye2021

 

“You’re allowed to change your mind about the people and things you want in your life. You’re allowed to adjust your values and preferences as you get older and wiser. You’re allowed to evolve and be a different person today than you were yesterday. This is your life.” ~ Unknown wordables.

 

 

Sunday Book Review – No Happy Endings by Nora McInerny – #Grief and Loss

Welcome to my Sunday Book Review. As I’ve explained before in other reviews for books I’m currently on a tangent with reading during my time of grief. Before and after losing my own husband, I couldn’t concentrate on reading any books as my mind was preoccupied with my husband’s welfare, then ultimately, his passing. But I have found that I can easily read books on grieving, and stories about life after death, in the literal sense, and as a grieving widow. Such books give me a bit of comfort right now in my life, books that equate with what is currently going on inside me, questions swirling around, the need for a kinship with those who’ve walked in the shoes before me in this journey, and a sense of ‘fitting in’ somewhere new.

 

Nora McInerny’s story is a powerful one. In this book she teaches us through her own lessons about deep love and loss, how she endured, and how she found new love unexpectedly, and the guilt she felt for loving another man while she was still in love with her first husband.

Now, I’m so veryyyyyyyyyyyy far away from even thinking about a ‘Chapter 2’, as Nora calls it. And I was drawn to this book after watching a Ted Talk with Nora as she briefly discussed her journey of loss, and despite the sadness of her whole situation, her ability to punctuate some of her story with humor in her easy conversational style of telling, compelled me to read further on about this woman.

You can expect more reviews in coming weeks of books I feel make a difference in the life of someone who is grieving, so I hope you can all take something from my reviews whether you’ve been ‘in the shoes’ or not, because inevitably, we will all be walking the walk at some point in our lives.

 

 

 

Blurb:

The author of It’s Okay to Laugh and host of the popular podcast Terrible, Thanks for Asking—interviews that are “a gift to be able to listen [to]” (New York Times)—returns with more hilarious meditations on her messy, wonderful, bittersweet, and unconventional life.

Life has a million different ways to kick you right in the chops. We lose love, lose jobs, lose our sense of self. For Nora McInerny, it was losing her husband, her father, and her unborn second child in one catastrophic year.

But in the wake of loss, we get to assemble something new from whatever is left behind. Some circles call finding happiness after loss “Chapter 2”—the continuation of something else. Today, Nora is remarried and mothers four children aged 16 months to 16 years. While her new circumstances bring her extraordinary joy, they are also tinged with sadness over the loved ones she’s lost.

Life has made Nora a reluctant expert in hard conversations. On her wildly popular podcast, she talks about painful experiences we inevitably face, and exposes the absurdity of the question “how are you?” that people often ask when we’re coping with the aftermath of emotional catastrophe. She knows intimately that when your life falls apart, there’s a mad rush to be okay—to find a silver lining, to get to the happy ending. In this, her second memoir, Nora offers a tragicomic exploration of the tension between finding happiness and holding space for the unhappy experiences that have shaped us.

No Happy Endings is a book for people living life after life has fallen apart. It’s a book for people who know that they’re moving forward, not moving on. It’s a book for people who know life isn’t always happy, but it isn’t the end: there will be unimaginable joy and incomprehensible tragedy. As Nora reminds us, there will be no happy endings—but there will be new beginnings.

 

My 5 Star Review:

Nora McInerny helps to welcome those of us new to widowhood with a delivery of micro dosing of humor threaded in where warranted to ease in some comedic relief to soften the heartache we will engulf within when reading Nora’s story.

This author explains to us within her own personal stories, how everything we do in life, leads us to the next something. She shares her life openly and the tragic woe she lived through in a short timeframe of losing her unborn child, her father, and her beloved husband Aaron within the span of a few short months. As she states, “You don’t stop loving your first love, you keep it and take it with you.” She explains that everything that came ‘after’ in her life was built on the life she had before; she refers to her life after losing her first husband as – Chapter 2.

This book is a memoir told in conversational style of the author’s most raw and poignant moments of love, loss, enduring, and even how her life moved forward – not on, almost without her realizing as all the new parts in her new widowed life fell and found new life. Ahh, but new life doesn’t mean she forgot about her old life, or that the searing pain of missing her first husband ever went away, but how she managed to tuck that life into a sacred place and allowed it to become part of her new life. She freely expresses her thoughts, fears, doubts, and longings as she grieved the loss of Aaron, some of which might have some scratching their heads to her open admissions about physical longings and needs being met, not because she wanted another relationship, not to get over her love for Aaron, but to remember what it felt like to be touched and desired, before she realized that human emotions do have an affect on her limitations and that her momentary needs were just that, moments of longing to feel human touch. She’ll continue on sharing her apologies for her spontaneous desire, sharing her not realizing how the one she chose for pleasure only began to entangle the emotions of that partner, and her realization about how wrong that was to allow someone into her bubble of grief for her own satisfaction, and her self-reckoning with how that person was hurt.

After Nora meets Matthew, her deep, intense telling of how that relationship even came to be, she makes us understand the gift she was given at her ‘second chance with love’, all the while making us understand that despite her second time round, everything she did and was came from her deep love for her first love, Aaron.

Nora shares how she struggled to be in her new relationship because of guilt and shame she felt for holding love in her heart for Aaron while having ‘new’ love for someone else. Nora continues on about the relationship with Matthew and talks about the places she could no longer go to with anyone that were now sacred to her and Aaron, but shows us the way on how she made new places to go in her new life.

 

Best Relatable Quotes:

Most poignant line for me: “I wasn’t a caregiver, I was a wife living my vows.”

“Aaron died at age thirty-five and that will always be tragic and it will always make me sad. But our love and his death are not a burden to the person who loves me next. Aaron’s love and Aaron’s death are my foundation.”

“The first year of widowhood is a year of firsts: 365 days where you can say, ‘last year, we were . . .”

On religion: ” What does God have to do with this? I wanted to shout at every person who tweeted their #thoughtsandprayers to me while Aaron’s body wasted next to me. What does a prayer do? What kind of God is listening, but not doing anything?”

“God to me is just people.” (Referring to the people who helped her find her way.)

“Even if you’re surrounded by people you love, figuring out grief is a solo project.”

Nora to her therapist: “This is what I’ve felt like all these months, like I’m groping about in the darkness, waking up in a world I hadn’t expected to occupy. But there is no way through it, except through it.”

On being unafraid to give her heart again: “You cannot bubble wrap and protect your heart from life, and why should you? It is meant to be used, and sometimes broken. Use it up, wear it out, leave nothing left undone or unsaid to the people you love. Let it get banged up and busted if it needs to. That’s what your heart is there for.”

Hemingway Quote: “.. the world breaks everyone, and afterward, many are stronger in the broken places.”

Nora shares with us that her grief for the loss of Aaron remains, despite the new love she has with Matthew, because true love will never die just because the body has.

©DGKaye2021

Life Love Loss