hankrules2011

Book reviews, health, hockey, publishing, music

A Review of The Mourning Handbook

Posted by Scott Holstad on September 6, 2013

The Mourning Handbook: The Most Comprehensive Resource Offering Practical and Compassionate Advice on Coping with All Aspects of Death and DyingThe Mourning Handbook: The Most Comprehensive Resource Offering Practical and Compassionate Advice on Coping with All Aspects of Death and Dying by Helen Fitzgerald

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I got this book a couple of weeks ago because my father just died a few weeks ago. I got several grief recovery books and I think this one was the best of the bunch. It’s pretty comprehensive and easy to read, and it’s divided up into chunks so that you can go to a section that deals with your particular issues at the moment. It doesn’t have to be read cover to cover (although I did that). Among some of the helpful issues it addresses is denial (“Don’t try to fool yourself into thinking that you can avoid the process of grief.”), anger (“You may be angry at yourself for what you may have said or not said, or for not responding calmly or quickly enough, or for being healthy and alive.” It then gives tips on dealing with anger.), and more. One section that was helpful for me was the death of a parent when you’re an adult. For many people, this signifies the loss of your childhood, the loss of unconditional love, the loss of a certain sense of security, the loss of a friend as well as a parent, the loss of financial support, and more. Although there’s not a lot of coping strategies the author provides here (which I think is a weakness of the book), it’s good to see some issues I’m facing are the same ones faced by others who lose parents. That helps. The book further goes on to advise people not to make major decisions for quite awhile, which is something I’ve seen repeated elsewhere. It gives many reasons not to do so and they make sense. Another helpful section for me was on witnessing a death, particularly if it’s a sudden or violent death (such as my father’s). It was highly traumatizing, and the book advises seeking the help of a professional, but doesn’t give too many other strategies, a continued weakness of the book.

Toward the end of the book, there’s a section titled “You Know You Are Getting Better When…” and it provides a list of things you can do or will do which indicate improvement in your life. These include looking forward to holidays, reviewing both pleasant and unpleasant memories, driving by yourself without crying, when you no longer feel tired all the time, when you can concentrate on a book or favorite television program, etc. In reading this list, I’ve come to the conclusion that while I’m still grieving, I am improving, so that’s good.

I’m going to contrast this book to one I didn’t really find too helpful — The Grief Recovery Handbook by James and Friedman. It’s a pretty harsh book to read, often telling the reader that what one hears or feels is distorted, such as guilt, etc. There were some helpful things, but overall it had an unsympathetic tone which didn’t resonate with me. The Mourning Handbook had a much more nurturing feel to it and I appreciated that.

It’s a shame that anybody has to read such books at all, but I guess it’s a process of life most of us have to deal with at some point, so I’m glad I discovered this book. I’d recommend this book for anyone who’s experienced a death by a family member or even a friend. It’s a good resource and I’m glad I read it.

View all my reviews

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