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Grief is a monster. It’s bad enough that we lose something or someone we care about, but to have to face off against a process of acceptance and moving on is the icing on the cake of pain. Luckily, lots of work has been done on studying how to process grief, with the five stages of grief developed by Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross being one of the most widely accepted methods. The Kübler-Ross model’s five stages – denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance – are far more well-known than the official name given to the process, but just what happens in these stages, and how does one get through them?
Finding Grace with Grief by Tasha Holland-Kornegay, PhD, LPCS is a workbook that helps people through the five stages of grief. This 42-page paperback book is broken down into the five stages, each of which has five days worth of work to do. Each day presents readers with a bit of text explaining the stage of grief and how the exercise included will help, followed by the exercise itself with lots of blank space for readers to work. If one was to put this book to work every day, they could potentially work through their grief in less than a month!
I really enjoyed the layout of this book. While it’s mostly in black and white, the author does a good job of applying a bit of color here and there. The bits of text each day do a good job of explaining what a person may be feeling, and each exercise is unique to the day. For example, day one of denial asks you to explain your loss before day two gets more specific, utilizing a word bank of potential emotions to choose from and go into further detail. Day three asks you to find physical stress in your body and mark it on a rudimentary diagram of the body, day four asks you to specify what you’re having difficulty coming to terms with, and day five is a bit of guided meditation. The other stages are just as varied, and each exercise makes perfect sense.
I also loved that the book applies to all types of grief. It’s just as applicable for someone whose parent, spouse, or pet died as it is for someone who has had their house burn down or their phone destroyed. The author is encouraging and writes in a way that’s both easy to understand and follow. While I did find four grammatical errors (three of which were on one page), the writing was smooth enough that I was able to briskly read through the book. The author also mentions that the five stages of grief don’t necessarily happen in any particular order, and while the book is set up in a specific order, each stage of grief is separate. You could jump into them in any order and not be confused or miss out on anything.
Finally, while I didn’t dislike any of the exercises, there were three I particularly enjoyed. Exercise 8 (day 3 of anger) explains that while grieving, it’s easier to get angry or upset about things, but that it’s also difficult for friends and family to know what a grieving person wants or needs. The exercise tasks readers with listing ‘the things that you find yourself frustrated with or upset about when approached by others’ and then with writing ‘a list of what people could say and do to help you feel supported and comforted’. I feel like this would be handy for all sorts of people, such as people with anxiety or depression. Another interesting exercise compares the feelings that accompany depression to visitors. Each visitor comes by for a while, has a little chat, and then leaves. The author says ‘These feelings are there with purpose, they are there to give you attention, and they are there to find closure and leave.’ The last exercise in depression then asks readers to describe their hopes for themselves, the world, and the future. I find that when I’m depressed, focusing on a task list to improve my situation, and fantasizing about how much better things can be.
Finding Grace with Grief is an excellent guide to making peace with what’s been lost and accepting what’s happened. Despite the errors I found, I can’t help but give this book 4 out of 4 stars simply because I wouldn’t hesitate to buy a copy for a friend or loved one that’s processing grief. And when the day comes that I need to deal with it again myself, I’ll be happy to have a guide to help me through the tough times. With that said, it should come as no surprise that I wouldn’t recommend the book to anyone who isn’t grieving; even if some aspects of the book apply to other situations, a lot of the book wouldn’t.
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