Helping people with bereavement...
December 19, 2004 7:06 PM   Subscribe

I work for a funeral home and I'm looking for a book that will help people with the bereavement process. It should be easily available and fairly inexpensive (these are coming out of my own pocket--I just want something that I can give people who are having an especially hard time dealing with their loss). Most "self-help" books that I've looked at are too clinical and dull. Any recommendations?

My father's best friend passed away this weekend, and she was asking if I knew of any books she should read. To my embarrasment, I couldn't name any.
posted by ColdChef to Society & Culture (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I'm not sure that such a book exists. The bereaved want justification and answers where there generally aren't any. Time will heal, but I don't know if anything will speed it along.
posted by websavvy at 7:39 PM on December 19, 2004

I think that When Bad Things Happen to Good People, by Rabbi Harold Kushner, despite its stupid title, is actually quite helpful.

Thich Nhat Hanh's No Death, No Fear offers a Buddhist perspective on death tailored to a Western audience.

A good book about losing a loved one at the holidays is A Decembered Grief by Harold Ivan Smith.

Many people find The Courage to Grieve, by Judy Tatelbaum, helpful. It's not my favorite, but it is easily available in a trade paperback, and wiser people than I think it's a good book.
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:03 PM on December 19, 2004

A Grief Observed by CS Lewis is his journal in the year after his wife died of cancer, as he grapples with his own grief. Sometimes it helps just to know that others have been there, overwhelmed, shocked, sad, and angry, and have made it through. When my uncle committed suicide last summer, I wanted justification and answers (as websavvy said), but I also wanted a way to express my grief, and I found his words useful.
"No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear. I am not afraid, but the sensation is like being afraid. The same fluttering in the stomach, the same restlessness, the yawning. I keep on swallowing.

At other times it feels like being mildly drunk, or concussed. There is a sort of invisible blanket between the world and me. I find it hard to take in what anyone says. Or perhaps, hard to want to take it in. It is so uninteresting. Yet I want the others to be about me. I dread the moments when the house is empty. If only they would talk to one another and not to me." (page 1)

"Talk to me about the truth of religion and I'll listen gladly. Talk to me about the duty of religion and I'll listen submissively. But don't come talking to me about the consolations of religion or I shall suspect that you don't understand...

What St. Paul says can comfort only those who love God better than the dead, and the dead better than themselves. If a mother is mourning not for what she has lost but for what her dead child has lost, it is a comfort to believe that the child has not lost the end for which it was created. And it is a comfort to believe that she herself, in losing her chief or only natural happiness, has not lost a greater thing, that she may still hope to "glorify God and enjoy Him forever." A comfort to the God-aimed, eternal spirit within her. But not to her motherhood. The specifically maternal happiness must be written off. Never, in any place or time, will she have her son on her knees, or bathe him, or tell him a story, or plan for his future, or see her grandchild." (p. 28-30)
(the paperback is cheap, $6.50 US, $9.99 CAN)
posted by heatherann at 8:29 PM on December 19, 2004

I once was given a booklet on how to grieve called "Good Grief" by Granger Westburg . I'm sure there are other booklets that would be just as suitable for your needs. Here's a link to Compassion Books a site that carries quite a few short booklets on grieving.

BTW: I have no connections to the merchant whatsoever.
posted by Dirk Suave at 8:38 PM on December 19, 2004

Mileage will vary greatly from person to person. For example, my mom would probably benefit from something Erma Bombeck wrote, while that would just finish me off. In times of darkness, I have found solace in the poetry of Rumi; several books by May Sarton (Journal of a Solitude springs to mind); The Prophet By Kahlil Gilbran.

Grief... what can be said? I suspect that the more generally useful books won't be about death or grieving per se.
posted by squirrel at 12:12 AM on December 20, 2004

My girlfriend also works in a funeral home and is going through her apprenticeship right now. I know she's sung the praises of On Death and Dying. I'll try to get some other recommendations from her and post another comment.
posted by revgeorge at 6:48 AM on December 20, 2004

I've always been partial to "The Undertaking" by Thomas Lynch or the poetry of John Donne as gifts for grievers.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 7:16 AM on December 20, 2004

This may be of only secondary benefit to you, but the blog Real E Fun, despite the name, is written by a "celebrant" in the UK. She organizes non-religious funeral services. Besides being very well-written, it is laden with insights and interpretations of the emotional contexts to death and dying. It is often a moving read, sometimes funny, and a bit melancholy, but what appeals to me most is what seems to be the key subtext: we can no more stop our grieving than we can stop our dying.
posted by Mo Nickels at 9:09 AM on December 20, 2004

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