Harvest House Publishers, 2010
Genre: Spirituality, Self-Help
My Rating: 3 stars
The book title says it all. This little book offers words of comfort for times of loss. And, unfortunately, the authors know of what they write. Cecil Murphey experienced loss to a degree that staggers my mind:
Two weeks after my father suffered a ministroke, a massive stroke took his life. On the day of his funeral, my older brother, Ray, died of cancer. Over the next eighteen months, I lost my two brothers-in-law and my mother.
Several years later, Cecil’s house burnt down and his son-in-law died in the fire.
Liz Allison, who was married to race car driver Davey Allison, lost her husband in a helicopter crash, leaving her with two young kids.
Inspired by their own experiences with grief and loss, Liz and Cecil decided to write a book to help others through the process. As people who have lived through it and “come out the other side,” they offer their advice, experiences and stories from others who have experienced loss. It is important to know that the book has a strong Christian focus and includes Bible quotes and prayers throughout. For this reason, it may not be the best choice for someone who does not follow the Christian faith, although the basic advice would apply to anyone. Here is an overview of the twelve “chapters” and the basic messages of each.
- Little Joys. Although grief can seem all-encompassing and never ending, Cecil and Liz write about how the power of little joys—”those moments when you feel lifted beyond your pain; those brief interludes when peace fills your heart and you sense God’s presence.” Liz found her little joys in nature during her daily walks. Although every one’s little joys will be different, we all can find solace in them.
- You’re Not Alone. Although many well-meaning people try to offer comfort with the words “you are not alone,” the authors write how each of us feel our loss in our own unique way and we do feel alone in our private grief. Yet the authors remind those who grieve that Jesus and God are always with us.
- One Simple Thing. In the aftermath of loss, many people will ask “What can I do for you?” Yet those who are grieving often don’t even know what do for themselves. Liz writes about how she just wanted people to say “Here is how I can help you”—no matter how small or simple that thing is.
- Accepting Help. “After weeks of ignoring offers of assistance from well-wishers,” Liz writes, “a good friend insisted I needed help, and she was going to help me figure out exactly what I needed. That was one of the best gifts a friend could have given me—a gentle but firm intervention.” The authors also remind us that “receiving help is also a way to honor and encourage those who offer.”
- Make It Go Away. The pain and hurt after losing a loved one can feel soul-crushing and as if it will never go away, and it will take each person a different amount of time to work through their pain and grief. The authors remind us that sometimes the only way out of the pain is through it … even if you only let yourself feel the pain for one minute, one hour or one day at a time.
- Why Did You Leave Me? Although this question might seem irrational, it is very common. The authors recommend working through these feelings of abandonment and anger by talking to the person you lost and realizing that “…feelings are emotions—they are not reality.” By accepting and acknowledging our feelings, no matter how irrational, we begin to own them and deal with them.
- If Only I Had… It is understandable to have regrets about what we did or didn’t do when faced with a loss. The authors write about how instead of trying to get past these feelings, we realize that “in time the power of these emotions will diminish” and to not let them dominate our lives.
- What’s Wrong with Self-Pity? The authors distinguish between self-pity and self-absorption. It is perfectly natural to feel sorry for yourself upon losing a loved one. The key is not let it reach an unhealthy and crippling state.
- Perfect Grieving. Many people have an idea that grief should be done within a certain amount of time. One mother who lost her newborn son told Cecil: “I wanted an A-plus on my grieving report card. By the time I went for my six-week checkup, I expected to be over all that grief. At least a year passed before I could honestly acknowledge that I was healed.” The message here is that no one can push you through your grief—especially yourself.
- Am I Crazy? People who are grieving often experience extreme highs and extreme lows—moving from tears one moment to hysterical laughter the next, from anger to sadness and back again. Liz writes of asking herself over and over: “Am I losing my mind?” The authors provide reassurance that not feeling like yourself and experiencing ups and downs is a normal and expected part of the grief process.
- Material Possessions. The authors write about the process of dealing with a loved one’s material possessions, and how that process can be fraught with pain and indecision. Yet the authors write that, when ready, letting go of a loved one’s material possessions often offers a feeling of release. The act says: “I’ve decided to let you go. I am not going to forget you or ever stop loving you, but I have to do this for me.”
- Facing Those Special Days. As anyone who has lost someone knows, dealing with special days like birthdays, anniversaries and holidays can be some of the roughest days to get through. The authors talk about the benefits of letting go of the old way of doing things and starting something new—a process that can be difficult but ultimately healing.
The book itself is very attractively packaged. It’s small square size, making it ideal for picking up and putting down as needed. And the short chapters aren’t too overwhelming for someone who is grieving and may not have much energy or interest for long complicated writing. But what really puts the book over the top are the illustrations by Michal Sparks. The book is lavishly illustrated with watercolor nature scenes that might offer peace and comfort in and of themselves. Here are a few examples.
I think this compact and attractive little book would be a good choice for giving to someone who has experienced a recent loss. However, with its strong Christian focus, I might think twice about offering it to someone who is not open to Christian-themed messages.
About the Authors
Liz Allison was married to NASCAR driver Davey Allison until his tragic death in 1993. Widowed at 28 with two young children to raise, Liz faced the long journey of pain, loss and grief with great faith. Committed to encouraging others, she returned to her work in TV reporting, has published eight books and hosts a weekly radio show. Please visit www.lizallison.com for more information.
Cecil Murphey is an international speaker and bestselling author who has written more than 100 books, including the New York Times bestseller 90 Minutes in Heaven (with Don Piper). No stranger himself to loss and grief, Cecil has served as a pastor and hospital chaplain for many years, and through is ministry and books he has brought hope and encouragement to countless people around the world. Please visit www.cecilmurphey.com for more information.
The Whys and Wheres
I was offered this book for a blog tour organized by Kathy Carlton Willis Communications. I accepted the offer because, sadly, my family has experienced a lot of loss and grief in the past year, and I was hoping this book would be helpful to me and my mom. I will be giving my copy to my mother, in the hopes that she will find some solace in it. However, as part of the tour, each blogger who hosts a blog tour stop can submit the name of a person who left a comment on their post to be entered in a grand prize giveaway. The grand prize consists of the following items:
- Words of Comfort for Times of Loss
- Heaven Is Real
- Gift Edition, 90 Minutes in Heaven
- Potato Soup
- Oyster crackers
- Dove silky smooth milk chocolate
- Dove silky smooth dark chocolate
- Ultra-plush spa socks
- Large gel eye mask
(If nothing else, you now have a great idea of what to put into a gift basked for someone who just experienced a loss.) So, if you leave a comment on this post, on April 9th, I will select one name via Random.org and submit it to KCW Communications for entry into the drawing for the grand prize.
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