Sunday, May 18, 2014

Comforting the Bereaved

Published May 6, 2014
Aging affords many opportunities for sharing long-developed talents. Aging also provides opportunities for continued growth and development. This is one of the greatest discoveries I made while training to be a gerontologist.

However, it's also a time where death claims relatives, childhood friends and even at times younger relatives.  

Part of aging successfully means learning how to survive such losses.  Ultimately, this is an opportunity for growth as well. 

I remember asking my grandfather--in his late 80s at the time--why he wasn't attending his supper club anymore.

"Grandpa, you really enjoy getting together with your friends once a month for those potlucks. Why aren't you going?"

"Karen, they're all dead now." 

My grandfather had lived in the same town his entire life, and he was losing friends he had known for decades.  He didn't talk much about how he managed theses losses.  I'm highly verbal, and I need words to help guide me through challenges. 

Melissa Dalton-Bradford has provided these words.

After the loss of Parker, her 18-year-old son, Melissa found comfort in the works of writers who had lost a loved one. She combed through the writings of famous people who suffered loss such as Abraham Lincoln, Mark Twain, C.S. Lewis and Anne Marrow Lindbergh. She shares these in her book, On Loss and Living Onward: Collected Voices for the Grieving and Those Who Would Mourn with Them. 
  
She also draws from grief memoirs written by average people dealing with extraordinary circumstances and sharing with readers how they walked such a difficult path. She organizes these quotes in five sections that show a progression from raw, immediate grief that cripples through a grief that allows life and love to resume--but without losing a relationship with the deceased.

The back matter of the book includes a bibliography of suggested readings that includes works cited as well as works not cited due to failure to secure permissions. Also there is a helpful lists of "dos and don'ts" for comforting the bereaved. 

Meet some of the bereaved in this book trailer.  There are quotes from the On Loss and Living Onward on the book's Facebook page.   You can also find the book trailer on Dalton-Bradford's blog with a list of the participants included. 

The book talks about loss generally, loss of friends, parents and spouses, but it does have more examples about the loss of a child. Nevertheless, I found the book to be very helpful in generating empathy for those who mourn.  It took me a long time to read it because I had to process my feelings bit by bit. 

Those who have lost loved ones may find comfort in walking side by side with the bereaved whose words appear in this treasury of quotes. 

Dalton-Bradford also pens a number of personal essays about how she, her family, and some of Parker's friends responded to his death.  I found these to be particularly moving.  Dalton-Bradford has a real gift for language, and she isn't afraid to be vulnerable to the reader.  

I bought two more copies to loan out.
Her essays also show  how she and her family are determined to find love, hope and continued connection with Parker.

She shares many tender, miraculous moments where the border between mortality and immortality dissolves.  I found these moments to be very faith promoting.

Dalton-Bradford is very generous to share them with her readers.  I felt honored to be invited into such a holy space. 

I actually ended up buying two  more copies of the book because I want to loan the book to others, but I don't want to be without one for reference.

We all experience loss as a part of life, and I am grateful that Dalton-Bradford took the time and took the risk of sharing her treasury of quotes and her personal essays on how to respond to grief and survive despite its challenges. 

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