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Current Update as of February 27, 2005 

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Book Summary by Ruby Gillion


(Healing Arts Press)


Birth, death, and grief are the only experiences in life that every person will confront. Regardless of our religion or non-religion, these three processes will be a part of life. How these are dealt with will depend to a great extent on one’s belief system. If death and grief are approached from a spiritual standpoint, it is believed that nothing is ever lost. Energy is only transformed, not gone. Ms. Coryell also points out in Healing Through the Shadow of Loss that someone we have loved has become part of the fabric of our life, part of who we are, and as long as we live that person will live through us even when the person is no longer part of our daily lives.

Usually when we hear the term, grief, we think of it in relation to the death of someone we loved. Grief is also associated with other situations: the loss of a job, a relationship, a divorce, even moving away from one’s home, family, and friends. So, what is grief?  Grief is defined in the dictionary as great mental anguish or pain caused by loss, while Ms. Coryell refers to grief as a container for the feelings, thoughts, and pictures we are faced with when loss occurs. She believes that at the center of our being is “core grief;” it is present when we are born; therefore, it is an inherent part of each of us, a receptacle for all the grief we will experience in life.

By learning to handle the little losses and the grief accompanying them, we become better able to deal with the larger losses. We must take the responsibility of staying present in the face of loss, of going through the process, of not using drugs, work, or any other excuse to “get over” the loss. One doesn’t get over grief; one gets through it. If the small losses are not grieved, grief accumulates; and at some point in time, it will become overwhelming.

How often have we heard the phrase “time heals all wounds”?  The author points out that this is not correct. Time passes; it does not heal. Healing is an active process that requires participation. Her philosophy is that “Time does not heal, but healing does take time.”

Society places a hierarchy to the grief process.  Accordingly, the death of a child is the greatest loss anyone can experience. While that may be true, what should be second, third, etc?  Some will say it is ridiculous to grief the death of a beloved pet, the loss of a favorite ring, or the loss of our youth; but who is to say what should cause another to grieve. And, in turn, each person must learn to cope with grief in an individual way, not one based on some hierarchy of grief.

Ms. Coryell states that grieving can be one of the most difficult and rewarding experiences we can face. This is one of the statements in this book that I question. Personally, I have found nothing rewarding about grieving any loss. Perhaps, we are dealing with terminology here; but I, as one who has experienced grief and as a Certified Bereavement Facilitator, cannot connect the word, reward, in any way to the grieving process.

Ways to cope with and get through the process are given. These exercises are of benefit if understood and practiced. The ones conveyed in the book are good ones; easy to follow; but as is often the case, this is a difficult time “to do.”   During a grieving period, thoughts, emotions, and feelings seem to be chaotic and even the simplest task can appear unmanageable. However, grieving is an active, not a passive, process; and participation is required so that progression to healing can take place.

And finally, we should put our grief into words and/or create rituals to help in honoring and remembering that for which you grieve. Know that to love is to face loss, but in the final analysis, trust that what one loves is never loss, just transformed, and be open to love again.

Not your ordinary book on the grief process and, in parts, not easy to follow the thought processes of the author as related to loss and grief, but it is beneficial for those who are dealing with loss.


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