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Book Jacket

080106676X
Trade Paperback
160 pages
Sep 2006
Baker Publishing Group

Traveling through Grief: Learning to Live Again after the Death of a Loved One

by Susan Zonnebelt-Smeenge & Robert C. DeVries

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Excerpt:

One

Detour Ahead!

THE MENTAL HEALTH PERSPECTIVE

Oh No! A Detour! Grief Reroutes My Life’s Journey

Life is a journey. We are born, we live our life, and we die. We are heading somewhere. We have goals and purposes, and we need some sort of road map to reach these goals. When we get up in the morning, we make our plans for the day. We set objectives for the week and for the coming months. We sign a thirty-year mortgage because we have some confidence that our job will generate the income, our health will prevail, and we can achieve the goal of living comfortably.

But sometimes things go wrong. Our course gets rerouted. Something happens, and our plans don’t always work out. Economic downturns jeopardize our jobs. Relationships change. Marriages may fail. We experience losses, and as a result we have to change our plans and alter our goals. The journey changes; we are faced with a detour; we have to adjust. Researchers suggest that adjusting to the death of a loved one is probably the biggest adjustment we’ll need to make in our lives. This book focuses on grief following the death of a person you loved (although many of the principles also relate to losses in general), how grief changes your life’s journey, what the grief experience is like, and how you can use this forced detour called grieving to develop a revised life course that can become rich and rewarding again.

Grief causes a major detour on your life’s journey because it is a natural response on your part to loss. Life ends; grieving the death of your loved one begins. Perhaps you are saying to yourself, “I have been grieving already!” because your loved one experienced an extended illness that led to death. Loved ones surrounding the dying person do grieve losses of function as the person is no longer able to do what he or she was previously able to do. We would contend that grieving those functional losses does not replace the need to grieve the person’s actual death. No one can grieve the physical absence of the person until he or she actually dies.

Grief doesn’t wait for you to invite it into your life when someone you love has died. It happens automatically and universally. Now, with the death of your loved one, you are forced to travel a detour rather than your intended route. You generally don’t choose a route that you know will have a detour. You probably try to avoid detours, at almost any cost. In this book we use the analogy of your life as being on a road trip, and now, with the death of your loved one, you are forced to travel the detour of grieving.

Why Does Grief Happen?

Why does grief occur when someone dies? There are three primary reasons why this grief experience is happening to you:

1. Because you loved that person. Loving someone means that you were attached to him or her and cared deeply about that person. Hopefully the relationship and feelings were reciprocal. You knew each other well—what lay at each other’s hearts.

2. Because you formed a relationship with that person. You likely experienced an emotional interweaving with the other person—he or she was someone you could count on and with whom you had connected. You probably gave to and received many things from that relationship. Perhaps there were physical aspects you will miss—the hugs and touches, or if you were married, the sexual intimacy. Even if your relationship wasn’t the healthiest or most satisfying, that doesn’t mean you won’t grieve. You still experience a loss.

3. Because some part of your lifestyle was affected by your loved one’s presence. You grieve not only the person’s death but also the end of the life you had lived with that person. That includes all you did together and all that came as a result of having that person in your life. No matter what role the person played in your life, you are now forced to recognize that your life will change dramatically in those areas that involved that person.