Every Wednesday

Every Wednesday, I will post something about grief. Sometimes it will be a reflection on an aspect of grief’s landscape. Now and then I will share from my own journey of grief, because in the sharing of our stories we find strength and build a community of people that support one another. To follow, please leave your email address.

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Thursday, May 26, 2011

Death of a Mother: Meghan O'Rourke


The Long Goodbye, by Meghan O’Rourke, is her memoir recounting her mother’s last year before dying of cancer and Meghan’s grief. There is much to recommend this account. 

It is honest. It is unflinching. It blends her emotions and thoughts with stories of her mother and with research and theories from psychology about the grieving process.

Many grief memoirs either dwell in the emotional excesses of the experience or sway the other way to the far side and become the thinking person’s guide to intellectually understanding grief. As if this were possible.
The strength of Meghan’s book is that she deals with both the emotional and the thinking. Meghan speaks about death directly and faces her doubts, fears, and depression. This type of grief account is rare. Too often what the author feels is covered over by how she think she should feel, and often, too, the personal devastation is set aside for pie-in-the-sky piety that does little to help people who are trying to work through their grief.

In the last part of the book, Meghan wonders what gives her the right to write about grief, since only one person close to her has died. Grief is intensely personal, and each person’s grief is unique, but grief is a universal experience and there are many commonalities.

Not only does Meghan have the right to share, but we need her insights because our society has forgotten how to speak about grief. There aren’t many people who are writing accurately and insightfully about grief, although this is slowly changing. More and more, a scattered network of people who understand grief are creating new ways of speaking openly and creatively about grief, and affirming and helping people deal with grief and embrace life again.

We need to hear each other’s words so that we may understand our own.

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