Death is the opposite of life. And for those who have experienced loss, grieving can feel dark, lonely, scary, confusing and/or almost unbearable. For those grieving, life almost seems suspended, but the reality is, life goes on regardless of our loss. As fellow humans looking on, we WANT to communicate, but words seem impotent and so often we simply don't know what to say, hence, the title of David Knapp's book: "I Didn't Know What To Say: Being A Better Friend to Those Who Experience Loss".
The author speaks candidly about his firsthand experience with death and dying by sharing his personal heartache, struggles and lessons learned in the process. He discusses how fear and isolation often go together in the grieving process. The griever often feels fear while those around them often isolate them until they "get over it". He gives insights about the multi-layered nature of grief and helps readers understand how they can better fit into the process of helping others through those various layers. He discusses the subjects of avoidance and stuffing, hope and disappointment, sadness and sorrow, coming to grips with permanent separation, loss, and learning to live with a new identity.
Though the author shares his story about grieving the loss of two wives after illness, I appreciate how he also incorporates other forms of death, dying, and loss. These may include grief over abandonment from an adoption, separation through abortion, the loss of children and friends through illness, a miscarriage, or even the loss of a pet, job or a dream. He also touches on the differences between genders, cultures and religions to help readers understand differing perspectives and worldviews about death and dying.
In each chapter you'll find sections with practical helps such as, "Point to Ponder" and "What To Say" or "What Not To Say" to someone during the grieving process, along with other practical advice on overcoming barriers that affect healthy mourning.
In the end, the author shares how his personal roots of faith helped ground and guide him through the inevitable reality of grief, permanence of loss and discovering a "new normal".