Unattended Sorrow By Stephen Levine
There is no doubt that grief is one of the most difficult emotions that we must cope with in our lives. I have read many books in the past several years looking for understanding of the things that we all have to deal with as human beings - anxiety, worry about teenagers, marriage issues, grief - the list goes on and on.
I am not comfortable recommending a book about any of these topics if I have not read the book myself and can honestly say it was helpful. Just as we are all very individual people, some books that may have been meaningful for me may not be for others.
Approach to self-help books
I tend to approach most self-help books with some wariness, because I do not personally have a strong religious faith I do not want a book in which the authors believe that if I only found faith, I would be helped in my time of need.
Many would disagree with me, but that is not what I am looking for when I read a book that might be classified as “self help.”
The premise of this book is that unattended sorrow prevents us from living a full life. I have no doubt of this. I believe that grief and mourning are very necessary, but they must not prevent you from living a full life in the future. This book looks to the future.
“May I be free from suffering, may I be at peace.” These words may bounce off your heart as though it were made of stone.”
This is so true to the grieving person, as the heart seems to have literally broken - but it is the unattended sorrow that turns the heart to stone. Stephen Levine also believes that grief is inherent in our self-image.
There is a very real loss of self-image when confronted with grief.
The parent of a dead child is no longer the parent. One’s identity changes with the death of a child, or a parent, or a spouse.
One might have expected that the question of “Who am I?” would surely have been answered by middle age, but it is questioned again after the death of a loved one.
Time to ask again
You might seldom have asked yourself this question after your teenage years, but after any life altering situation - the death of a loved one, the loss of a career, loss of health - we ask this question again.
The author states, “We are part of the plight and healing of all humankind” and he encourages us to think of what it would be like to live without anger and resentfulness - he contends that forgiveness is a powerful tool for letting go of our suffering.
And in doing so we are, “Letting go of the irretrievable past and the unpredictable future, we discover ourselves in the living present.”
This not simply a book about grief and its affect for those who have experienced the death of someone they loved - it is about the losses we all experience in life. Losses including such things as betrayal and abuse are experiences that are damaging to those who cannot find a way to forgive.
“Life is a relationship; openness and kindness keep it dynamic. Forgiveness keeps our life current,” advising us that if one does not forgive others, and oneself, it is the past that is always controlling us with unattended resentment.
The act of forgiveness is a release.
There is a time and place for any self help book - and if you have struggled with unattended grief perhaps you will find it of value.