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Traveling Through Grief: Learning to Live Again after the Death of a Loved One
Susan J. Zonnebelt-Smeenge and Robert C. DeVries • Baker • 160 pages • $12.99

"Perhaps the bereaved ought to be isolated in special settlements like lepers," C. S. Lewis wrote in A Grief Observed. He complained of the awkwardness many people felt around him. "To some I am worse than an embarrassment. I am a death's head." In the last 50 years, we have made little progress in helping people through their grief. Susan Zonnebelt-Smeenge and Robert C. DeVries believe that many modern trends like celebratory funerals, avoidance of the corpse, and attitudes that encourage people to "move on" can prevent people from grieving properly.

Working through the grief caused by the death of a loved one is no easy business. The difficulty is only increased by our culture's abandonment of traditional mourning rituals. Today, we deal with grief mostly in private. "Our society does not like to see people in pain," write the authors. Without mourning attire and corresponding routines, we rebuild our lives alone.

Zonnebelt-Smeenge and DeVries have written a helpful guide through this "detour" in life. The authors, who lost their first spouses before marrying each other, suggest five tasks for the grieving. "Healthy grieving takes deliberate, intentional actions coupled with time," they say.

These actions, which include accepting the reality of death and identifying yourself apart from your deceased spouse, are divided into more specific tasks. For example, they recommend not only viewing the body but also participating in the burial. "Stay at the graveside to watch the casket lowered into the ground, and then shovel dirt on the deceased's casket. This ...

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In the Magazine

May 2007

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