In the book So Sorry for Your Loss, author Dina Gachman discusses the loss of her mother to cancer in 2018 and her sister to alcoholism less than three years later. While the subject matter is very serious and sensitive, Gachman has a seamless way of cleverly interweaving personal storytelling, reporting, expert advice, and even moments of humor in order to give readers a fresh take on bereavement. Gachman identifies the most common stages of grief which are denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Interestingly, those stages, which were created by famed psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, were actually identified as a common journey for those who were dying, not for those left behind.
The book explains there are different kinds of grief. One is ambiguous loss, which is when a loved one is still alive but the relationship has changed, or the person has changed due to a chronic illness. Another one is collective grief, which is when groups of people, who may not even know each other, experience the same sense of deep sorrow, stress, or loss from a celebrity or someone famous. And there is even climate grief, which is a psychological response to a changing environment.
In addition to explaining the different kinds of grief, the author mentions some curious customs and beliefs. One old European custom is called “telling the bees.” Bees are known to symbolize a link between our world and the spirit world. This tradition is not practiced widely anymore but it has been documented that when a family member passed away, a black cloth was draped on the hive, or a black cloth on a stick was placed next to the hive. Failure to “put the bees into mourning” meant that more loss and death would occur. Even though the custom is not widely practiced anymore, it is documented that the Royal Beekeeper in England told the palace bees when Queen Elizabeth II passed away in September 2022.
While the mourning process is difficult for families who have experienced loss, it is also challenging for friends and acquaintances. Knowing what is appropriate to say to someone who has experienced a loss can be tough but thankfully, the author included helpful phrases that can be said such as: “I’m here for you,” “I can’t imagine what you’re going through,” “You don’t have to talk,” and “I’m so sorry.” Additionally, offering to help with errands or with light housework is extremely appreciated, as the mourning process can be overwhelming.
This well-written book can be found in the General Collection at the Bellevue University Library and can be borrowed for 3 weeks.
Originally posted in the Freeman/Lozier Library’s quarterly newsletter, More Than Books, V. 26 No. 4, Fall 2023.