Books can help navigate passage of grief
Grieving is timeless. History is filled with grieving by well-known and not so well-known authors. Catullus, the first century Latin poet, after traveling through many countries and over many seas, stood at the grave of his brother and wept, then later wrote a lyrical homage ending, “Ave atque vale,” (Hello and Farewell).
“About Alice” is Calvin Trillin’s tribute to his wife, Alice, who died in 2001. It’s a slim volume, only 78 pages, but a tender, sometimes humorous, memoir of their relationship. Trillin was struck by her “glow” when he first met her and continued to be awed by her beauty, humor and concern for others throughout the 35 years of their marriage. Trillin was a writer for The New Yorker and a prolific author. The dedication of the first book he published after her death read, “I wrote this for Alice. Actually, I wrote everything for Alice.”
On December 30, 2003 as Joan Didion and her husband, John Gregory Dunne, were having dinner he slumped over in his chair. He died of a massive coronary. Didion’s “The Year of Magical Thinking” is her attempt to chronicle the year after John’s death. “Life changes fast. Life changes in the instant. You sit down to dinner and life as you know it ends,” she wrote. Instantly this 40-year relationship ended; she was alone, he was gone and yet she couldn’t bring herself to get rid of his shoes because he would need them when he came home. Didion discovered that grief is a place none of us really know until we reach it. One cannot know about the void, the absence until you are in it. “The Year of Magical Thinking” is Didion’s story of that journey.
Each of us mourn and grieve in our own way, but often we do need guidance and support. With insight and compassion Gloria Lintermans and Marilyn Stoltzman’s “The Healing Power of Grief” provides reassurance that what you’re feeling, be it denial or anger, is okay. They also suggest ways to help one face loss and how to eventually heal. Grief is a passage, a pilgrimage. The library has books to help you.