By Mary Redmayne Published by Mahara Press, 2020
Book Review by Chris Hartley
This 60 page self-published book is beautifully presented; an insightful description of the journey no one wishes to take. Sadly it arises out of the death of Mary’s eldest grandson, to whom the book is dedicated.
The book is divided into 2 parts:
Part 1 is the intimate story of her own personal, raw grief. She describes the emotions, often using metaphor. Mary was drawn to a retreat home where she walked and photographed the track to a lake. She finds her path obstructed at times, and aligns this to her journey of mourning. She alludes to the + agony of loss and separation.
Mary doesn’t write about theory of bereavement. What she describes in personal narrative is the reality of Worden’s work of acknowledging the pain of this unwelcome loss. Mary notes physical activities that assisted her. She names prayers and Bible verses that became meaningful. She cites music that was poignant and supportive. Mary describes the emotional support of the Holy Spirit as being always present for her.
Whilst personal details are not shared, the agony of a grandparent is exacerbated by witnessing the angst in the grandchild’s parents – that is witnessing one’s own child’s suffering. Mary writes of prayer for her whole family. There is space for one’s own notes.
Part 2 is after about a year. “The journey along this path of grieving continues, but the sun shines on it more often…..”
Mary is honest about how the waves of grief can still appear in disabling intensity. Rightly she states that these periods of acute grief and emotional pain may be prompted by something unexpected, or by nothing. Other mourners describe these physical and emotional intensities as feeling dumped by an unexpected and massive energetic wave which has taken their breath away.
Mary describes suggestions for things to do along the journey to resilience and healing, including the paradox of spending some time with others and some time in solitude. She wisely notes, “Just give it the time it takes”. There are some surprise suggestions, such enjoy the quirky which is illustrated by two entwined carrots. Whilst suggesting actions, Mary offers contemplative ways, such as unplugging from devices. She found healing in nature and in refocussing her thinking when feeling “stuck”.
This guide is a personal yet private story of healing. It is one of hope and an example of real experience of coming to terms with the loss and slowly incorporating it into life going forward. It is a practical guide with many tips.
The ACSD website lists many of us as available to take clients who wish to focus on loss. I suggest directors read this articulate, succinct narrative. It is a good NZ resource. I envisage using the book with those experiencing wider loss, such as a significant relationship.
I suggest two cautions:
- Don’t offer this guide too soon, as it might encourage a “fix it” mode.
- Remember Part 2 was written a year later. Also, Mary’s assurance of the consoling presence of the Holy Spirit might jar for some, especially those whose loss is entangled with a sense of abandonment by God.
Her practical suggestions are just that – uncomplicated, hopeful openings to healing. The book concludes with comfort not platitudes.
It is worth ordering a copy from the author at firstname.lastname@example.org, $27 is a discounted price when you nominate your ACSD membership. It is a good resource for spiritual directors, churches, aged residential facilities and workplaces.
Let’s face it, things do happen out of the blue in this unpredictable, precious life. Those who are grieving for whatever reason deserve our sensitive support. This might help us to be more sensitive.