A plea for advice

Got an email this morning from a lady wanting to know if I could recommend a book to her, something that she could give to a friend who has been in deep mourning – and beyond mourning, has tried suicide, herself – after the death of her 20 year old son. She has promised not to try to do away with herself again, but she’s clearly in trouble and needs some help.

I’ve been wracking my brain, and cannot think of something…I know that I KNOW of such books, but they’re not coming to my head, and I would like to be able to help this lady out…can anyone offer a suggestion for her? Thanks.

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • http://www.splendoroftruth.com/curtjester The Curt Jester

    Fr Groechel’s “Arise from Darkness: What to Do When Life Doesn’t Make sense” I believe would be perfect.

    He wrote this after watching someone he knew commit suicide in his prescence.

    “Father Benedict Groeschel treats the troubles and burdens of the Christian heart and helps all those who suffer to find healing and peace in the Cross of Jesus Christ. Fr. Groeschel addresses suffering, sorrow and death and guides souls in darkness to persevere and grow spiritually from such unavoidable moments of pain. In showing how human suffering only makes sense in the light of the Cross, Groeschel offers hope to all those who continue to struggle with fear, grief, loss of a loved one, hurt, and anger so that he may grow with God’s grace.”

  • Ralph Wagenet

    Try “A Grief Observed” – C. S. Lewis’s account of his struggles after the death of his wife.

  • http://www.cuanas.blogspot.com Pastorius

    I was also going to recommend the Lewis book. And, what about When Bad Things Happen To Good People.

    Some of your posts on suffering have given me an entirely new perspective, Anchoress. You have made me think about how we suffer nobly when we endure suffering, remembering that Christ suffered for us.

    That’s a way to give meaning to suffering. And lack of meaning is what really kills us.

    Which reminds me, another great book on suffering is Man’s Search For Meaning, by Viktor Frankl.

  • gs

    Book of Job
    A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis
    Death Be Not Proud by John Gunther
    Four Quartets by T.S. Eliot
    Collected Poems by A.E. Housman

    The last I mention cautiously. Housman was a classical scholar. This influenced his poetry, in which stark pessimism coexists with stoic affirmation of life. Caveat lector.

  • http://redneckperil.blogspot.com Kenny Pierce

    I don’t know of a book that will really serve, though A Grief Observed won’t hurt. Books can be of tremendous value in preparing you for trials like this in advance, because when you’re in the middle of it you can cling by faith to what you already know. But once you’re inside it without having gotten prepared beforehand…oy, that’s a tough one. You need people and prayers and love then.

    I’ll pray for the lady — her story strikes home with me. I learned only last week the full story of my recently-adopted daughters’ mother, who pretty much sacrificed everything in order to keep her oldest daughter in the face of her husband’s demand for an abortion, and then lost her mind when that daughter tragically died at thirteen. As a father of eight, I can’t imagine that very many experiences would be worse than to have to bury one of your children.

  • http://blog-by-the-sea.typepad.com/ Teresa Polk

    I put together a listmania list for amazon.com for people looking for exactly this sort of thing.

    C.S. Lewis’s “A Grief Observed” is on that list.

    Another is Melody Beattie’s “Lessons of Love.” Although Beattie’s book is not written from a Catholic perspective, it may be helpful as she wrote it while she was dealing with grief after her son, about the same age, died in a skiing accident.

    There is also a book called “Good Grief” by Granger E. Westberg, which I personally found very helpful in understanding my own grieving process, which helped me a lot with depression in a grief situation.

    I don’t know if a long url will throw off page widths on your blog software, so I won’t try to plug in the url for the whole list. However, you can can find it by plugging my name into amazon.com under “people” or “wish list”, or by going to Melody Beattie’s book and scrolling down to the listmania lists on that page. The list is called “Love, Grief and Resurrection”.

  • http://mt.middlebury.edu/middblogs/mbertoli/Slices2/ Mary Ellen

    The book that helped me most when my mother died is Therese Rando’s How To Go On Living When Someone You Love Dies.
    I’d also recommend: Pennebaker, James. Opening Up and Rico, Gabrielle. Pain and Possibility. I’ve started reading the new Joan Didion book, The Year of Magical Thinking, but I haven’t read enough to know if I’d recommend it or not.

  • http://shotofpolitics.blogspot.com/ Joseph Marshall

    I think it would be well to ask just how and why the son died, and also what other people the mother has left to care for, or to care about.
    -From the description you give, I strongly suspect that either the death, for some reason, left the mother with a huge burden of guilt, or that her life was so wrapped up in her son that she had nothing and no one else in it that really counted.
    -In both such cases the problem is far more complicated than simple grief. The loss is merely the starting point for a confrontation with something more fundamentally wrong in her life.
    -Such books as I might recommend would really be pointed toward addressing this underlying difficulty.

  • rick

    There is a wonderful book called “How to Survive the Loss of a Love,” that has pulled a number of people I know (including me) through some very very dark times. http://www.booksamillion.com/ncom/books?id=3352999026347&isbn=0931580439

  • http://ohhowilovejesus.com Jeanette

    All the books mentioned sound good, but the question is if this woman is in such a deep depression will she read anything and concentrate on it? I was in such deep grief when my grandmother died naturally that I wasn’t interested in anything. I didn’t want to eat, sleep, read or socialize with anyone. With a lot of prayer and the help of a good psychiatrist God pulled me out of it and I never want to go there again. May God bless this woman and since God knows who she is we can pray for her to be given the strength to get past this and back to living. She’ll never get over losing him, but she can have a life again.

  • Sal

    I would suggest “A Severe Mercy”, by Sheldon Vanauken, as a prequel and companion to the Lewis book.

  • Donna

    People have already named the books I thought of, so I’m not going to repeat their suggestions. From my own experience, I think Jeanette is right. I tried to read my way out of deep depressions and at that point, you’re just staring at ink on a page – nothing sinks in (books are helpful once you start to feel a bit more functional).

    I don’t know if this poor lady is Catholic, but I immediately thought of prayers of intercession to the Virgin.
    Mary knows exactly what it feels like to lose a dearly loved son.

  • brotherjohn

    It is very important that she get some pastoral care. But a good book to read and talk about with her pastor is Good Grief: Healing Through the Shadow of Loss by Deborah Morris Coryell.

  • TheAnchoress

    Thank you, all, for your prompt and generous suggestions, and also to all who emailed suggestions. As many of you correctly note, there is more here than simple grief, guilt is also playing into it – but I think many parents are wracked with guilt when they lose their children, whether they should be or not. Certainly we should pray for this lady, prayer is essential, and I hope that many, many people are now praying for her as I am – prayer works.

    And very likely she needs to be talking to someone – but that is a move some folks only take when they reach rock bottom…the reading material may help. That’s what my correspondant was looking for and – because I have the greatest readers in the world – she now has some direction and some excellent suggestions. Y’all are very good, and very kind.

  • Renee

    As a mother who has lost a child, I can tell you there is no such thing as
    “simple grief”. While suicide is a drastic response, many bereaved parents struggle with the desire to die. Many become ill from the stress of loss while others find their marriages shattered by the pain. Deep depression is not an uncommon result. I am not describing unusual reactions to bereavement; there is a continuum of grief response to the death of a child.

    Since I know nothing of the particulars of this mother’s loss, I can only make generalizations. But I would guess that she needs immediate medical attention and emotional support. Most of all, she needs a listening ear. Someone who can be there and be a witness to what she needs to say and feel, someone who can give hugs, tissues, or just quiet company. I found that kind of support in groups like Compassionate Friends and SHARE (started by Sr.Lamb); there are many such groups available.

    Please encourage this mother’s friend to do the legwork on support groups and to go with her friend to at least a couple of meetings. They literally were my lifeline after the death of my son.

    Please, those of you who have not had to watch the casket of a beloved child lowered into the ground, who have not held the ashes of a beloved little one in your hand, do not make assumptions. May you never have to bear that kind of grief. There are moments when the very air is too dense to breathe.A mother’s heart is buried with her child; is it any wonder, in her darkest moments, that she might want to follow her heart?

  • maria horvath

    To follow up on what several writers have said here, that perhaps she might not be able to concentrate enough to read the words on a page–Perhaps some music might help. Sometimes, when the world is too much with me, I listen to a favorite Gregorian chant cd. The chanting has the power to lift the soul and ease the pain just a little.


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