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Grief Works    by Julia Samuel order for
Grief Works
by Julia Samuel
Order:  USA  Can
Scribner, 2018 (2018)
* *   Reviewed by Rheta Van Winkle

Julia Samuel is a British therapist who has worked for many years helping people recover from the devastating grief that accompanies the death of someone they love. Grief Works: Stories of Life, Death, and Surviving tells how she has helped some of her patients.

Chapters are organized according to the particular kind of close death that occurred. In other words, beginning with the death of a spouse, she continues in following chapters to detail death of a parent death, then of a sibling, child, and one's own death. Her final chapter, 'What helps: the work we need to do to help us grieve and survive successfully,' sums up what she has learned from her experience and studies.

The people she tells us about come because of their inability to accept and recover from the deaths of relatives. Interestingly enough, she frequently finds that the particular death that a client is sad about isn't the real source of their unrelenting grief. The person is often overwhelmed by the death of a spouse because they never dealt with parental or other deaths many years before and carried a 'submerged grief.' They never really 'dealt with the pain of grief,' preferring to avoid it, even being encouraged to get on with their lives by friends or family members

Even though society feels uncomfortable with death, people need to work through their grief, talking about the death as much as is necessary for them. Friends who don't want to listen to these difficult conversations only succeed in driving the person's grief inside in an unhelpful way. Sometimes, though, people truly do want to help but just don't know what works.

Samuel has given a number of suggestions about dealing with your own grief, as well as helping someone else with theirs. I thought that one of her most interesting remarks was almost at the end of the book in the chapter about how to help: 'To some extent, anyone reading this book is part of a cohort of people who probably don't need to be reading this chapter. You are more likely to be the kind of person who wants to know how to be as helpful as possible, which automatically makes you helpful. You will have a tendency to be tentative and aware as a friend, sensitive enough to know you can't make assumptions about what your friend will want or need, and that things can change for them from hour to hour, let alone from day to day.'

The book is an important one because it reinforces the reality of death. Even though modern medicine can save many more accident victims or the extremely ill, everyone dies eventually. It's a natural part of life.

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