Sunday, April 09, 2006

When the Bough Breaks

So it turns out I am actually a schizophrenic reader. I have started reading another book - When the Bough Breaks by Judith R. Bernstein, Ph.D. (the link will take you to Amazon, which has an excerpt that may interest you). It is wonderful so far (I have only read the introduction).

Premise? Bernstein is a psychologist who lost her son Steven to cancer in his 20s. When faced with the literature regarding grief, she recognized that time limits were always imposed - 6 months, or a year, or two, or three. She was several years in and still grieving. So she began a study of bereaved parents who had been grieving a child for at least 5 years to see what their experiences were as time passed. I love that she refuses the words "overcoming grief" or "recovery" - you recover from the flu, not the death of your child! So far, she has impressed me.

This is mourning, as described by mourners. This is "getting on with your life" from people who have no choice but to do so. I am excited to learn from the experience of the 50-or-so fellow bereaved parents who have contributed their stories and experiences to this book. Though she specifically chose not to look at those who experienced the death of a baby (because "neonatal death presents issues of its own"), I think there will be much to learn from this book.

She described her experience meeting with other bereaved parents as "coming home." She writes "In our workaday world no one sees the aspect of us that is bereaved parent. As time progresses, we speak less and less frequently of the children we lost; yet those children are often no further from our hearts than our surviving children. When we meet other bereaved parents, we're home - with people who know that language and who understand the subtleties foreigners can never truly know...Though we had know each other barely two hours, we knew each other better than most."

Isn't that what we are doing here?

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