Healing after Loss by Martha Hickman (Book review)

[Read my intro to Good Gifts for Widowed People, with the complete list of reviews]

A helpful, accessible book, with one major limitation for readers who don't believe in a Judeo-Christian deity. 

I was grateful to have this book at my bedside every night. Marie, the first young widow who appeared to me, left it in my mailbox one afternoon (she was usually the "trashy paperback fairy," and those were helpful, in their own way). Because the book consists of small, dated snippets — generally one quote, and one other meditation-type thought — it's good for folks who have no attention span. If one day's items are unhelpful, it's easy to skip ahead; if you "fall behind," no one gets hurt, and it's easy to catch up, if you care to.

This book has one major drawback: it was my introduction to the "stealth" use of religion in grief support. Many have commented that they are "turned off" by Hickman's assumption that you share her religious convictions and practices, which I'd categorize as generic Judeo-Christian (It's not evangelical, and not specifically Christian). I didn't find this a problem, because each entry is so brief —  I'm my own individual snowflake and all, so I wouldn't expect 100% of any book to work perfectly for me. I would not have purchased a book that was one bit more Christian than this one, but in my experience of this book and as I used it, the religious content didn't much detract from the comfort it provided. It did, obviously, diminish the book's ability to provide inspiration -- something it does try to do (and achieve, if you agree).

I DO have a problem with the fact that there's no mention made in the cover material or marketing blurbs of the religious orientation: I think all Americans who consider themselves religious should be offended any time support is offered with the assumption of faith. In this book it's one thing, but it happens over and over again in books and organizations that target grieving people. The last thing you need when you've suffered a major loss is to have someone try to sell you a religion. Note to religious leaders: soft sell works better anyway.

I'll write more about this at another time — I feel quite strongly about it (surprise!). But for now, I'll say that a mild but hidden religious message is the only thing that mars this otherwise excellent book. If you're considering a gift to someone who is really uninterested in the Judeo-Christian tradition (loss tends to shake even many people who are pretty devout) you might avoid this book, or give it with a note saying, "I've heard this is a useful book despite…"

Especially for: Anyone living with grief, Families living with child loss, Widowed people of all ages, People with short attention spans, Men.

Spiritual orientation: Non-proselytizing, faithful Judeo-Christian, but religious content is not always obvious.

Available editions: eBook for Kindle, paperback.


Hira Animfefte (Xera Anymphefte) said...

This will probably come as no surprise to you by now, but I often find "generically Judeo-Christian" things, well, if not offensive, downright irritating. I mean, I can't relax and enjoy a book if I want to challenge her to theological debate (or just plain vigorous discussion) on every third page. And let's face it, I'm way too tired to seriously engage in theological debate these days. I'd rather say, "Oh my! Look at the time!" and scoot on home. Mind you, I used to...if both parties were up to it...under the right circumstances, it can be a pleasant party game. (Yeah, I have weird friends.)

Like on New Year's Eve when I had a moment of "Do I really want to discuss the (de)merits of Calvinist theology vis-a-vis Jonathan Edwards' Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God' with this woman? (The friend of the friend of the friend who'd invited me to the New Year's Eve Thing.) Short answer: NAAAHHHH.

Theology under the Judeo-Christian umbrella runs a very wide gamut. VERY wide. Best not go there. Unless you advertise as such. Then, go there all you want.

My point is, I don't want to be having those moments (Author! Idiot! Author! Grr!) when I'm reading a grief book. They annoy me. This is generally not helpful.

Supa Dupa Fresh said...

I get in the same kind of debate even as a Unitarian.... I guess to me, religion is only fun when it's a conversation, or maybe, I just can't read without talking back... :-)


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