Seasons of Solace: by Janelle Shantz Hertzler (Book review)
[Read my intro to Good Gifts for Widowed People, with the complete list of reviews]
An insightful, beautiful, accessible set of reflections on living through loss of a partner.
A few years after her husband was killed suddenly, Janelle Hertzler found herself taking photographs of nature and writing poetry, though she had done neither with any intention before. Seasons of Solace shares her experience, her ideas, and her changes along with beautiful photographs in an honest, unpretentious way.
For me, the most skillful aspect of the book is how she captures the appreciation of dark and light that comes when a grieving person reaches a turning point. Her words are often emotional, sometimes angry, but never sentimental or maudlin. Hertzler has a young child, but the poetry touches on parenting only briefly.
I don't know Hertzler's current spiritual direction, and I don't need to. She and her husband went to Thailand as Mennonite missionaries, but the book will speak equally well to the devout and to the uncertain (or sure agnostics) alike. Because many widowed people question their faith and seek solace there at the same time, the book's openness makes it uniquely supportive.
Seasons of Solace is a book full of questions. The enticing, deceptively simple images of leaves changing, of frost, or empty shells, suggest answers, but not easy ones. The images instill in you the certainty that each day is real and the next one will be different. That concrete quality is so big a part of coping with loss.
Hertzler has managed something very masterful here: a book that is deep and honest about the experience of loss without being limited to folks of one spiritual persuasion or with one single lifestyle. Because it's so well put together — and because it's comprised of short, varied pieces — it's a good gift for nearly anyone coping with grief.
Especially for: Anyone living with grief, Nature lovers, Widowed with a child, Widowed with a baby, Widowed while in another country, Younger widows and widowers, Loss in car accident, Sudden Loss.
Spiritual orientation: Deep but generic, not restricted to those of any one faith.
Available editions: Inexpensive hardcover.