Permission to Grieve: Creating Grace, Space, & Room to Breathe in the Aftermath of Loss (2019) by Shelby Forsythia, Certified Grief Recovery Specialist, preceded last year’s Your Grief, Your Way: A Year of Practical Guidance and Comfort After Loss by the same author. (These are two of many notable books on grief.)
I. Permission to Grieve
“Drawing on her experience as a grieving person and two years’ worth of interviews with grief experts like Megan Devine, Kerry Egan, and Caleb Wilde, Shelby Forsythia makes the case for radical, self-honoring permission—free from personal judgement and society’s restrictive timelines and rules” (from the publisher).
The solution to grief is not a pain-free existence. It is allowing ourselves to grieve and witnessing ourselves in that process. Permission and presence are the remedies for agony and isolation.
When we grant ourselves permission to grieve, we make the experience of grief something we recognize, something we welcome into our lives. We allow it to show up the way it wants to through feelings, identities, and actions. We write our own expectations and stories. Our grief becomes ours again and we become more ourselves again because we actively choose to experience grief.
Grief looks, feels, and shows up differently to each person. Just like no two losses are alike, no two griefs are alike, either. You cannot know the full depth of another person’s experience and they cannot know the full depth of yours.
II. Your Grief, Your Way
Every day of the year has its own page. A reader can take it day by day or can skip around. Some examples of tips and style that Goodreads reviewers appreciated:
I think my favorite suggestion was to add a phrase to everything I do when I feel I’m not doing enough. Just add – ‘while grieving’ to whatever you’re doing. It makes a difference and helps one realize we’re doing the best we can.
I loved the exercise where you are asked to take 5 random words and take them to describe the person.
It doesn’t preach at me, allowing my own worldview to remain at the center where I prefer it. It doesn’t tell me how to grieve, or why I should or shouldn’t feel a certain way, or anything else inappropriate. It simply sits with me and gives me permission to think, or to feel, or to cry, or to laugh, or to wonder, or to ache. It is brief and accessible, moving and graceful, without being terse and inadequate.
Selected Quotes from Your Grief, Your Way
With a loved one’s death, we step into a liminal space – we’ve stopped living our old life, but we’ve not yet stepped into our new one.
Grief is less like a predictable sequence and more like an amorphous blob of uncertainty. You can’t forecast your way out of grief, because there’s no way to determine when the next wave is coming. This may seem disheartening at first, but when you recognize that there is no structure for grief, you can stop trying to pinpoint exactly where you are on your journey. If there’s no road map, it’s impossible to be lost.
There is so much more to grief than just death. In losing someone, you lose their presence in every single moment and milestone that appears after their death. Every hope, dream, and expectation you had for the future must now be reworked, because the person you love can no longer be there. It’s normal to feel like you’re grieving multiple losses when someone dies.