"Life is Goodbye/Life is Hello: Grieving Well through All Kinds of Loss" and "A Journey through Grief" by Alla Renée Bozarth
by Alla Renée Bozarth
"Life is Goodbye/Life is Hello" is the larger of the two books covering taboos against grief, loss of self-image in grief, losses related to physical death but also infertility, loss of job, home, friendship, identity, work, a beloved landscape, divorce, illness and aging and other specific types of loss. "A Journey through Grief" is a smaller book meant to help anchor the soul during times of raw grief when concentration is difficult. It fits into a good-sized pocket or purse to keep handy and open at random for a moment's strength and grounding. In print since their publication in 1982 and 1989,thousands have written about how invaluable they have been over the years, books to keep on the shelf as First Aid for the next grievous loss and bring down and absorb again and again. It is often the poetry that speaks to the heart in ways that go beyond words in their pure expression of the soul's outcry of longing and love.
One young man used "Life is Goodbye/Life is Hello" as an anchor for sanity when his mother died 20 years ago, then took it with him for his years working in Europe and recently began reading it again while undergoing the loss of his life partner and his long-time professional identity as he prepared to move back to the United States and reinvent himself in a new career without the cherished companionship he had relied on for so long. This letter from a woman who has used the book similarly over the years came in just a few weeks ago:
"I had bought your book "Life is Goodbye Life is Hello" in 1989 when my husband was in seminary.
"At that time, I was still grieving the death of my mother and your book helped tremendously.
"My husband was an Episcopal priest. He had Alzheimers for the last 6 years and I took care of him at home until I could no longer do that and he went to a nursing home. Even though he existed in the prison of a body that no longer worked for him, I continued to love him, visit him, and I felt a real heart to heart connection until he died of February of this year.
"I recently rediscovered your book on my bookshelf and re-read it. I cannot begin to tell you how much hope and comfort it gave me, especially when you described your experience of pure grief (when your young husband died suddenly). You spoke to my soul.
"I hope you get to read my email. I don't expect a response, but it was important for me to write this. . . . Blessings to you!"
Years ago a teacher came to do soul healing work with me. She had been one of those gifted long-term teachers forced into earlier retirement by arbitrary regulations. The unfairness and injustice had outraged her. On top of that, the family of a child who had made enormous progress abruptly moved oversees without saying Goodbye, and with no word of thanks or recognition for the positive impact her labor of love had made in the life of their daughter. The shock was devastating. She wrote to me that while pushing a shopping cart through a grocery store one day and weeping, through the blur of tears she saw a shelf of books placed in her field of vision and the title that met her eyes was "Life is Goodbye/Life is Hello." She bought the book and as she read, she began to feel her way through the situation with some of her old strength and wisdom returning to her. Included with her letter was the gift of an ancient oil lamp from the Holy Land to thank me for offering a light for her journey.
A social worker in Dublin who helped abused children was feeling overwhelmed by an especially tragic situation when he went into a book store for a copy of "The English Patient" and found my book in his hands and life instead . . . It had such a profound impact on him that he called from Ireland to thank me. After the Oklahoma City bombing, a nurse who was traumatized by being among first responders used "A Journey through Grief" to keep herself breathing for the first weeks, and then opened "Life is Goodbye/Life is Hello" as she began to work with traumatized families and reflect on her own trauma.
A young woman in Israel read the larger book after she realized she couldn't say Yes to a marriage proposal from the man she loved because her first husband had been killed in the 1982 war in Lebanon, and growing up as the child of Holocaust survivors with their message, "You will lose Everything," had paralyzed her into believing another marriage would mean another terrible loss. The book expanded her perspective and helped her take the risk with faith, a small thread of hope pulling her through into the future.
The books have been proven true and powerful healers for thirty years. I read "Life is Goodbye/Life is Hello" myself after my husband's sudden death, and it helped me, both practically and spiritually. Then I wrote the epilog, "This is My Beloved," for the book,about my own experience following his death, and the smaller book, "A Journey through Grief," and still read it when the bottom falls out in my life, these days from the blows of financial disaster and lost health. Healing words that were given to the person I was nearly forty years ago when I wrote them come to me again as a reader and help me to endure and see through the heavy fog into a clearing. I hold to that.
See this page for other books along themes of finding one's way back to life after feeling portions of one's soul ripped out of the body and trampled . . . and know that for each of us the way is different, but all shall be well again. You will find poems, prayers, and information about related titles: "Lifelines: Threads of Grace through Seasons of Change," "This Mortal Marriage: Poems of Love, Lament and Praise," and "Wisdom and Wonderment: 31 Feasts to Nourish Your Soul."
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