In this “volume of rare sensitivity, penetrating understanding, and profound insights” (Rabbi Earl A. Grollman, author of Living When a Loved One Has Died), Dr. Kenneth Doka explores a new, compassionate way to grieve, explaining that grief is not an illness to get over but an individual and ongoing journey.
There is no “one-size-fits-all” way to cope with loss. The vital bonds that we form with those we love in life continue long after death—in very different ways. Grief Is a Journey is the first book to overturn prevailing, often judgmental, ideas about grief and replace them with a hopeful, inclusive, personalized, and research-backed approach. New science and studies behind Dr. Doka’s teaching upend the dominant but incorrect view that grief proceeds by stages.
Dr. Doka helps us realize that our experiences following a death are far more individual and much less predictable than the conventional “five stages” model would have us believe. Common patterns of experiencing and expressing grief still prevail, yet many other life changes accompany a primary loss. For example, the deaths of parents, even for adults, modify family patterns, change relationships, and alter old family rituals.
Unique to this book, Dr. Doka also explains how to cope with disenfranchised grief—the types of loss that are not so readily recognized or supported by society. These include the death of ex-spouses, as well as non-fatal losses such as divorce, the end of a friendship, job loss, or infertility. In addition, Dr. Doka considers losses that might be stigmatized, including death by suicide or from disease or self-destructive behaviors such as smoking or alcoholism. And finally, Dr. Doka reminds us that, however painful, grief provides opportunities for growth.
"Loss is universal, but our reactions to it are not," according to this solid manual from grief counselor Doka. He goes on to write that "grief is not an illness you get over" but a "journey," the goal of which is to assimilate the loss, not to distance or separate oneself from it. His theory provides a less prescriptive, more descriptive alternative to the two predominant models of grief: Kubler-Ross's five stages and "it gets a little better every day." Everyone experiences grief differently, but there are "four major patterns of grieving heart grievers, head grievers, heart + head grievers, and heart v. head grievers." The book begins by describing this view of grief and loss and dispelling common myths. Next follows a discussion of common reactions to the deaths of different family members of parent, spouse, child, or sibling. Then, the book takes on "disenfranchised losses" less likely to elicit sympathy and support from others which, as one story shared here demonstrates, can even include the death of an adult sibling. The book concludes with concrete ways to help oneself, such as establishing rituals, and contains guidelines for when to seek extra help. Well supported by footnotes, this is a useful and reassuring resource.