Monday, June 11, 2012

Good Grief! A must-read book for grieving families.

I love the title of Erica McNeal's  book, Good Grief! (I like the whole book, too, in case you were wondering.)

All of us have used that phrase at one point in our lives. Most of the time, I wager, it's when we're frustrated. Perhaps someone at work made a mistake that cost you time, money or just wasted effort. Good grief! Perhaps a child unrolled 3 rolls of toilet paper all over your house, right before company came over. Good grief! Perhaps you are on your way to an important meeting and the person in front of you believes going 20 mph under the speed limit is the best way to drive. Good grief!

But what about when someone has battled cancer 3 times and has lost 5 children, all before the age of 32? What about when someone who has had to face the end of her life alone as her husband was deployed to Afghanistan? What about when someone has to make a choice between saving her life or her child's life? Is Good grief! really the right thing to say then?

In my opinion, ABSOLUTELY!

Erica McNeal, author of Good Grief!, has in fact experienced all of the above: a rare, recurrent cancer, miscarriage, infant death, failed adoption, her husband's deployment, and the difficult decision to choose between her life or her child's life.

Frustrating? Ummm . . yes. Debilitating? Just about. Life-changing? Beyond words.

So I had to ask myself, why . . . with all that to grieve . . . would she write a book and call it Good Grief!?

My first thought was that she wanted a title that had a little wit, a little bit of familiarity for the reader. If she had named it "How to face cancer 3 times, the death of 4 children, a failed adoption, a husband's deployment, and still (somehow) survive to tell the tale" . . . well, it probably wouldn't sell like hotcakes.

But I think the bigger reason is that:

1. Grief is in fact GOOD, even when it doesn't feel that way.

2. There is a good way to grieve. And there is a good way to support friends who are grieving.

I believe that an undercurrent of Erica's message is that grief is in fact GOOD. It means that you once loved, even though you have lost. It means that you are being real about what really matters in life. It means that you are doing your best to wade through overwhelming loss, honor the life of those you lost, while still trying to figure out who YOU are in all this mess.

And I agree with the other implication from her title: There is also a good way to grieve. Not that there is a best way, or a right way, or a wrong way. Just a good way -- and that good way really might look different for everyone.

For those who have gone through a loss, I think you'll find a shoulder to lean on in this book. A friend who will validate your feelings of loss, and empathize with the all of the ups and downs (the many, many downs) of grief. I think you'll find that some of the feelings of grief are universal, whether you are grieving the loss of a loved one, the loss of your health, or the loss of a future you were expecting. And that some of your feelings are very specific to you and the loss you are grieving.

That feeling of validation is what I most gleaned from the book. I found myself saying, "Yes. Totally. Absolutely. Uh-huh" outloud as I read it. We live in a society that often minimizes grief, puts our grief on a timeline, and may expect medicine to "fix" us. So finding an "oasis when life is a desert," as Erica calls it, is a welcome relief.

For those of you who are supporting a friend or loved one through a loss of any kind, you'll find some answers as to how your loved one might be feeling. More important, you'll find suggestion after suggestion on how to help your friend through this time.

My only criticism of the book (and it really isn't that much of a criticism) is that there are so many suggestions listed that a support person could potentially feel overwhelmed.

My advice for those of you who are support people is to glean from it what you can. Maybe every suggestion isn't for you or for your loved one, but SOME of them will be. I think your best bet is to read through it all, and pick out those that feel doable for the stage you and your loved one are at.

In my opinion, something is ALWAYS better than nothing! And Erica will give you lots of "somethings" to choose from.

As you implement some Erica's helpful tips, check in with your friend or loved one. Ask questions like, "When I do _________, is that helpful to you?" Or "What do you need from me right now?"

In addition to helpful tips, all readers will find chapters on specific types of loss. You will learn when to recognize warning signs when grief has gone too far and you are at risk for causing harm to yourself. You'll also find an index of support resources that you can turn to when a book, a friend, a listening ear are just not enough.

Overall, I have to say that I would wholeheartedly recommend this read to everyone! No matter where you are in your grief journey. . . and no matter if you just need to know you are not alone, or you need suggestions on how to help a friend . . . this is a must-read guidebook on how to live out Good Grief!

To purchase your own copy of Good Grief!, click here:

There are some awesome giveaways going on now when you purchase Good Grief! To enter for a giveaway, purchase your copy between June 11 and 16 and email your receipt to You could win:

$45 Carrabbas Gift Card
$45 Outback Gift Card
$50 Amazon Gift Card
$50 Best Buy Gift Card
Signed Hard Cover copy of Good Grief! and a Signed copy of The Hour that Matters Most from Les and Leslie Parrott
A free downloadable podcast of Erica's talk, "You Are Not Alone."
A free downloadable recording of the Intro of Good Grief!
Purchase 10 or more copies of Good Grief! and email your receipt to to receive a six week Good Grief! Small Group Discussion Guide! As soon as Erica can verify your receipt, she will send you the pdf.

Find Erica online at:
Twitter: @toddanderica

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