Not recommended as a "first read" after the loss of a loved one; recommended for 3 - 6 months into the grief journey.
This book is recommended for adults 30 or older; LGBTQ+; BIPOC; suicide loss survivors; overdose loss survivors; people affected by mass fatality events; parents who have experienced death of a child; people supporting others who are grieving.
"When God is viewed as a benevolent protector that can shield us from harm, what happens to faith - and healing - when God fails to provide that protection?" Answering this question is at the heart of the book Grief and God by Dr. Terri Daniel. Yes, after the loss of a loved one our religious faith can serve as a source of support, comforting and sustaining us as we navigate the hills and valleys of grief - but not always. According to Daniel, sometimes religious constructs do more harm than healing.
Daniel is an interfaith chaplain and educator certified in death, dying and bereavement by the Association for Death Education and counseling and in trauma support by the International Association of Trauma Professionals. In her book, Daniel says that ideally religion has five basic functions: to help us find meaning in a traumatic or difficult event; to establish a sense of control; to find comfort in a dangerous world; to provide a sense of social intimacy and community; and to assist in major life transitions. In trying to fulfill doctrine however, some of these basic functions of faith can go unfulfilled.
Drawing from her professional background, case studies and a variety of research sources, Daniel explores how after the loss of a loved one theological doctrines such as original sin, salvation and eternal damnation can add to trauma, and a sense of helplessness and hopelessness by offering only a limited view of human frailty, good and evil, and life and the afterlife. Similarly, petitionary prayer can cause confusion and guilt when prayer does not produce a desired result.
The book lays out the complex subject of harmful religiosity in simple language; the case studies are especially helpful in providing understanding of the suffering harmful doctrines can impose on those dealing with profound loss and grief. In my grief support specialist practice, I recommend this book to clients who are stuck in grief and have what Daniel calls "a dysfunctional relationship with suffering" - and what I call a relationship with suffering that increases suffering. When grief is present a source of suffering can include suffering brought about by adhering to religious ideologies that do not serve or meet our needs in regards to a present loss. This book offers a wider, greatly compassionate view of where we can go and what we can do to find the support we need.
- How do the doctrines of your faith aid in the grieving process after a profound loss?
- How can and does faith complicate grief and inhibit the healing process?
- Ideally, what role can faith play in helping to process and heal grief?
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About the Reviewer
Elizabeth Lewis is a certified grief support specialist, spiritual counselor and resilience trainer; she is a frequent blog contributor to Remembering A Life.