A curated collection of books and other resources can be found at both branches of Mississippi Mills Public Library. Some of our members are going to be reading and reviewing these books, and we will publish those reviews the first Wednesday of each month.

Our reviewer this month is Board Member Ruth Dubois

Ruth’s background in palliative care stems from over 42 years of work as an RN and nurse educator in a variety of areas including geriatrics, surgery, medicine, mental health, and community home care.

Finding Meaning: The Sixth Stage of Grief by David Kessler (2019)

In 1969, Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross developed a groundbreaking model of the stages of death and dying which included denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Decades later, her protégé, David Kessler and she adapted the model to the experience of grief and grieving. Subsequently, Kessler added a sixth stage to grieving, that of finding meaning. He believes that the pain of loss, whether that experienced through the death of a loved one or through some other catastrophic event, is healed by finding meaning in the experience. Meaning refers to finding a way to sustain love for the person who died while moving forward with one’s own life. In this practical guide, Kessler shares stories of clients, family members, friends, colleagues, and his own losses to explain the multiple nuances of finding such meaning, as well as ways to approach complicated grief situations such as death of someone through suicide, traumatic events, mental illness, addiction, and other specific challenges. He spends time describing the particular pain and challenges when a parent loses a child and reflects on the depths of despair he encountered when his young adult son died of a drug overdose. He acknowledges that finding meaning does not mean forgetting the person, nor does it mean that one won’t experience sadness in the long term, but he makes a strong case for the importance of moving forward in life without the lost person while establishing a different relationship with him/her.

This book is comprehensive, compassionate, grounding, and detailed enough to give specific guidance in a variety of grief situations. It appeals to an adult audience who espouse a variety of spiritual beliefs and non-belief, and provides many resources for further consideration and investigation. It is authentic in its description of the confusion and loss of motivation that are part of the grief response, and provides helpful information about how to take steps forward in living with the pain of the loss. In many instances, he provides specific verbal and nonverbal answers or questions that might be most helpful in assisting the sufferer to find and make meaning in their loss.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone experiencing grief in their personal life who is looking on ways to move forward, to professionals who help those who are grieving, and to people who are developing grief and bereavement support groups and programs. This approach to the work of grief will appeal to those who believe that investing whatever time it takes to discover these meanings will lead to a productive and fulfilling life after the loss.