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Review of "Life after Loss"

By Bob Deits
Da Capo Lifelong, 2009
Review by Wendy C. Hamblet, Ph.D. on Sep 14th 2010
Life after Loss

No human being is exempt from experiences of major loss. Death of a loved one, collapse of an intimate relationship, traumatic injury, loss of work or home--these devastating losses are experiences fundamental to life's reality, the underside of the positive realities that give meaning to our lives--health, intimacy, community, identity, love. There is no escaping the experience of loss. Yet for some inexplicable reason, loss tends to come to us as an aberration in the solid fabric of life, rather than as its essential under-thread. A singularization in pain that seems to exceed all rational measure, grave loss offends the very logic that underpins our idea of a just and ordered world, a "cosmos."

Major loss can throw its victims into depths of absurdity, grief, and despair that are insurmountable without professional guidance. Life After Loss steps in to provide that help. It is a clear, concise, practical guide to overcoming the devastating losses that invade and disrupt human lives. Bob Deits uses stories, from his own life and from the lives of the many people he has counseled in his support groups over his career as a pastoral counselor, to help disentangle the complex knot of feelings and thoughts that mark the experience of major loss and stand in the path of recovery.

With a certainty of tone that is reassuring, Deits describes the many forms and faces of loss that confront us across the human life span--death, divorce, job loss, relocation, as well as what he names the "quiet losses" that follow traumatic injury and the many kinds of intimate abuse. He outlines the various stages in grief that we may expect to encounter in the wake of major loss. Having sketched the landscape of human grief, Deits proceeds to offer practical advice, taking the victim by the hand, as it were, and guiding her along the path to recovery, pointing out the milestones along the path that indicate healing and growth, as well as the danger signs that indicate the need for professional help.  Deits also illuminates many beliefs that can help--or hinder--progress on the road to recovery.

Though a pastoral counselor, Deits at no point presses religion as the essential ingredient in healing. Rather, he urges sufferers to find what works for them, drawing upon certain tried and true methods for regaining health--nutrition, sleep, exercise, and human company--and on this firm base, rebuilding life through many strategies designed for expressing, sharing, and working through the painful feelings that endure in the wake of major life losses--journaling, forming support groups, learning to name and chart fluctuating feelings, and constantly reassessing our progress, and determining whether we are behaving as our own best friend--or worst enemy. Deits encourages sufferers to chart their own path to recovery and to become active in promoting their own healing.

The new (fifth) edition of Life After Loss addresses new forms of losses that confront people in modernity, such as dementia or Alzheimer's disease, and includes as well a new chapter that traces the relationship between the way a person responds to losses and her chances of recovery. If one looks upon major life losses as an inevitable aspect of mortal existence, one may fare better when losses confront us, and heal more quickly in their wake.

This latter fact recommends that this simple, practical guide has great benefit, not only for those currently in the grip of grief and despair, but for those carefree folk, not under current duress but wishing to be well-prepared when that inevitable loss does arrive. All human beings are potential sufferers, and preparation for loss can help us to receive life's losses with greater grace and equanimity. Life After Loss provides just that--an opportunity to prepare for the inevitable.

Therefore, this book would be an invaluable resource to every human being, preparing people for future losses and cultivating compassion for fellow human beings who suffer. It can help us to be better caregivers to those around us, and to know when to give them their space for healing. But Life After Loss would also serve as a helpful professional guide for students in all areas of counseling and social work. It is a readily accessible book, filled with practical strategies to lead sufferers out of their grief and despair and toward healthy recovery. I am not in the least surprised that Life After Loss is in its fifth reprinting. I recommend it most highly to all readers.


© 2010 Wendy C. Hamblet



Wendy C. Hamblet, North Carolina A&T State University.