How To Use This "How It Is" Book
Whether your perspective is personal or professional, From Eulogy To Joy is not a book meant to be read from cover to cover, but rather to be used as a reference tool and resource guide throughout the entire grieving process. The table of contents is annotated so that you can turn to the chapters which will help you the most in the moment and, eventually, gain an overview of the vast range of experiences, responses, and orientations that are possible following the death of someone close to you.
On a personal level, From Eulogy To Joy is a source of support and inspiration: a "how it really is" book as opposed to yet another quick-fix, redemptive "how-to" manual that makes you feel deficit because you haven't gotten over a significant person's death in a proscribed amount of time, or you are still wearing black, or you are still crying after all these years, or any variation of this theme. The hard core and revolutionary fact revealed in these pages is that the death of someone close is something you never "get over" and actually never should. Rather, death is something to "get through" and learn and grow and evolve from. Deaths permanently mark our lives, changing us forever. When all is said and done, death is for the living.
Like birth, death is a part of a magnificent cycle that is unavoidable in the physical world. Experiencing the death of family members, friends, and people important to us is something we all eventually share. Paradoxically, how each of us deals with this inevitability is ultimately unique and intensely private. In today's climate of self-improvement, replete with prescriptions for optimal living, you are expected to "get over it" in a specified amount of time and navigate the stages of mourning in a precise order. If you don't, if you get "stuck" in a specified externally imposed "phase" or, even worse, if you don't experience any of these stages, you feel that something is wrong with you which compounds your feelings of despair and intensifies your sense of being abjectly alone and misunderstood.
The essays in From Eulogy To Joy provide validating comfort during these unavoidable times and offer support that you might not find anywhere else--the message is loud and clear that wherever you are and however you feel and whatever you are doing right now to cope is absolutely all right in the long run, no matter what anyone else thinks. In addition, over time, these heartfelt sharings provide the necessary inspiration or jump-start to carry on when the time is right for you.
This is not a book to glance at once and then stow away forgotten on a shelf somewhere. Rather, as time goes on, you will find yourself picking it up again and again and reading sections that you did not read before, as well as reading parts you have read before but now experience in a different way. Most significantly, know that this book is yours to make use of in whatever way that serves you. Mark it up, break the binding. Tear out pages you don't like and burn them if that's what you need to do in the course of this long difficult journey. Tear out pages that resonate to you, that speak to your innermost soul, and take them with you to read over and over as you go about the required motions of daily living.
From a professional point of view, the material in From Eulogy To Joy represents nothing less than a quantum leap in the literature to date regarding this universal aspect of life, in that it provides a wealth of data as to how people individually respond to the spectacle of death. Though this information was not gathered nor processed in a scientifically kosher manner, so to speak, it does represent the honing of more than 500 people's diverse responses and methods of coping with mourning from a grass-roots perspective which I think is something to pay close attention to for several reasons.
First, this compilation serves as a meaningful springboard for the further research clearly needed in these times as the majority of the population (aka the "Baby Boomers") comes face to face with the aftermath of natural and expected death, to say nothing about the growing numbers of suicides and senseless homicides rampant in our tumultuous society.
Secondly, the need for empathic and informed counseling regarding this facet of life is increasing. However, no one in this field can be expected to be able to relate to each client's unique presentation around response to death in a way that speaks to him or her in a meaningful way. From Eulogy To Joy bridges that gap by providing firsthand accounts that broaden a mental health practitioner's understanding of the plethora and complexity of responses to this universal experience, as well as being a good book to recommend to colleagues and clients.
Finally, from both a clinical and research orientation, the documentation is significant not only by revelation, but also by quantity and omission. Some of the chapters are lengthy; others are short. Openly exploring human reaction to death and the ramifications thereof has only recently surfaced in this life arena that was formerly not "talked about".
The shorter chapters provide a clue as to the aspects of deathing that most people are somewhat reticent to share with others, or even look at themselves. For example, people seem to be most hesitant to share their feelings after someone they hated or were intensely angry with died. Kudos to those who were courageous enough to do so, for they have broken through a barrier most people are not yet willing or perhaps permitted to confront. More glaring are the aspects that not one person among the hundreds of submissions wrote about, the foremost being money and wills and the resultant struggles and emotional upheavals which ensue following death. Clearly, talking about the psychological ramifications of inheritance is but one deeply held residual taboo that demands attention during the future course of deathing work.
From Eulogy To Joy, from its inception, has been a cooperative venture. Your participation, personal or professional, is now an intrinsic part of a process that can only enhance all of our lives.