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Book Review: The Grief Survival Handbook: A Guide from Heartache to Healing by D. Keith Cobb M.D.

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Physicians are familiar with grief. They have learned to accept, better than most of us perhaps, that death, loss, and heartache are a natural and inevitable part of life.

But for people who are suffering from their first major loss, it feels anything but natural. They may feel as if they’re going crazy. They can’t eat, can’t sleep, and can’t imagine that life will ever be worth living again. They have wild mood swings — bouts of rage and then plunges into loneliness and depression. They are often gripped with fear that the pain will never go away.

Grief counselor and internal medicine physician D. Keith Cobb, M.D., who has had more contact with death and grieving than most people, wants to help survivors understand more about how they’re feeling and what they can do to help themselves heal. Based on his own experiences and those of patients and families he’s worked with, Dr. Cobb has written a short, sensitive new book for people who are going through the painful grieving process following a major loss.

In The Grief Survival Handbook: A Guide from Heartache to Healing (Trafford Publishing), Dr. Cobb offers keen observations, useful strategies, and targeted recommendations to help grievers move through a healing process that feels right for them. He devotes a succinct chapter to each of several topics that are universally difficult, including the death of an adult child, the pain of miscarriage, the grieving child, losing a spouse, and even the grief we suffer from having our heart broken in love.

People grieve in very different ways, says Dr. Cobb. For some people, grieving can take a serious toll on their physical and emotional health. He covers the chemistry of grief — the very real ways grief puts stress on your body, leading to such symptoms as fatigue, lowered immunity, and chest pains. Dr. Cobb reassures readers that these and many other seemingly unrelated symptoms are all quite typical.

He also devotes an important chapter to the subject of depression, answering such frequently asked questions as: “Will it ever go away?” and “Should I be on antidepressants?” The doctor offers helpful guidance here. Under certain circumstances, he says a short course of antidepressants can actually be helpful.

Another common question people ask him is, “Is it normal for me to still feel so much pain after all this time?” The pain of loss never completely goes away, says Dr. Cobb, and the length of time people are in extreme pain varies. But his big message is that it will get better. And you will feel happy again, despite the way you feel right now.

In the final chapters of this little gem of a book, Dr. Cobb draws on the wisdom of several major thought leaders in the field of grief and loss, summarizing their insights and gentle guidance for people in the grips of grieving. Some people, he says, find it helpful to know about the phases of grief they might expect, as well as the classic responses to grief that have been well studied and analyzed by grief experts.

Dr. Cobb ends the book on a hopeful note, offering ways for grievers to better understand what they are feeling so they can eventually move on. There are many profound lessons one can learn after the loss of a loved one. He helps readers see this painful phase of their life as an opportunity to learn, to feel, to choose life once again, to move on, and to be grateful.

Because of its brevity and the many sides of grief it explores, The Grief Survival Handbook would be a good book to buy for anyone who is has just suffered from a major loss, someone who is aching for relief and searching for words of wisdom that might help, but doesn’t want to be overwhelmed with advice.

 

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About Patricia Gale

Patricia Gale has written and ghostwritten hundreds of blogs and articles that have appeared on sites such as Psychology Today, Forbes, and Huffington Post, and in countless national newspapers and magazines. Her "beat" is health, business, career, self-help, parenting, and relationships.