On Loss and Living Onward

On Loss and Living Onward Strength

“I had a choice: I could remain cut off from others and become grief’s slave, or I could extend myself toward others and remain grief’s student.” Melissa Dalton-Bradford

It seems that for much of my adult life, I’ve had to make a similar choice. When I face challenges or losses of any kind, I can become a slave to the emotion of that challenge or I can extend myself and be tutored in the experience.

I read a new book by Melissa Dalton-Bradford On Loss and Living Onward at a most symbolic time of my life and season of the year. On Good Friday, two days after doctors removed a carcinoid tumor from my appendix, I opened this book about loss and grief and tried to process my own feelings about the life I imagined would be for me. I completed it the Monday after Easter Sunday. To ponder life and death at such a time is natural. To do so with such a fragile perspective of my own mortality at the same time that we recognized the death and resurrection of the Savior, brought a greater depth to my reading and understanding.

In her first book, Global Mom, Melissa Dalton-Bradford shared her story of the accidental death of her 18-year old son, Parker. On Loss and Living Onward is her second book and a unique departure from the memoir on living as an expatriate family.

Here, the author invites us into her own thought process regarding her grief with a collection of other writers’ words that spoke to her in her own time of mourning alongside her memorial essays that capture powerful examples surrounding her own grief experience.

This is not really a help manual for the grieving or those wanting to know how to mourn with those who mourn, although it does help immensely with that. But it is more of a glimpse into the raw, powerful, even sacred feelings that exist around this portal called death that will take each of us from this world one day and leave those who love us on this side.

Some of those feelings include anger, depression, sorrow and the sense of isolation that death brings.

“Isolation complicated our grief. But it offered us solitude as well.” Melissa Dalton-Bradford

But she takes us through that suffering to understand what she discovered from and while in the middle of it, including an understanding of her own continuing relationship with Parker and with God even as she continues to live.

“(The) sort of muscular confidence in the fact that God is present—and not passively, but passionately and personally—in our lives, banishes fear, limits pain, and enlarges our capacity to receive and radiate joy. It is God’s presence that stimulates divine joy; it is our faith in His presence that sustains such joy.” Melissa Dalton-Bradford

A few of my favorite quotes  that Melissa collected for her own understanding and comfort include:

“THE MOST IMPORTANT things are the hardest things to say.” —Stephen King, Different Seasons

“PAST TEARS ARE present strength.” George  MacDonald, Phantastes 

I believe a depth of feeling should mark most of our life experiences. I have not lost a son, but challenges seem to call my name in a way to show me that I cannot find joy in life without learning to find gratitude, love, faith, hope and knowledge within the very moments of suffering. How appropriate that I began this new chapter of this next health challenge with this new book.

Whether you are suffering a loss in your own life or want to comfort someone who is, this is a book to keep by your bedside during times of mourning. It is not a book to just finish, but like a book of scripture, to taste its verses and thoughts one at a time. The sampling from philosophers, grieving parents, writers, and ministers will bring a heart of understanding to a topic that is so easily misunderstood or mishandled. The author tutors all of us with the thoughts she has collected and the personal narratives she offers in how we might better respond to those who grieve with empathy rather than just sympathy.


Full disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. However, my review is my honest expression and my own opinion. 





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