Though clearly marked as a novel, it is quite clear to readers that author Lolly Winston has experienced the loss of someone close. She has also done her homework.
If you are offended by laughter when people are grieving, you must read GOOD GRIEF. Perhaps through its pages you may learn to be gentler with yourself and others. When the 36 year old main character, Sophie, loses her husband to cancer, she finds the world doesn’t make sense any more. “How could the clocks tick? How could the air conditioner run? How could there be mail in the box? The relentless soldiering on of the world hurt my feelings.”
Stuck in this now absurd world, Sophie finds herself doing absurd things. “I knew I probably shouldn’t have gone to the office in my robe and bunny slippers. But it was a big meeting. I just couldn’t manage getting dressed that morning.”
Suddenly the reader knows that whatever they have done while grieving, it wasn’t at all unusual. There ARE days you can’t get dressed, or get up at all. You sleep with a ski sweater. Buying groceries IS a terrifying prospect. And while people are compassionate and gentle, the bottom line is that they just don’t GET IT. Even if some do, business still has to be run, and life, indeed, goes on.
If you have come through life thus far unscathed by heart wrenching loss, you may read this book and think jeez, when is she going to get over it, already? This will help you be a friend to anyone who has suffered a loss. Grief does seem never ending when it starts – and it doesn’t always start at the time of death.
The author shows through Sophie’s experiences what kind of help is most effective. A good friend who will spend a lot of time listening. Who will also occasionally drag you, kicking and screaming, back into the mainstream for short jaunts. Who will be honest, yet loving.
There is also an example of ‘help’ that is extremely hurtful. Sophie’s mother-in-law has good intentions when she invades the house, and packs up all her son’s things, ripping the ski sweater out of Sophie’s hands. She goes so far as to call Goodwill for a pick up before she leaves. If for no other reason, read the book to see how Sophie handles this. It’s classic.
The thought process by the character at anniversary times may help the reader immensely. If you can mark these dates, and be there for the mourner, much can be gained toward healing. The death anniversary, birthday, holidays, it’s all there in this book. “I wasn’t sure what to pick as a New Years resolution. Not to crawl on the floor at the store any more?”
Eventually, Sophie makes small steps back into a redefined life. Some of these are hysterically funny, at the same time exposing the foibles of decision making under duress.
There are actual, physical tasks to the grief process. Sophie, like most of us, is reluctant to engage. Yet we see the benefits. We see her heal through the process. We see her reach out, help someone else through trauma, and find her helping herself at the same time.
Eventually, Sophie acquires the wisdom for which she is named. Though the reader knows her path will still have some rocks in it, we know she has the skills and determination to make it work.
So read GOOD GRIEF as a very entertaining novel. Read it to assure yourself that grief isn’t easy, that you’re not going crazy. Read it to learn how to be a friend to someone in a difficult time.
Published in 2006, the book is 344 juicy pages long. Go online and key in the author and title (lolly winston good grief). You can learn more about the author, even read a chapter. Then hie thee to a library and check it out.