Grief Works by Julia Samuel is the third book we are discussing in the Big Conversations Book Club.
When I chose to read Grief Works as part of the huunuu book club I was unsure as to how I might respond to the book. It had brilliant reviews but ultimately, I worried that the very real stories about death could drive me away.
Oh, how wrong I was! Julia Samuel writes in a way that is so engaging: I was hooked from the beginning. There is a fabulous balance between engaging stories, reflections and advice.
You read about people’s real-life stories, and how they respond to, and deal with grief alongside the life that continues within and around them. The style of writing meant I was so involved in the stories I couldn’t put the book down and was disappointed when each short story ended.
For brief moments I was so drawn in that I forgot they were real-life events. Then it would hit me hard that not only were the stories real, but they were also about some of the most difficult things that can happen in life: the death of a parent, sibling, child or facing our mortality.
One of the things I found great about the book is that the reflections are separate from the stories. Julia Samuel allows you to become part of the story: to be there, empathise and start to reflect for yourself and then she introduces her professional reflections.
Don’t get me wrong, the reflections are important. They enable you to revisit the story and see it in a helpful light, surrounded by facts, data and professional viewpoints affirming some of the thoughts you had or teaching you how people deal with grief in many different ways.
There is a depth to the stories I did not expect. Julia Samuels doesn’t just write about other people; you get a glimpse of her story alongside theirs. Her candour shines through as she writes about her worries, and how the stories impact her life.
You learn along the way that not only are there different relationships you can grieve for, but there are also many different ways to grieve and no way is correct. This is the perfect book to provide a level of understanding that often we do not have about the grieving process.
The last chapter, ‘How friends and family can help’ was the most beneficial for me. After reading all the stories and reflections I thought about how I could use this information in my own life. If I would be able to remember the themes and if need be, ‘live up’ to the teachings. But Julia has that covered in the last chapter. This will be a book I will refer to over the years I imagine.
Although not all the stories have happy endings, and they wouldn’t be in here if they were about happy events, there is a sense of growth within each story as you learn how people begin to move forward with their lives. Ultimately it is incredibly inspiring to read how people survive grief, it is always there but you can grow around it.
I now have a greater understanding of death, grief and survival. I highly recommend you read this book; it has a real impact!
1. Do you feel the same way at the beginning of the book as you do at the end? What’s changed?
2. Did this book remind you of anything else you have read? How does it compare?
3. Did you empathise with or relate to any particular person in the book? Why?
4. Is there anything further you would want to investigate/research/act on after reading this book?
5. Were there any particular passages or lines from the book that were especially compelling?
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