How does one make sense of the most unnatural thing possible? The pain of some tragedies is ineffable. Words offer little solace to those who have lost a child (or other loved ones traumatically, suddenly). Dr. Joanne Cacciatore’s “Bearing the Unbearable: Love, Loss, and the Heartbreaking Path of Grief“ is one of those rare books that is simultaneously heartwrenching and uplifting. Reading the stories of the unbearable losses that Dr. Cacciatorre and others have traversed – their struggles, their understandings, and the rituals that they have had to create – will provide a map to navigate this mysterious thing called “grief” and ultimately help readers cope as they bear the truly unbearable.
The way the concept of mortality breaches human consciousness is fascinating. Often in childhood or adolescence an older relative dies and a child has to understand that he or she will never interact with that person again. And then at some point the child realizes his or her own finitude and gains a new perspective of life. There is no escaping it: mortality touches us all.
In “Bearing the Unbearable: Love, Loss, and the Heartbreaking Path of Grief,” Dr. Cacciatore masterfully weaves together narratives of traumatic loss, deeply intimate spaces of authentic human emotion, and scientific data. This book is a radically transformational invitation to experience grief based on more than two decades of research – namely, Dr. Cacciatore’s personal trauma of her daughter’s death, her work as a grief counselor, and her research in the field as a tenured university professor.
Constant headlines in conjunction to our busyness numb many of us to the thousands and thousands of people who perish each day. In fact, most of us are surprised when death gets closer and closer.
Grief is even more elusive.
The process of grief is fraught with fear, denial, and dysfunction that are internalized and then passed down from one generation to the next. Many people are seduced by what Dr. Cacciatore calls the “happiness-cult:” in order to maintain the façade of being persistently happy, we must disconnect from important parts of ourselves, parts of us that offer the potential to become more fully human. These parts are often related to experiences of grief and trauma, particularly prevalent in a culture that fails to provide space for humans to feel deeply. As Dr. Cacciatore says, “I don’t help people feel good. I help people feel.“ And through this feeling comes whatever healing that may occur.
“Bearing the Unbearable: Love, Loss, and the Heartbreaking Path of Grief” offers practical guidance on coping with profound and life-changing grief. Dr. Cacciatore provides a framework within which we can approach and create spaces to be with our grief. In a world that often pressures people to “move on,” and that promotes distractions such as entertainment, drugs and alcohol, sex, and even spiritual practice as bypass, Dr. Cacciatore helps us awaken to that sacred place within our hearts that embraces our losses rather than pushes them away. She teaches us how to have a relationship, albeit changed and not the one we expected, with loved ones with whom we can no longer interact.
There are few books that so accurately portray the reality of grief in modern life. There are even fewer books that capture this reality with such honesty and elegiac grace. “Bearing the Unbearable: Love, Loss, and the Heartbreaking Path of Grief“ is destined to be a classic not merely because of its rarely explored topic. Rather, this book draws us into knowing ourselves more deeply, offering us deep breaths of wisdom borne of suffering and guidance borne of love and connection. This is the best book I have ever read on the process of grief.