Death and grief are not subjects that readers are eager to read about, and as Leslee Tessmann writes in Sacred Grief these are topics most people avoid at all costs. She acknowledges that she was the same way, and for years she saw grieving as something one had to do “…  and by no means was it a choice or entered into willingly.”

The book is as much memoir as it is self-help and the first chapter relates all of the author’s experiences with loss and how she finally came to the concept of “Sacred Grief.” It is well written with engaging language, but quite a bit of the information was already stated in the Introduction.

That tendency to repeat information and concepts was the one flaw I found in the book. For instance she writes it the ninth chapter about how, when we are in the deep pain of grief, we instinctively want someone to share that pain with us. It is too big and too strong to bear alone. She makes that point concisely by writing, “When we are in our own pain, sadness and grief, the one thing all human being desire, whether we are willing to admit it or not, is to have someone share it with us. We don’t want them to fix of change things: we just don’t want to be alone.”

Too bad she couldn’t have let that statement stand alone without having to restate it several other ways in the next few paragraphs before getting to the point that we need to be the kind of friend or relative who just listens to one who is grieving. Forget the platitudes and all the other well-meaning things we are apt to say because it hurts us to see someone else in pain.

Despite this tendency to belabor points and repeat information, this is a book well worth reading for discovering how we can be emotionally healthier by treating our grief as sacred. By that, the author means that we should honor the grief we feel at the loss of a loved one. She also points out the differences between the Eastern and Western approaches to grief, and how Westerners could benefit by seeing grief “as a healing energy full of just as much love, joy and honor as pain and suffering.”

Tessmann believes that our relationship with grief begins with how we choose to define it. If we define it as sacred, then our relationship to it will be different than when we define it as painful, hard, impossible, or all the other standard attributes. She writes that having a sacred context to grief allows us to experience the ebb and flow of grief as an essential life process.

Other helpful information includes some of the myths about grief that often determine how we react. One of the major ones is the belief that at a certain point we should be finished with the grief. Years after a major loss we may be suddenly overcome with sadness and if we let the myth dictate, we would banish the sadness. If we let “sacred” dictate, we will acknowledge the sadness, embrace it for a time, then let it go.

Leslee Tessmann lectures and teaches workshops on the concepts explored in her book, as well as on spirituality, communication and recovery issues. Her college education focused on psychology and sociology and fueled her intrigue with the complexities of the human brain and mind.

“Sacred Grief: Exploring a New Dimension to Grief”

ISBN 9781932690538

Loving Healing Press, 2008 can be purchased through local or online bookstores.

For more information, visit

Maryann Miller — Maryann’s Website

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