Earlier this month was the first anniversary of my mom’s death. Ironically, that same day Brian passed along a new book by psychologist Sherry Walling, Touching Two Worlds: A Guide for Finding Hope in the Landscape of Loss.
I thought I knew everything about mourning. My mom and our family’s beloved dog each suffered long bouts of cancer, dying just three months apart. As a meditation teacher, I focused on savoring the present moment with my loved ones, which helped mitigate anticipatory grief. And after each death, I was careful to allow myself space to cycle through the stages of grief.
By the end of last summer, I thought I had made peace with the losses. But, as Dr. Walling describes in her raw, personal book about losing her father and brother in rapid succession, that first anniversary can hit you like a semi-truck. I suddenly realized I’d been adrift on an undercurrent of sadness for an entire year.
The landscape of loss is much more vast and unpredictable than I realized.
Grief isn’t just about death: it’s about everyday loss. As the sandwich generation, where we usher our children and parents through major life transitions simultaneously, we know the feeling well. Those who lead full lives, as Dr. Walling points out, are inevitably vulnerable to heartbreak.
The more touch-points you have with the world around you, the higher the likelihood that you will encounter grief. The more you hope for, the more you stand to lose.
The signs of grief are easy to spot, from sleeping too much or not enough, low energy, and difficulties focusing to volatile moods, anxiety, depression, and numbing behaviors (excessive eating, drinking, or shopping). But getting help coping can be challenging. The CDC has suggestions, and I highly recommend Dr. Walling’s book to help you make peace with grief.
Mourning Has Broken
Unlike other “self-help” books, Touching Two Worlds is about how loss shaped Dr. Walling personally. As she notes, it’s a “sad book.” But it’s also a beautifully instructive work from a clinical psychologist who has helped scores of people navigate trauma and loss.
Throughout the book, Dr. Walling encourages us to “take a moment…” and shares strategies to support processing and healing, including:
- Writing a timeline of your grief
- Doing cognitive exercises to recover from trauma
- Learning how to care for grieving people (including yourself)
- Identifying triggers
- Writing a letter to the one you lost
- Expanding your perspective to make space for joy and sadness to coexist
While loss is painful, it’s also a fact of life. So, you might as well accept grief as the guide that leads you through the landscape of loss to the other side where new beginnings live.
Touching Two Worlds: A Guide for Finding Hope in the Landscape of Loss by Sherry Walling, PhD (Amazon)