How We Grieve: Relearning the World / Edition 1

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What do we do when a friend, relative, or loved one dies? If we wish to understand loss experience, we must learn details of survivors' stories. In How We Grieve, Thomas Attig tells real-life tales to illustrate the poignant disruption of life and suffering that loss entails. He shows how through grieving we meet daunting challenges, make critical choices, and reshape our lives. These intimate treatments of coping hold valuable lessons that address the needs of grieving people and those who hope to support and comfort them. The accounts promote understanding of grief itself, encourage respect for individuality and the uniqueness of loss experiences, show how to deal with helplessness in the face of "choiceless" events, and offers much priceless guidance for caregivers. Grieving is not a process of passively living through stages. Nor is it a clinical problem to be solved or managed by others. How We Grieve shows that grieving is an active, coping process of relearning how to be and act in a world where loss transforms the fabric of our lives. Loss challenges us to relearn things and places; relationships with others, including fellow survivors, the deceased, and even God; and most of all ourselves, including our daily life patterns and the meanings of our own life stories.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"If one is looking for a book on grief and grieving based on lived experiences rather than more remote psychosocial theories, then Thomas Attig's How We Grieve is the resource to read. Although it is not a brand new book (first published in 1996), in this reviewer's opinion no book published in the last four years comes close to the power of Attig's contribution to understanding the grief process. Attig, a former philosophy professor and past president of the Association for Death Education and Counseling, uses the power of story to unlock the mystery of the human experience of life and death, and produces a rich treasure of intensely human stories of coping with loss due to death. This book has substance, theory and organization, and is highly readable—packed with the everyday drama of life and death. It is an immensely useful and provocative, sensitive and human, inspiring and engaging book."—America

"In this richly rewarding book, Attig, a philosopher who has written and taught extensively about death, bereavement, grief, and grieving, presents his reflections on the grieving process. . . . The author writes in a graceful prose style that is often powerfully metaphorical, but that is nevertheless clear and straightforward. Insightful and enlightening. Highly recommended."—Choice

"Attig, through the use of vignettes, takes the reader along on a number of pilgrimages toward resolution; journeys whose starting points may appear to be the same but are, in fact, dissimilar. The need of the person in grief to relearn her/his world (grief resolution) is discussed along with the importance of understanding how this pilgrimage to resolution significantly changes the traveler as well as the way future journeys will be experienced. This book is a must read for anyone who is involved in providing support for individuals in grief."—David K. Meagher, Editor, The Thanatology Newsletter

"How We Grieve is a valuable resource in death education courses and workshops, as well as for those who want one good book on death and dying....(It may become a valued handbook for caregivers in hospice, hospitals, and nursing homes." —Death Studies

"Attig has written a groundbreaking book, one that may prove to be a cornerstone in a revised theory of grief and its place in human life....I would recommend it to all those who have suffered a loss, as well as those therapists and counselors who attempt to help them." —Robert A. Neimeyer, President, Association for Death Education and Counseling

"[Attig] rejects the grief stages and phases offered by Kubler-Ross, Engels, Lindemann, Bowlby, and the medical profession as static and too automatic. Instead he considers grief to be an individualized process. . . [that] should help the survivor make the transition from loving someone in the present to 'loving them in their absence.' This book should prove useful for counselors, survivors, and caregivers alike."—Readings

"Attig's How We Grieve: Relearning the World . . . is written in the 'inspirational we' model, with an emphasis on stories as the vehicle for illustrating psychological messages. Attig directly challenges the imagery of 'tasks' and 'stages,' the former associated with J. William Worden's theories . . . Unfortunately, it is difficult to write and 'inspirational' book when the message is that 'mourning never ends' and that, although people will eventually feel better, relearn the world, and form new relationships, this process does not leave them in a state of 'light, warmth, and peace.' On the other hand, Attig insists that an 'active' stance—grieving understood as something we do rather than a fate that befalls us—is a key to enduring it."—Religious Studies Review

Doody's Review Service
Reviewer: Michael S. Goldsby, PhD, CCRP (Family Psychiatry of The Woodlands)
Description: This revised edition further explores the complexity of human response to loss, and expands on earlier concepts, theories, and ideas of how we grieve. The author goes beyond the mainstream theories of loss and grief and explores new avenues of scholarly thought, using real-life stories of the grief response to challenge commonly held ideas on the grieving process.
Purpose: The book offers insight and understanding about what it is to grieve the loss of a loved one and, through the personal stories of family members and friends who are have experienced a loss, how they manage to relearn their place and meaning in the world in the absence of the deceased.
Audience: It is intended for readers with theoretical and professional interests in bereavement and grieving, including counselors, clergy members, those who work in hospice or similar settings, survivors, and caregivers. Graduate students in counseling and clinical psychology will find the stories of human grief and profound loss to be insightful and pertinent to understanding how we grieve.
Features: The response to the first edition was overwhelmingly positive, as scholars acknowledged its originality, some in academia used it as a textbook, and graduate students gleaned useful material from it for their dissertations and theses. Counselors and others used it to guide their helping efforts, and many grieving persons found comfort in it. This edition offers the same unparalleled depth, adding material where new findings and acquired knowledge merit discussion. It also features an extended introductory essay about developments in the author's thinking about grieving as "relearning the world," as well as an updated review of the most salient scholarly thinking and current writings in the field. Chapter topics include stories of grieving which provide a personal and identifiable touch, respecting individuals as they grieve, relearning the world and themselves, and relearning relationships with the deceased through grief, love, and separation.
Assessment: Based on a lifetime of experience in the field of death education and counseling, the author moves far beyond the roots laid down in his first book to introduce new ideas and perceptions on how people grieve. He adds a profoundly human element to the dialog and writes in an engaging style, which both scholars and lay people will find approachable. I highly recommend this revised edition as the go-to book for those interested in gaining a better understanding of the complexity of thought and emotion inherent in how we grieve.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195074567
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 5/23/1996
  • Edition description: Older Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 224
  • Sales rank: 317,729
  • Product dimensions: 9.19 (w) x 6.13 (h) x 0.66 (d)

Meet the Author

Thomas Attig is 1995-96 President of the Association for Death Education and Counseling. Formerly a professor of philosophy at Bowling Green State University, he has been teaching and writing about death, dying, grief and loss since 1974. He lives in Vancouver, British Columbia.

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Table of Contents

1. Stories of Grieving: Listening and Responding

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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 11, 2001

    Outstanding and helpful book

    This is an outstanding, very helpful book. It is brilliant, wise, and readable. It provides valuable perspectives on how to understand one's own grieving and the grieving of others--the importance of stories in grieving, the ways grief pervades our lives, how grief is a process of relearning the world, how to appreciate individual differences in grieving, and much else (it even helps us to understand why so many of us turn to books for help in dealing with grief).

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 20, 2001

    Great case studies make this book accessible

    Grief is a topic that has been explored only in recent years, with Kubler-Ross getting it all started. Attig brings this topic a step further in discussing not only how we grieve, but in suggesting that in doing so, we must relearn the world. We have lost a loved one and our world has been vastly changed in just a few quick moments. We need to cope, to allow ourselves to grieve, and ultimately to create or 'relearn' a world that can never be the same. The wonderful case studies Attig presents are the most helpful in helping the grieving reader to do this important life task. They tell real stories of real people that we can identify with and relate to. They evoke emotional responses that help us grow and believe we too can relearn our world in the face of grieving. I heartily recommend this book to anyone who is grieving the loss of a beloved relative or friend, or to those who wish to prepare themselves in advance for the inevitable.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 17, 2001

    Relearning the world is the dynamic at the heart of grief.

    What a find this book is! How often we say, when somebody has died, ¿If there is anything I can do¿¿ We¿re sincere, but usually, after we¿ve prepared a casserole, we feel so helpless to do anything more. Then I discovered ¿How We Grieve: Relearning the World.¿ Since then I¿ve been giving it to bereaved friends. They take comfort that others have shared their experiences. They learn the ways that others have begun putting their lives back together. Several have conveyed to me what reading ¿How We Grieve¿ has meant to them. It gave them a sense of being understood and it provided many useful clues to understanding themselves and discovering how to reengage in the joys and burdens life brings. So, in truth, I no longer say, ¿If there is anything I can do.¿ Instead, perhaps three months after the funeral, I write a heart-felt inscription in a copy of ¿How We Grieve¿ and send it to my friend. I commend the practice for the solace and healing it has provided.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 27, 2001

    Relearning Grieving

    Is grief an illness? Are there stages of grief? Does time alone heal all wounds? For Thomas Attig, the answer to all of these questions is NO! Grief is a process by which one relearns his/her world, a world that has been permanently altered by the death(s) of significant persons in one's life. Using the stories of eleven persons, Attig demonstrates the active nature of grieving. For Attig, the stories are the heart of the matter. The reader is introduced into the stories at the point of the loss experiences. Attig takes us through their coping styles as he develops the model of relearning the world, including relearning our selves and our relationships with the deceased. How We Grieve is a very special book. It does not simply restate the stages and phsases of grief so frequently outlined in like texts. Attig presents a different and important approach to the understanding of how one copes with the death of a loved one and why grief occurs. Although Attig's book may be perceived as a resource for the professional caregiver, it can motivate all of us to exsamine the nature of our own relationships and assess our own coping styles and support groups.

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