This book combines the personal story of the author’s coping with his mother’s death with the teachings of Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik. He organizes the book around the five letters of the word shiva (seven) to represent the key issues which he explores: surrender, hope, ire, valor, and acceptance. The author also selected “accept” as a mnemonic for acknowledges, conceding, connecting, embracing, placing, and teaching as part of the “acceptance of the pain of loss.”
He echoes many of the common questions that all people who have suffered a loss ask and provides the reader with many of the standard historical answers. The book also includes a nine page section with helpful suggestions in a common area of confusion—how to pay a proper call during shiva (the seven day period of mourning). In the book, the author hears and talks to his mother. This provides much of the narrative story line. Whether those conversations were the author’s actual perceptions or just a literary device is unclear, but it does provide a relatively smooth technique to introduce questions and situations and provide answers and insights. The author practices grief and bereavement counseling in Long Island as a PhD clinical psychologist, and he is a teacher at New York University and fellow at Harvard Medical School. His previous book on “Angel Letters: Lessons that Dying Can Teach Us About Living” was published in 2007.
This review originally appeared in the AJL newsletter (December 2012).