Outside my office window, the Ontario winter wind blows and sends the snow every which way. As I stare out, I realize I feel as deregulated as the wind. I’m not well again. I tell myself it is appropriate to feel this way; it has after all been a long week. But though I take a small amount of comfort from this internal reassurance, I know the tears that I shed as I blankly gaze at the wonder of nature, are more than simply the result of exhaustion. I am dealing with the feathery touch of a subtle grief. My grief is not the punch in the gut, sudden shock grief of a sudden lose. Mine is the grief that comes from watching a loved one nearing the end of their journey here on earth. I have faced this situation now for over a year; and I am fragile. So it was timely that I had the opportunity to review Allen Klein’s EBook; Learning to Laugh When You Feel Like Crying: Embracing Life After Loss, since I am presently working my way through a grieving process.
Mr Klein has experience dealing with grief. He is the former director of the Life-Death Transition Institute in San Francisco. Likewise, Mr. Klein has written over a dozen books dealing with the issues of grief and its effects on those who are living through it. He is highly acclaimed in both public speaking and Therapeutic Humour. Finally, Mr Klein has been a hospice volunteer and has struggled through the grieving process himself. In fact the book evolved from his own lived experience through the death of his wife. With this knowledge, I felt confident that Mr Klein would have something to offer me in my own time of grief, and I was not disappointed.
I love quotes, especially when my mind is racing and I find it hard to think straight. I find that when I am dealing with shock, my mind does race and I cannot focus on long verbatim or academic rhetoric. Therefore, I was glad to see that Learning to Laugh when You Feel like Crying: Embracing Life after Loss used quotes as its navigational tool.
Each chapter in Mr Klein’s EBook is introduced through a quote; such as, the chapter Triumphing Over Tragedy’s. This chapter begins with a quote by the American poet, John Vance Cheney, “The soul would have no rainbow had the eyes no tears.” These short poignant sayings allow the reader to form their own first impressions, and then the author backs up the quote with the point he would like the reader to realize. The result is simple, direct, and easy for the grieving reader to comprehend.
Some of the points made by Mr. Klein in Learning to Laugh When You Feel Like Crying: ... are familiar to me since I have past experience with grief. These familiar points are fundamental to the process we all go through as we grieve a loss. I can remember when I first heard the ideas; such as, others ask that fateful question ‘why me?’, or the realization that endings are actually new beginnings, and finally the importance of forgiving yourself and others. When I first heard these fundamental points I took comfort in the knowledge that someone else understood me. I felt connected to someone else and therefore not alone in my grief.
I think that connection between people is easily forgotten when anyone is dealing with a powerful emotion. They feel like no one has been through this, that they are alone and different. The result from this notion is a deeply rooted feeling of isolation and loneliness. I suppose it is true that no one wants to be miserable in isolation; they need company to remind them that there is more outside of themselves. The points that Mr. Klein discusses in the EBook allow that connection to be made. Then Mr. Klein turns to deeper lines of reasoning.
Personally, there was one particular point which Mr. Klein made which left a lasting impression on me. He ascertained, “Your loss is a milestone that has made a major impact on your life. It has ended a world you once knew. But, at the same time, it has created new opportunities and an opening for the beginning of a yet to be discovered world.” I have come to trust hindsight and I believe that this statement addresses just that. Though we cry at present, though we are angry and confused, though are heart breaks so; if we can just hang on, in time we will see how a new world began when the old loved world--which revolved around the one we loved--passed with them. This enlightenment cannot be forced, it has its own agenda and we must wait patiently. Mr. Klein encourages us to trust that we will see the result; and while we grapple with the wait, possibly turn to humour to lighten our burden.
Be clear, Learning to Laugh When You Feel like Crying is not intended to be a heavy cerebral work. It is written in an easy style perfect for anyone, even for someone who is struggling with concentration due to their heart ache. It teaches you about what grief is and speaks to your heart, to your emotions, to encourage a shift in your attitude even if it is only for the briefest of moments.
Do not be mistaken, Mr. Klein is not telling the reader that grief is something we must avoid at any cost. That we should rush through the emotional roller coaster that seems to be a part of the process. Rather, he is asking us to use humour as a way to realize even a few seconds of relief from the depths of grief. To allow ourselves a brief break from the emotions that can overwhelm us. The purpose is multifaceted. Firstly, to find space to learn from what we are going through. Secondly, is to feel a bit of recovery from our pain. Thirdly, humour boasts hope, and hope is important.
I do have one concern and it is not with the author or the content of Learning to Laugh When You Feel Like Crying: Embracing Life After Loss, it is with the editor. I am not a grammatical genius by any standard, but when I read an item that has been professionally edited, I expect a piece without grammatical errors. This is not the case with Learning to Laugh When You Feel Like Crying: ...; and I found it a distraction. With that said, I would recommend this book to anyone who is struggling through the grieving process.