GRIPPED BY LOSS

Hello,
I am an avid reader, and believe in the power of books--there have been many books that have changed my life. I am overjoyed to find this website!

My ailment is overwhelming grief--loss that pervades my life.

My mom is in her last days of life following a lengthy battle with pancreatic cancer. We have been very close and I am finding it very difficult to cope. The idea of life without her is unbearable. Our book club chose "The End of Your LIfe Book Club" by Will Schwalbe, but I haven't been able to pick it up. It almost seems too close to my experience as the writer's mother also died from pancreatic cancer. The other point of grief is infertility. My husband and I tried for years to conceive through fertility clinics and otherwise.After giving up, at 40 I found myself pregnant, but miscarried. I was not able to get pregnant again. In the meantime, we put in an application for an international adoption but the same month we were accepted, my  husband was diagnoses with lymphoma, so we were disqualified. I have not really found any books that adequately deal
with infertility--the day to day, generation to generation pain of this loss.

Any suggestions?
 Gripped by Loss
Dear Gripped by Loss,
Firstly, thanks for writing to us - you have clearly been through the mill on so many levels, and we are thrilled you have found solace and comfort in books, and still have the resilience and positivity to look for new ways to face the world, through reading. There are so many ways here that you are being emotionally eroded, that it is difficult to give you the one book to read, so we will give you several. One book that we have found gives solace in the face of mortality, is The Red Tent by Anita Diamant. It is set in the time of Jacob of Israel, and the heroine of the novel is Dinah, the sister of Joseph, Benjamin et al, the 12 sons of Jacob. In the bible, Dinah is virtually unnoticed, apart from being raped and avenged by her brothers. In Diamant's version of events however, Dinah falls in love with Shalem, prince of Schechem, there is no rape, but her brothers still slit the throats of all the men of his family, using the union as an excuse to further their own power. However, the reason we feel this is a healing and positive book, is that there is a sense of the continuing cycle of life, from birth, to menstruation, to the agonies, joys and disappointments of childbearing years, to menopause and death. IIn the last third of this novel, Dinah becomes a midwife, so there is a focus on childbirth and all its terrors and agonies. As this is something you are understandably preoccupied by, you will find it powerful on many levels, helping you to think about where you want to take your thoughts on children now. It may be able to help you think of other ways of being with children, if adoption is not going to work out. We agree that infertility is a state little dealt with in fiction. A recent novel that tackles infertility using a fairy tale form to explore the idea more deeply, is The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey. This beautiful book set in Alaska describes the plight of a couple who have always wanted children, but never been able to have them. As a result they have moved away from their own families, to live on a remote farm. One day they playfully build a snow child in their back garden. The next morning, the snow child has disappeared, with footsteps coming from it, leading into the woods.Thence begins a magical but strange story of possible love, and possible heartbreak. You will relate on many levels to the yearnings and sadness of the couple, and you will enjoy the development of the story from everyday sadness, to mystery, to practicalities. This is not a book that gives a fairy godmother wish to a sad person, but one that tackles the pain of childlessness with bravery. 
On a more upbeat note, we urge you to read The Guide by R K Narayan. This lovely, fable-like book describes the life of a young man in fictional Malgudi in South India, who begins life working as a tourist guide. His life-journey takes him through a series of jobs, from managing a dancer who he loves, to working on trains, to being put in prison, to coming out and finding himself as a very different kind of guide. This novel will take you out of your worries about yourself, and help you to find an inner strength and self-belief that will give you the courage and conviction to carry on.
Thinking of you seeing your mother facing mortality, we suggest you read a lovely book about an 83 year old woman who may be in her own final days - Etta and Otto and Russell and James. This recently published novel describes Etta,who one morning decides that she must see the sea, even though it is 2000 miles away. She packs a rucksack, slings a gun over her shoulder, and off she goes, leaving her husband a fine selection of recipes to keep him going in her absence. This intriguing, surreal but warm and human book shows you a life lived richly and happily, but one in which dying is not something to be feared.
We wish you all the best with your next few weeks, as you see your mother through her final days, and help your husband with his diagnosis. 
Ella and Suse
We prescribe - The Red Tent by Anita Diamant
The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey
The Guide by R K Narayan
Etta and Otto and Russell and James by Emma Hooper

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A SLUG WITH VISIONS OF HUMANITYABUSIVE RELATIONSHIP ENDED, LEAVING SCARSADULT ACNEAFRAID OF FAILUREALCOHOLIC DAUGHTERALONE ON A WIDE, WIDE SEAAlways wanted to be a writerANOREXICANXIOUS ABOUT SINGLE FRIENDAT A FORK IN THE ROADAVID READER, LACKING BOOKBEREFT OF A CATBORED IN ALABAMABOTHERED AND BEWILDEREDBRAIN SHRINKING MOMMABROKENBROKEN HEARTBROKEN HEARTED - TORN BETWEEN MALE AND FEMALE BEST FRIENDSBROKEN UP WITH GIRLFRIEND; FEELING BURNT OUTCAN’T MOVE ONCANDIDA REVOLTAIRECan’t afford to go on holidayCAST ASIDECHEATEDCHRONIC PAINCOLD HANDS AND FEETCONCERNED ABOUT DAUGHTERCONFLICTED PARTNERSCRAVING FOOD CULTURECYNICAL STEPSONDAILY ABUSEDARK NIGHT OF THE SOULDEPRESSED AND UNABLE TO READDEPRESSED DURING CHRISTMAS, AND LONELY NOWDESPERATELY WANTON GIRLDIRECTIONLESSEASILY BORED WITH NOVELSEMOTIONALLY SABOTAGED BY MY MOTHEREMOTIONS IN EXTREMEEVER THE FRIEND AND NOT THE PARTNEREXTREME ANGER AND FRUSTRATIONFADING AWAYFALLEN OUT WITH MY FRIENDSFALLING IN LOVE WAY TOO FASTFAZED AND CONFLICTEDFEAR OF CONFRONTATIONFEAR OF GETTING OLDFERTILITY PROBLEMSFOMO (FEAR OF MISSING OUT)FORGING A BRIGHT NEW FUTUREFRIEND WHO HAS LOST A CHILD LATE IN PREGNANCYFRIENDS DAUGHTER LOST TO SUICIDEFrightened of lifeGAPING HOLEGetting over a break-upGIRL OF UNCERTAINTY, BOUND BY RULESGIRL WHO DOESN’T FIT INGRIPPED BY LOSSGUILTY FRIENDHOPELESSNESSHOUSE AND LIBRARY DESTROYED BY FIREI love music more than booksI no longer commute – and therefore I no longer readI PEEK AT THE END OF NOVELS BECAUSE I WORRY THE CHARACTER MIGHT NOT MAKE ITI wish I were famousIN MOURNING OVER LITERARY DEATHSINABILITY TO SIT STILL AND ANXIETYINCONSISTENT AND NON-STUDIOUS- BUT AMBITIOUS NONETHELESSINDECISIVEINSECUREINTERESTED IN EVERYTHING BUT ACHIEVING NOTHINGINVISIBLE WOMANITALIAN NOVEL CURESJILTED AND UNSUREJOB IN LIBRARY UNDER THREATKICKED IN THE HEADLEADENLIVING ON THE MARGINSLONE RANGERLONELY AND DEJECTEDLONELY IN LOVELONELY IN MONOTONOUS JOB, LOSING SANITYLOOKING FOR A SENSE OF PURPOSELOOKING FORWARDSLOSS OF A SISTERLOSTLOW WATTAGELOW-ENERGY PESSIMISMMAD SCIENTISTMARRIED TO A MAN, ATTRACTED TO WOMENMISSED THE BOATMISSING MY MOTHER-IN-LAWMUM GOING BACK TO WORKNEED TO LET GONEW CITY, NEW LIFE -BOOKS FOR 12 YEAR OLD BOY?NEW FRIENDSHIP WITH HOLOCAUST SURVIVORNIGHTMARISH COLLEAGUENOMADIC FLANEURPOST NATAL DEPRESSIONPREGNANT AND ALONE