While researching the effects of adoption during the late 1940s, 50s, and 60, I kept reading that many of the young women who had given up their babies were never able to fully grieve their losses. Some, in fact, had managed to keep their pregnancy a secret from everyone in their lives, including their spouse and children.
The authors of these books generally felt that this failure to acknowledge what had happened had been detrimental, not only to these women’s relationships, but even to their emotional and physical health.
While reading the third such statement, I remembered that I had a book about grief sitting in my TBR (to be read) pile. I actually bought it from the author a couple of years ago, read the first chapter, and put it in my TBR pile. But, for some reason, other books seemed to be more urgent, so I left it sitting there. But I realized that it was time to pull that book out.
No, it had nothing to do with adoption, although it was very relevant. It’s about grief in general, and how we all, at some time or another, need to grieve.
A Review of Bare: The Misplaced Art of Grieving and Dancing
Sandy Oshiro Rosen
BigTree Publishing, Surrey, BC
Available from the publisher as well as Amazon, Kobo, the House of James bookstore, and other sites in paperback and epub.
Easy reading it wasn’t. Partly because I had to think about what I was reading and decide whether or not I agreed with the author’s ideas; and partly because as I was reading, I kept asking myself, “How does this apply to me?”
Every few pages, I wanted to highlight a passage and tell someone else about what I’d just read and what it might mean tor them.
I ended up using small post-it-notes to help me go back to those important passages. As you can see, there were quite a few.
Aside from simply urging everyone to read the book, I’m going to mention 10 key things Sandy brought to my attention in her book:
1. We all have losses at all stages of our lives. Whether a loss occurs when we’re very young or older, we’ll be healthiest if our loss or hurt is acknowledged and not ignored.
2. Our society in general no longer has a period of mourning for death. We no longer wear black or armbands. So we have no clear way to alert people to the fact that we’re still in pain. It’s gotten so bad that we almost expect people who have lost a family member to be back to normal in a week or a month. In reality, it will take much, much longer for most of us to get back to “normal” after a serious loss. In fact, most of us will be forever changed.
3. We often feel we have no one to talk to about our deepest hurts and longings. No one who will listen without judging. No one who will share our grief or perhaps help out in practical ways.
4. We can’t always find the words to explain our grief. Sometimes we just need to mourn in silence or with tears. Having someone who simply sits and cries with us can be a huge help.
5. Many platitudes don’t help. And some are simply wrong. For example, God doesn’t cause bad things to happen to us in order to make us grow stronger. He does, however, help us get through the bad things if we ask him to. And, yes, we can become stronger because of our trials.
6. Unacknowledged/undealt-with grief, whether it’s caused by anything from not feeling loved by a parent or spouse, poor health, the death of a loved one, failure to achieve a dream, or a myriad of other things, can lead to new physical, relational, and emotional problems. Telling ourselves to keep a stiff upper lip can be the worst thing we do to ourselves. But others can do it to us, too. No matter what age we are, it never helps to have someone tell us to “Get over it” or “Big girls/boys don’t cry.”
7. Depending on our personalties and experiences, we may respond to unacknowledged grief by numbing ourselves in one of three ways:
- Positive thinking. Looking at the bright side (e.g. “S/he didn’t suffer long”) might be of value at some point, but not at first, and not in place of grieving.
- Perfection. Controlling everything you can, looking after others, trying to please or care for others out of an unrecognized fear that something bad will happen if you don’t. Might also fear that if you acknowledge your vulnerability or try to look after yourself, things will fall apart and no one will be there to help you, and things will get worse.
- Addictions. Escaping through food, work, alcohol, drugs, extreme sports, sex, etc. These addictions can be socially acceptable or not.
8. Forgiveness is often a key element in grieving. Lack of forgiveness increases the stress and emotional pain we live with and can cause various problems.
9. Involvement in creative efforts such as writing, art, drama, and dance can help. Dance, in particular, because it affects the body as well as the mind and soul. “Dr. Gabor Maté has commented in his lectures on how emotional stress affects the body that children who tell no one about sexual abuse, and then need to repress the emotions related to that abuse, cause long-term physical and emotional harm to themselves. Especially for a child, how can those words begin to express in a safe place? Dance movement therapy is an effective psychotherapeutic strategy based on the belief that mind, body, and soul are inseparable. It has been an effective approach, particularly with children, to begin to release the pain of their grief in nonverbal ways.” P. 59
10. The Christian church has largely lost the practise of group dancing which was very much part of the Jewish culture and of the early church. In fact, dancing has been viewed as a bad thing by some denominations. Perhaps we need to look for ways to dance together.
These key points just scratch the surface of what I learned from reading this book, and I didn’t even mention the many true stories that serve to illustrate the points Sandy makes.
I highly recommend this book to parents, to anyone who works with other people in any way, and to anyone who suspects that you or someone you love might have grief that has never been acknowledged.