This Thing Called Grief (Thomas M. Ellis)

Thomas Ellis’s book This Thing Called Grief is a wonderful and digestible book on grief. At only 132 pages, you can get through it in a day if you are inclined.

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Ellis is a licensed marriage and family therapist, and the former clinical supervisor and executive director for the Center for Grief, Loss and Transition (St. Paul, MN).  The book contains simple and straightforward advice about the grief experience. Topics covered include:

  • inherited grief,
  • the five dimensions of grief,
  • how to observe grief and your responses,
  • the taboo nature of grief and death,
  • Family (and friendship) changes in the wake of grief,
  •  holidays and celebrations,
  • self-care plans, and
  • when to worry about depression.

I found the book incredibly helpful. Ellis affirms that grievers are not going crazy and puts our messy emotional experiences in order.  Ellis stresses self-awareness throughout the grief process and affirms the difficulty our culture has in accepting our grief experiences. Grief changes our world and Ellis reassures us that this is normal and unfortunately expected.

Ellis’ approach to self-care is practical and doable. SELF CARE  stands for

Simplify and seek support

Establish a place of sanctuary

Let go and embrace a sense of hope

Feel your feelings

Challenge yourself and celebrate with play and humor

Ask for help and acknowledge your reality

Rest and relax

Exercise and eat well.

He suggests grievers make a list of 5 people who are helpful to them and 5 activities that grievers enjoy  (things you can engage in when you need a mood boost). These suggestions are simple but they make a difference in moments of overwhelm.

The overall messages I took from Ellis’ book are:

  1. You can’t go through grief alone, so seek support from good people.
  2. Self-care is incredibly important to the grief process.

I highly recommend This Thing Called Grief.

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Updated: May 1, 2020.

Published by ancarroll

Alexandra N. Carroll is an author, grief advocate, crafter, mother, and partner. She writes on grief and self-care from her home in Vermont. Her forthcoming book concerns how to untangle life-after-loss through the creation of a strong self-care plan.

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