Sometimes I think I’m not going to read any more books on the subject of grief, but then one catches my eye. I don’t know how I found A Grief UnVeiled: Fifteen Years Later, but I’m glad that I did.
The nightmare of loss that the Floyd’s lived through involved the loss of a 6 year old son named Johnny, who was hit by a car outside their home. I won’t tell that story, because it is a central part of the book and one that I cannot tell with the personal perspective that Gregory Floyd does.
Grief is as unique as the individual grieving. Apart from the act of dying itself, I think it is the most solitary journey one ever makes. ~Gregory Floyd
I think there are some things that set this book apart from many of the other books on grief that I have read.
The Floyds are a Catholic family that has their faith centered in a strong position throughout their experience. That is not to say that this event did not cause them to look intently at their faith, but they hang on to their faith. If you are of the Catholic faith, I think you will resonate with several themes explored here. As a non-Catholic, I found the emphasis on faith and trust in the ever-present God to be of great interest in this book.
God permitted the accident to happen for reasons only he knows. He loved Johnny’s life on earth and he loves his life in heaven.
A few years after Johnny died, a friend sent me a quote by then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, which hangs above my desk to this day: We know that the souls of those who have died are alive in the resurrected body of the Lord. The Lord’s Body shelters and carries them toward the common resurrection. In this Body, which we are permitted to receive in Holy Communion, we remain close to one another, and we touch each other.
There are many thoughts about grief expressed in this book that are common in other books on grief. (That’s one of the reasons I, at times, decide not to read any more books on grief. They tend to all say similar things – good things – but it can be repetitious.) If you are new to the grief journey or have not read much in the grief literature, these thoughts will be meaningful to you. Though some of these thoughts are common, Floyd is very expressive and writes with the hand of a poet.
But I have come to see that sorrow can go only as deep as love. And always, always, love is the ground beneath sorrow as well as the sky above it.
It took six or eight weeks just to begin to realize how much pain we were in. Prior to that, shock, adrenaline, and sympathy had kept us going.
Consciously or not, whether responding to an inner fear or the expectations of what recovery looks like to the society around them, many bereaved individuals try to get “back to normal” in a way that ultimately contributes to later, deeper illnesses, whether physical or mental. To me, the thought of moving too quickly past my grief was as absurd as it was impossible.
I realized I did not have to go looking for grief; grief would find me.
The most unique feature of this book is the examination of the family dynamic of how various siblings addressed the pain of grief in their own life. The final section of the book has a reflection from each of the siblings about the life of the brother they lost. Some of them never knew him, having been born after he died. It is a beautiful thing to see how close this family is and how their faith and continual remembrances of Johnny have made him a permanent part of their lives – and not someone to be forgotten.
Children grieve. They grieve differently from adults. Their grief is more episodic because the rest of their young life is more episodic. …They can go from deeply missing their brother to admiring a new toy or wanting to go out for ice cream in the space of a half hour—a time sequence that is unfathomable to an adult. …They express their sorrow in different ways.
This was our work, as father and mother: to help our children grieve and work through their feelings about Johnny’s death; to create an environment where the children felt free to talk about anything on their minds, whether happy, sad, angry, humorous. The only way to help our children was by being their model, by letting them see us grieve.
Grief and time. Grief and memory. Grief and the seasons of growth. Like hailstones in a summer storm, I know these moments will be with the children and with us until we die. Are we stuck in them? By no means. But they are part of us. We are parents who have lost a child. They are brothers and sisters who have lost a brother. It is a defining moment for them. It is not the only moment. But it is one that is with us until memory is lost in the ever-present Now of heaven.
Therese was nine years old when Johnny was killed. Fifteen years later she reflected…
We didn’t have a choice to keep Johnny or not. He was taken. That is the hardest struggle for me. Having worked in the missions in Honduras and currently in pediatric oncology, I am confronted with the loss of people I love. No matter how much I love, I can’t love someone into living. That’s why without hope, life doesn’t make any sense: hope that there is a bigger picture, hope that God is love and truly will hold us. My whole life is colored by losing Johnny. Our family is changed. I think we hold each other all the more closely knowing what it is like to lose someone. I am fiercely protective of my siblings.
You can read more of my highlights throughout the book HERE. A link to buy the book for your kindle or paperback is below. I think this is a valuable resource for people of faith working their way through grief and loss.
For Your Kindle
NEW AND ON SALE FOR $3.47 Dear Abba: Morning and Evening Prayer by Brennan Manning
A Few More Grief Resources