Some losses are so subtle they go unnoticed, some so overwhelming and cruel they seem unbearable. Coping with grief and experiencing loss overwhelms us in ways that seem both hopeless and endless. In painful moments like these, we must make a choice: Will we allow the difficulties we face to become forces of destruction in our lives, or will we find a way to begin learning from loss, transforming our suffering into a source of strength?
A theologian with the heart of a poet, Rabbi David Wolpe explores the meaning of loss, and the way we can use its inevitable appearance in our lives as a source of strength rather than a source of despair. In this national bestseller, Wolpe creates a remarkably fluid account of how we might find a way out of overwhelming feelings of helplessness.
The Psalmist wrote that although weeping would endure for the night, there would be joy when morning came. This is a book about that transformation, and it’s painful to read. Wolpe, a Los Angeles rabbi who is featured on A&E’s Mysteries of the Bible, has a spiritual counselor’s instinct for sharing in the afflictions of the people he interviews. He wrote several drafts of this book, each becoming increasingly personal; the final version is colored by the unexpected news that his 31-year-old wife had developed cancer. Despite an apparently successful surgery, they will never have another biological child. He writes that we experience loss not only with such tragedy but also with “things that die while we are still alive: relationships, dreams, loves.” There comes a moment, for instance, when each of us realizes that our childhood dreams are not going to materialize. These losses can make us bitter or help us to grow and redefine our values. Then there is the “culmination of losses,” death, with its utter finality and apparent arbitrariness. Mourning must be transformed gradually, never denying the very real pain of loss. It’s that stinging pain which reminds us to seek the meaning in the loss. This is a book to pass on to those who are grieving—i.e., to every single person we know.
Early in his book, Wolpe, rabbi of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles, shares a sobering thought: “Losses are the stuff of life. They will not miss you, they will not steer around those whom you love.” The author’s search for meaningful ways to deal with loss came soon after his wife, Ellie, was diagnosed with cancer. He admits that his “life was suddenly full of shadows,” and he feared that his vibrant wife might die. As Wolpe struggles with his fear of loss and with the daily crises brought by Ellie’s illness, he realizes that facing loss requires courage and love. Although he had been writing this book before his wife’s illness, her cancer gave him a new perspective on facing suffering. Wolpe uses personal anecdotes, ancient stories of suffering and joy, the sagacious parables of rabbis and the wisdom of poets and philosophers to explore the nature of loss and the ways we can respond meaningfully to it. He notes that throughout life we experience a variety of losses, some trivial and others grave, such as the loss of home, dreams, self, faith, love and life. On the loss of dreams, for instance, Wolpe writes, “Dreams can ennoble us even when they fail…. Each dream can be a step on the ladder we climb in order to become the person we were meant to be.” In order for loss to be meaningful, he contends, we must not run from it but incorporate its scars deeply in our lives, face it with faith and courage and celebrate the new identities that we derive from our experience. Although Wolpe really offers no new ideas about coping with loss, his easy manner and eloquent storytelling will help readers suffering from loss feel as if they have found a companion on their journeys. (Sept.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Rabbi Wolpe weaves together a finely constructed tapestry of biblical stories, Western and Eastern philosophy and literature, and incidents from his own life to explain how to deal with the pain of personal loss, whether of love, life, home, faith, or dreams. Rabbi Harold Kushner’s When Bad Things Happen to Good People could be considered the predecessor of Wolfe’s discussion of personal loss and ways to turn it into strength and hope. Both rabbis write in a clear, straightforward style, accessible to Jewish and non-Jewish readers alike. However, by stressing his own life and losses, Wolfe gives depth and meaning to concepts that might otherwise remain abstract and theoretical. Wolpe’s strength is in showing how a caring and direct approach to dealing with losses can reenergize the human spirit and give us courage to continue living life to the fullest. Strongly recommended for general religion/spiritual collections in most libraries.AOlga B. Wise, Compaq Computers Inc., Austin, TX
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
First I checked it out of the library serendipitously; then I had to own it and purchased my own copy from Amazon. Within a week I had referred it to a number of people whose lives it touched. There is no one who doesn’t need this book. It is 21st century wisdom with the depth of ancient sages and vast scope of religous tradition behind it. Wolpe understands life. He crafts sentences that go to the core of the matter of loss and life and difficulty and human nature. Though I am not Jewish, I relished getting out my Old Testament and re-reading the stories of Abraham, Jacob, Job and others after reading Making Loss Matter. As one who has an interest in things spiritual and God-based all her life, I find this book among the best I have ever read and cannot recommend it highly enough–to ANYONE who is human.
Wolpe’s theory is that we all experience loss all the time (loss of dreams, health, relationships, etc.), and it is what we do with that loss that gives our lives meaning. He uses many familiar Old Testament stories to illustrate his points, presenting many new insights that I had not thought of. I found myself underlining almost the entire book, and I think I’ve given away about ten copies. For me, this was a life-changing read, and there aren’t too many books I can say that about.