Posts Tagged ‘Cathy Rentzenbrink’

I discovered Cathy Rentzenbrink’sA Manual of Heartache‘ through Caroline’s (from ‘Beauty is a Sleeping Cat’) favourite books post. I read it yesterday in one breath.

Cathy Rentzenbrink lost her brother when she was a teenager and she grieved for years and was depressed too. When she came out of it, she wrote her memoir about her experience called ‘The Last Act of Love‘. When people asked her whether they could give her memoir to loved ones who were grieving or who were depressed and whether it would help them cope with their grief and depression (or whether it would sink them more into a deeper spiral of grief and depression), Cathy Rentzenbrink decided to write a second book which offered readers advice on how to help loved ones who are grieving and how to cope with grief and depression and tough situations themselves. This is that book.

Cathy Rentzenbrink describes her book, beautifully, like this –

“I think of this book as a verbal cuddle, or a loving message in a bottle – tossed into the sea to wash up at the feet of someone in need…This is my far from perfect guide on how to be alive in this cruel but beautiful world.”

Cathy Rentzenbrink starts the book by describing what kind of unpleasant situations can happen in one’s life, leading to heartbreak and heartache and grief and depression. She differentiates between heartbreak and heartache thus :

“Perhaps heartbreak is what happens on impact, and heartache is what we are left with as time passes, once the dust settles, when we are able to look up and around us but are still shrouded in sadness.”

She describes such heartbreak inducing events, as grenades which explode in our lives. She describes what happens after the grenade explodes :

“That’s what the grenade moment does. It separates the old life from the new and there will forever be a divide. The blade has come down. Life as we knew it has been detached, truncated. What lies on the other side is both unknowable and unthinkable.”

But, she also offers a glimpse into the future, for those of us who have walked into a grenade explosion.

“There is a world on the other side of the guillotine. It’s not the one you know and the undamaged version of you is lost in time. But there is a life to explore and a new version of you is waiting to walk into it.”

In the initial chapters Cathy Rentzenbrink describes how we can help our loved ones who have had a heartbreak. One of the things she says, which I loved, was that we should avoid saying stuff like ‘Everything happens for a reason‘, or ‘Time is a great healer‘, or ‘What doesn’t kill you will make you stronger‘, or ‘God doesn’t give you more than you can handle.‘ (She expands a little more on ‘Time being a great healer‘ – “I’ve never understood the notion of time being a great healer, because all I ever tried to do was grit my teeth and wait for time to pass or try to distract myself from it, but I missed the point. Time itself doesn’t have magic properties; it’s what you do with the time that matters.“) Because listening to these things doesn’t improve the emotional condition of the person who is grieving. She says that a better way of making loved ones feel better is to just be present for them, offer them unlimited kindness, and listen to them when they talk. I think this is one of the most beautiful pieces of advice given in the book and this is one of my favourite parts of the book.

In the rest of the book Cathy Rentzenbrink describes what we can do when we are grieving or are depressed ourselves. She describes how we can accept grief, how we can cope with it and feel better, how we can chase away depressive thoughts and invite happy thoughts, how we can keep a gratitude journal to make us feel better, how small acts of love and kindness help us in small but significant ways, how we can change unhappy thoughts to happy ones, how to cope with the fear of dying, how reading and writing can make us happier and help us cope with emotionally tough situations.

The advice that Cathy Rentzenbrink offers is practical and easy to follow, and if we put some thought, we can figure it out ourselves. But it is nice to see all of this insightful advice, together, inside in this slim book.

I have seen posts by friends and readers asking for book recommendations which will help a loved one cope with grief, loss, and depression. I was always at a loss when I saw those posts. Now, I think I have found the perfect book which might help them. This is that book.

Have you read Cathy Rentzenbrink’sA Manual for Heartache‘? What do you think about it?

Read Full Post »