A Butterfly's Journey by Barbara J. Hopkinson

A Butterfly's Journey

Healing Grief After the Loss of a Child
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Part memoir, part self-help treatise, Hopkinson’s debut book chronicles her son’s death and the grief that nearly destroyed her own life.

Hopkinson’s memoir begins when her 21-year-old son, Brent, was killed in a motorcycle accident on the campus of his Arizona university. He had borrowed a friend’s bike, although he wasn’t trained to ride it. At a stop sign, the bike stalled and Brent accelerated to keep it in gear, unintentionally catapulting himself forward and hitting a wall behind the school’s library. Hopkinson tells the story in vivid, excruciating detail, revisiting her son’s death and the stages of mourning that gripped her in its aftermath. She opens a window into her emotional life, from the phone call in which she learns of the accident to her trip to Arizona, the decision to take him off life support, and then then the return trip to her Massachusetts home to plan his funeral. After the initial shock of Brent’s death, Hopkinson’s depression deepened. Her marriage of 30 years dissolved; she contemplated suicide. She finally found solace in what she calls spirituality, which for her involves meditating daily and seeking mediums to communicate with Brent and assure her that his spirit is still with her. The story is heartfelt and deeply touching, but it is awkwardly paired with a self-help component that makes the narrator’s voice vacillate between memoirist and educator. In her introduction, Hopkinson details Elisabeth Kubler-Ross’s five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. At the end of each chapter, she includes a “reflection” that explains the stages she went through and reads like a workbook in managing grief. Within the chapters, the narrative occasionally veers into the role of instructor, sometimes directly addressing the reader and offering advice. Sometimes, the narrative devolves into homily and explicit lessons, saying, for example, that everyone processes grief differently, a point repeated throughout the book. In mining her own suffering, though, she provides hope for other grieving parents.

A brave, candid memoir that earnestly seeks to help readers who have also suffered loss.

Pub Date: April 18th, 2013
ISBN: 978-1479795277
Page count: 270pp
Publisher: Xlibris
Program: Kirkus Indie
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15th, 2013


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