Psychologist Brehony (Ordinary Grace, 1999, etc.) turns her attention to suffering, grief, and wisdom.
Meet Deborah Cook, a 40-something mother of two. Cook's quiet, happy life was turned upside down when she learned that she had breast cancer and that her ten-year-old daughter had leukemia. But having cancer, says Deborah (now on the mend), was the "beginning, not the end, of life." She claims that she's learned tremendous lessons through her illness, and she talks about her luck and her blessedness rather than her misfortune: even the clover in her yard now seems like a miraculous gift, for example, and not merely an annoying weed. Sufferers, according to Brehony, can (like Deborah Cook) be alchemists, turning lead into gold and making the best of a terrible situation—but there are some concrete steps one must take. First, one must overcome certain habits (such as a resistance to change) that will only serve to increase pain during a trauma. Brehony urges those suffering from illness or some other tragedy to try to find a larger perspective—go to church, she says, make a family tree, read Anne Frank, or join an astronomy club. And be compassionate: read stories to kids in a hospital or make soup for the local soup kitchen—above all, pay more attention to other people's suffering than to your own. Hopping on the pop Buddhism bandwagon, the author also suggests that sufferers should cultivate "mindfulness." Meditate for five minutes a day, read up on Buddhist meditation (she recommends Thich Nhat Hanh and Jack Kornfield), and take a yoga class so you can learn the basics and find a community in one fell swoop. Don't forget to maintain your sense of humor, express your feelings, and count your blessings. These practical tips, found in the second part of the book, offer a nice counterpoint to the more journalistic explorations of suffering and sufferers in the first half.
Sure to become a classic treatment of suffering.