"Try to keep in mind that grieving has no predictable stages or particular timeline. Grief has as many different expressions as there are people who grieve. We all share some common and universal experiences, yet each of us moves through grief in our own way and in our own time."
— Claire B. Willis and Marnie Crawford Samuelson
Claire Willis is a clinical social worker who has labored in the fields of oncology and bereavement for more than 20 years, leading bereavement, end-of-life, support, and therapeutic writing groups. As a lay Buddhist chaplain ordained by Roshi Joan Halifax, she focuses on contemplative practices for end-of-life care. For Spirituality & Practice, she co-created with Joanna Turnbull the e-course Learning to Accept Grief as a Lifelong Companion, now available in our on-demand system. Marnie Crawford Samuelson is a documentary photographer, multimedia producer, and a storyteller.
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought more people than ever face-to-face with grief, not only on the individual level, but also on a community and even global level. The feelings people are experiencing — anxiety, despair, anger, and confusion — are grief, they note. This makes their book very timely.
The authors have structured the book around key practices that enable us to open to grief as a spiritual companion: kindness, gratitude, mindfulness, connecting with nature, coming together in small groups, making art, and writing. Each chapter includes a practice to try, a meditation, and some suggestions for further reflection. We found ourselves skipping around the book depending upon what aspect of grief we were interested in exploring.
In the second part of the book, Willis answers common questions that have come up in her bereavement groups. Part four goes into more depth about four practices: meditation on the breath, Tara Brach's self-compassion RAIN practice, metta or loving-kindness, keeping a gratitude journal, and being with beauty (see excerpt). The last section of the book, "For Inspiration," lists poems about grief, books worth sharing, and online resources.