Published April 2022 by Grand Central Publishing
In Grief is Love, author Marisa Renee Lee reveals that healing does not mean moving on after losing a loved one—healing means learning to acknowledge and create space for your grief. It is about learning to love the one you lost with the same depth, passion, joy, and commitment you did when they were alive, perhaps even more. She guides you through the pain of grief—whether you’ve lost the person recently or long ago—and shows you what it looks like to honor your loss on your unique terms, and debunks the idea of a grief stages or timelines. Grief is Love is about making space for the transformation that a significant loss requires.
In beautiful, compassionate prose, Lee elegantly offers wisdom about what it means to authentically and defiantly claim space for grief’s complicated feelings and emotions. And Lee is no stranger to grief herself, she shares her journey after losing her mother, a pregnancy, and, most recently, a cousin to the COVID-19 pandemic. These losses transformed her life and led her to question what grief really is and what healing actually looks like. In this book, she also explores the unique impact of grief on Black people and reveals the key factors that proper healing requires: permission, care, feeling, grace and more.
The transformation we each undergo after loss is the indelible imprint of the people we love on our lives, which is the true definition of legacy. At its core, Grief is Love explores what comes after death, and shows us that if we are able to own and honor what we’ve lost, we can experience a beautiful and joyful life in the midst of grief.
I caught just a bit of Glennon Doyle speaking with Marisa Renee Lee about her grief experience and this book and knew immediately that I needed to buy a copy for my sister...and then decided that I needed to read it as well, so I checked it out from the library so that not only could we both read it, but we could read it together. (Whew - that was quite the run on sentence!)
Is it good, you might be asking. Well, let's just start by saying that I haven't put this many sticky notes into a book in a very long time, especially a book this short.
"Our culture glorifies the idea of just sucking is up, moving on, and being tough. This is part of what makes living with loss keeping challenging."
Which is part of the reason employers give so little bereavement leave. I got three days when my mom died. Three days. Three days were gone before we even got to the day of the funeral. After five days I returned to work. I'd been so busy taking care of my dad and getting things ready for the funeral that I had hardly started to grieve. Afterward, I rarely gave myself permission to grieve. That is one of Lee's primary messages - we must give ourselves permission to grieve, in whatever way that is for us, for the rest of our lives. Because if grief is love, as Lee, obviously says it is, and we loved our person, then we will never entirely stop grieving them.
Lee talks about the toll grief takes on relationships, gives readers permission to feel joy and laugh and anger even as we experience grief, asks us to give ourselves grace (yeah, that spoke to me, given that "grace" is my word of the year), and tells readers that the death of a loved one should change you, should make you want to live in a way that will be a legacy to your loved one.
"Joy is a basic right. Don't feel cast aside from your grief; you need to entitle yourself to the joy you deserve. If you are going to live a full life after loss, you have to find your way back to joy."
"I failed to understand that the death of a loved one, of someone you hold dear, should change you. That is their mark on the world. You are their mark on this world."
My sister and I have spent a lot of time texting back and forth about different pages in this book; she'll be coming this way soon and I expect that we'll spend a lot to time together talking about it even more. I am certain I will be buying myself a copy of this book to put on my shelf, next to Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking, Atul Gawande's Being Mortal and Steve Leder's The Beauty of What Remains. I would recommend it to anyone dealing with grief, especially those who are preparing for grief as a loved one is dying or black women (Lee, as a black woman, speaks eloquently about the ways being a black woman makes grief even more difficult to navigate).