3 out of 4 stars
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As a new year approaches, I am starting to think about setting goals. I realize that both of my breakthrough goals for the past two years were a product of my difficult circumstances - they were about solving certain problems. But what do you do when life throws something at you that is devastating ... and unfixable?
There are some things that you can't just get over, like the loss of a child or incurable bodily injuries. Yet even journeys through tunnels as daunting as those can end somewhere brighter. In the self-help book Getting Through What You Can't Get Over: Moving Past Your Pain Into Lasting Freedom, author Anita Agers-Brooks recounts the stories of individuals who went through the most nightmarish experiences. After telling each person's story in beautiful, literary prose, Anita concludes each chapter with sections entitled "Insider Insights", "Practical Help", "Spiritual Comfort" and "Guided Prayer".
The title and subject of this book drew me in, and it delivered on its promise. The author's tone is empathic as she validates the unbearable pain of some circumstances that no one could reasonably expect to get over. Anita herself was inspired by Auschwitz survivor Edith Eger who drew her attention to Psalm 23 in the Bible. Referring to the wording, the elderly Jewish lady particularly noted that one must walk through the valley of the shadow of death - as opposed to stopping or pitching a tent, for example.
I've always found Psalm 23 comforting. Overall, however, the book's focus on turning to the Bible for help got a little excessive. The writer was too categorical in asserting that Christianity is the answer to everything. This could alienate those of other religions or none. It would be better if the book's subtitle or at least the description made the centring of the Bible clear. I am not sure all Christians would endorse the author's choice to refer to God as "Daddy". This comes up in a chapter about those who are traumatized by not knowing their biological father. Most unfortunately, the author conflates being conceived during rape with parents using a sperm donor. I will give her the benefit of the doubt and assume that this association was not intentional - yet I seemed to detect a tone of disapproval of non-traditional families.
In that connection, this book is most strongly recommended to Christians weathering a hard time. With certain reservations, I could also recommend it to anyone in need of assistance as they tread a rocky path. To be fair, some of the advice, especially in the "Practical Help" sections, is not religious. Anita shares some valuable insights. I love her point about how we always feel grief when someone dies, regardless of how old or ill they were. She writes: "Although we somewhat expect some deaths, the sting isn't lessened when the final moment arrives." The list of the stages of grief is very helpful, as is the reminder that one may well cycle through them. The author's wise stance derives from her "experiential empathy", which is gained by going through hard things. I really appreciated the discussion of this. The author noted that those who lack it may add to a bereaved person's pain with their platitudes.
An example of such a cliche is telling a grieving person that their loved one is in a better place. Anita likens this to pouring vinegar into an open wound - an image from the Bible. Although there is undoubtedly much wisdom in the Bible, as I say, I did find the categorical tone problematic overall. The author shared that she used to be sceptical about the Bible, but that read like a sales pitch, which is not appreciated. Aside from that, this book has many strengths. It appears to have been professionally edited. Harrowing subjects like sexual assault are described in a sensitive and non-graphic way. Weighing everything up, I give this book a rating of three out of four stars. Overall, it could provide much comfort and encouragement to valley walkers.
Getting Through What You Can't Get Over
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