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Grieving Room: Making Space for all the Hard Things After Death and Loss

Leanne Friesen is a “wounded healer,” writing from personal experience with enough distance to share both theological reflections and practical suggestions. — Amy Pagliarella

Leanne Friesen
Broadleaf Books, 241 pages | Published February 6, 2024

While there is no definitive book on coping with the trauma of loss and death, Grieving Room comes close. Pastor Leanne Friesen is truly a “wounded healer,” writing from the heartbreaking experience of losing a middle-aged sister to cancer, with enough distance to share both theological reflections and practical suggestions for how to best support others, as well as to cope with our own losses.

“In uncertain times, perfect faith or cheerful optimism is not always what we need most. Sometimes we need room for a little uncertainty,” Friesen writes. She then explores what it looks like to give others room to grieve (and rage, lament, talk about it and even to “never get over it.”) Friesen deftly moves from poignancy to regret to rage (and to a kind of resurrection), demonstrating that grief doesn’t follow a tidy process. And when our faith compels us to offer platitudes such as “just have faith” or “think positive,” we can cause deep pain to those already suffering.

In the first week of Advent, I visited with a church member who’d received a terminal diagnosis. “What does hope look like for me?” she asked. Friesen wrestles with this question, returning to (gospel writer) Mark’s story of “a dad who said to Jesus: ‘I do believe. Help me overcome my unbelief.’” Grieving Room is the book I’ll share with this friend and with anyone accompanying a loved one through illness — or experiencing it themself.

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