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Posted: December 24, 2004

Spiritual Caregiving

Looking at Grief from Many Perspectives

(Editor's Note: Spirituality & Health resident reviewers Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat examine the various outlooks on dealing with grief through many faiths, in many lands in this book review.)

As You Grieve: Consoling Words From Around the World
By Aaron Zerah

Sorin Books 08/01 Paperback $12.95
ISBN 1-893732-36-3

Aaron Zerah is chancellor of Interfaith Seminaries, president of Spirit of Interfaith, Inc., and author of How the Children Became Stars: A Family Treasury of Stories, Prayers, and Blessings from Around the World. He is busy doing pioneer work in post-denominational religion where openness and hospitality are more than nice philosophical concepts — they are spiritual practices that are paving the way into a future of sharing and cooperative ventures.

Zerah begins this valuable volume with these words: "In our hearts, we know that in times of grief there is simply nothing that can be said. Still, throughout the ages, people from every place on the earth have, like you and me, wrestled with the reality of death and loss. Out of this struggle, prayers, stories, lamentations, poems, and wisdom teachings have arisen that traditionally have comforted the soul."

In As You Grieve, the author has gathered consoling words from a variety of sources including Native Americans, Africans, Buddhists, Moslems, Hindus, Jews, and Christians. The material is divided into four thematic sections: "Allow Yourself to Grieve," "Make a Place for Hope," "Take Heart, You Are Not Alone," and "Your Beloved Is Living in the Joy of God."

Many of the Jewish and Christian words will be familiar to readers, but others are less known, including a few Native American and African songs, a Japanese story, and several Hindu selections.

Zerah has gathered a collection of prayers, poems, and stories from many cultural resources on grieving. Here is a traditional Zen Buddhist story that illustrates the spiritual practice of connections:

"Soyen Shaku, the abbot, each morning took a walk accompanied by his companion from the monastery to the nearby town. One day, as he passed a house, he heard a great cry from within it. Stopping to inquire, he asked the inhabitants, 'Why are you all wailing so?' They said: 'Our child has died and we are grieving.'

"The abbot without hesitation sat down with the family and started crying and wailing himself. As they were returning to the monastery, the abbot's companion asked, 'Master, is this family known to you?' 'No,' the abbot answered. 'Why then, Master, did you also cry?' The abbot said simply, 'So that I may share their sorrow'."

-- Aaron Zerah


This article originally appeared in Spirituality & Health magazine, www.SpiritualityHealth.com. For subscriptions call 1-800-876-8202 or see www.SpiritualityHealth.com/subs. Editor Stephen Kiesling and his staff contribute weekly columns, features and articles published every Friday as "Spiritual Caregiving" at www.caregivershome.com. Contact staff directly via email at ASKspirituality@spiritualityhealth.com.

© 2004 Pederson Publishing, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Commercial use, redistribution or other forms of reuse of this information is strictly prohibited without the prior written permission of Pederson Publishing.

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