A Review of
Faith Doesn’t Erase Grief: Embracing the Experience and Finding Hope
Kate J. Meyer
Reviewed by Dawn Gentry
As someone who experienced the death of both parents and a granddaughter within 10 months of each other, I am well acquainted with both the reality of and resources on the topic of grief. Most recently, I had read Amanda Held Opelt’s book, A Hole in the World, and wondered how this current book might relate. The two could not have been more different – their only similarity was the general topic.
Meyer’s combined experience as an ordained minister, a licensed professional counselor, and a hospice chaplain intersect in her topic with Faith Doesn’t Erase Grief. Her thesis is clear: “You can struggle with grief and still love God.” I hoped it would minister to me in my own lasting grief and provide me with relatable stories and personal experiences. I thought it might provide some biblical exegesis to walk through a theology of suffering. Unfortunately, her “counselor voice” outweighed either pastor or chaplain and the book provided neither of those for me. I found it difficult to stay engaged with Meyer’s book.
My first critique is the lack of stories and personal experiences. For an author who is both a chaplain and a pastor, I would have expected to read stories that elicited an emotional reaction or precipitated the response “me too.” But rather than sensing pastoral empathy, I felt she was providing information and suggested practices (e.g., 84-89). It felt like a “list of recommendations from a professional counselor,” or a “Ten Ways to Win at Grief” blog post with bullet points. It’s more pedantic than personal; more academic than pastoral.
And while it reads a bit academically, it doesn’t have substantial footnotes or discourse with other researchers to be academic. She provides some overview of Kubler-Ross’s work, offering pros and cons of her “stages” but without reference or bibliography (30-32). However, she doesn’t acknowledge later research which unpack Kubler-Ross and Kessler’s expanded research in On Grief and Grieving (Scribner, 2014). To be fair, I don’t believe she means for her audience to be an academic one. But unfortunately, it reads like an undergraduate textbook.
Finally, her biblical exegesis and applications were simplistic at best. On the raising of Lazarus, “God validates your grief” (21). Regarding Hannah, she reminds the reader how emotions can be visible (60-62). On the story of Joseph losing his father, she refers to how much time he spent in early grief and exhorts the reader to “be bold in seeking what [time off] you need” from your employer (80-83). And she simplifies Job’s story by saying it “helps build trust that God loves us in our grief” (118). Job’s unimaginable pain and unanswerable questions are barely hinted at.
The most helpful encouragement in her book is to walk through the experience of grief instead of practicing avoidance behaviors. Knowing that emotions may come in waves and that every person responds to grief differently were both important to my own grief journey. Meyer is correct to remind her readers that “grief journeys are unpredictable” (40) because it encourages us to see our own unique experience as “normal” (whatever normal might mean).
I also appreciated her Appendices at the end of her book which provide a “tool kit” that the reader can come back to as needed, to try out various coping mechanisms (especially “journaling,” “free association,” and “Psalm writing”, 199-210). Additionally, for those who may benefit from having a built-in journal, the “Pause” section after each chapter prompted reflection on and application to what the reader was learning along the way.
Dawn Gentry serves as the Executive Director of Adult Ministries at Christ Community Church in Omaha, Nebraska. She earned a Master of Divinity degree from Emmanuel Christian Seminary in 2016 and has taught classes at both Milligan University and Nebraska Christian College. You can find Dawn on Twitter @dgentry1905 and she blogs at www.followingGodanyway.com.
Reading for the Common Good
From ERB Editor Christopher Smith
"This book will inspire, motivate and challenge anyone who cares a whit about the written word, the world of ideas, the shape of our communities and the life of the church."
-Karen Swallow Prior
Enter your email below to sign up for our weekly newsletter & download your FREE copy of this ebook!