Westberg, Granger, Good Grief(Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1971)

If you really thought about helping people with grief if you should read Westberg?

In the nineteen seventies, Granger Westberg was on the forefront of helping people with grief. This book has insight that is useful for anyone who is involved with grief ministry. He describes that which, for many of us is indescribable, the grief that comes from many facets of life, death, and loss. He moves his reader through his ten stages of grief. He is wise in his understanding that the stages, order, severity vary with each individual as they face grief. He states clearly in his introduction that his ten stages represent, "the road the majority of humans must travel in order to get back into the mainstream of life" (8).

For the counselor, this short book will give observational wisdom that is useful in unpacking grief. He writes thoughtfully and caringly. This is not specifically a religious or Christian look at grief, although Westberg was a Christian Chaplin. It is primarily observational, therefore it is limited in its theological implications. As with any perspective one must evaluate his observations with Scripture.

Westberg gets it right when he writes about expressing emotions (21-22). When faced with an deep life changing loss, we should rightly express emotion. Christians are not called to stoicism, but to humanity. We are human and blessed with a wide range of emotions that can be used to express grief. Stoicism is a Greek idea not a Christian idea. In grief we are to practice self-control, but in that self-control we can express our pain, grief, and loss. In the OT many time the Old Testament saints ripped their cloths in mourning. Or they grieved a loss with tears or moans. Expression is part of the human experience of grief.

While not biblical in all his understandings or loss and grief, Westberg does provide insight and points for deeper reflection on how Christians should handle loss. His observations are helpful for understanding grief. One such observation is found early in the text,"God has so made us that we can somehow bear pain and sorrow and even tragedy. However, when the sorrow is overwhelming, we are sometimes temporarily anesthetized in response to a tragic experience. We are grateful for this temporary anesthesia, for it keeps us from having to face grim reality all at once. This shock stage—or perhaps it should be called a countershock—may last anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours to a few days. If it goes on for some weeks, it probably is unhealthy grief and professional help ought to be sought" (13).

This book is a thought provoking tool. It make no claim to be a theological tome, but an observational breakdown of stages of grief. This text would be useful as a discussion starter for a training for grief response. While not my first resource of choice for providing counsel for someone who is struggling with grief, it is helpful in other ways. For the biblical counselor, the book offers some observational nuggets that can be useful in providing comfort and care for someone at a time of loss.