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121 of 121 people found the following review helpful
on September 15, 2001
Gerald Sittser's book is among the best I have ever read for those who are struggling with a great loss in life. He speaks from terrible experience. He lost his wife, mother and a daughter in a single automobile accident. From his own experience of the pain and suffering that follows he draws out a meaningful perspective applicable to the universal experience of human suffering. Without diminishing the pain and evil that suffering inflicts and represents, Sittser helps us make sense of suffering in the context of the Christian faith. He does so with honesty and clarity. Suffering can provide an opportunity for spiritual growth and strengthening of character. We all have that choice available to us.

Sittser rejects the notion of "recovery" from catastrophic loss. Such a loss can not be recovered from if that means that we will be the same as before. We will never get over it. Instead, following Victor Frankl's example, he insists that we must find some meaning in suffering. Our souls must be enlarged by it to help us transcend the experience and integrate it into our lives if we are not to be crushed by it instead. He is an able guide to the avenue that the Christian faith provides for this.

The book has a good chapter on the futility of comparing one person's loss to another. He shows that there is no point in deciding whose serious, irretrievable loss is worse than another's. Each experience of loss is unique because each person is unique.

Sittser doesn't minimize the problems that Christian faith presents in suffering. He has been through the dark tunnel of wondering why this accident happened to him and what God's interest, or lack thereof, is in his suffering. He has experienced the agony of loneliness and separation from a God who seems uncaring or unable to ease his pain. We may know in our minds that our perspective must be severely limited compared to God's but it is very hard to continue trusting Him as we thought we did before, believing that somehow God will bring us out into the light again someday. He examines the alternatives to faith and finds them wanting. If there is no God, can there be any meaning in life itself let alone meaning in a life of suffering? Would we really rather live in a world where everyone gets exactly what they deserve, good or bad, a world with no pain, but also no grace? What bearing does God's suffering as Christ on the cross have on our experience? What does it really mean to have faith in God? There are no simple answers, but considering the questions honestly can challenge our preconceived notions. It's a risk worth taking. Sittser has found, as have many others, that there is undeniable grace given by God to those who trust Him in their suffering, a remolding of our character for good in response to the evil of our experience. While we would be fools to seek suffering for whatever good may come of it, it is hard for many to deny that, if the suffering had not come, they would probably not have experienced the works of grace they now find so valuable.

There is also a chapter on forgiveness. As in Sittser's case, there are often particular people whose actions are responsible for our loss. Forgiveness is a hard pill to swallow, if only it were a pill. But withholding it will prevent our own healing. It's helpful to know what forgiveness means and doesn't mean. It doesn't mean condoning the act. It doesn't mean the act should go unpunished. It doesn't mean forgetting it happened. It means that we stop wishing evil for those who have harmed us and instead desire their good. It isn't a process that culminates in a final result or a once-and-for-all event. Once it has been decided upon, forgiving is a continuous frame of mind and an occasionally renewed activity. Through forgiveness, we have the power to end the cycle of hurt. We can choose to have it stop with us, not letting it infect others through us.

Through all his suffering, Gerald Sittser has found that "life has the final word", not death and despair. We don't always get the life we want, but we can find that there is much more to life than what we want and a life beyond this life that exceeds our greatest desires. Our suffering can also help us to help others who suffer. It can provide opportunity for others to share our suffering in love. It's common for many people to offer much needed and sincere support for the victims of loss immediately following the incident. Most of these people understandably try to get back to their own "lives as usual" soon afterward. It was very heartening to read about the people who went further in Sittser's case. Those who decided that their lives would also be changed by his tragedy formed a community of love and support that was good for the long haul. What a blessing.
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47 of 48 people found the following review helpful
on August 7, 2000
Our son who was 24 years of age was taken from us by a drunk driver on May 16, 1997. A friend from out of state sent me this book about a year after our tragedy. The pain and loss is so horrific that the only persons who can understand are those who have lost a child. I am on my second time through the book,three years after the crash. The first time I underlined many things I could relate to. Now I see that three years are not enough to grieve a child. The world says differently. We walk a lonely road those of us who loose a loved one to tragedy. As I read the book for a second time I see a growth through loss that could not have come any other way in my life. I welcome the growth. Without my son I would never go back to our normal lives because that would mean I never gave birth to him. I want to thank Mr. Sittser for sharing his thoughts and his familes grief to those of us who came after and needed to be carried through our amputation.
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30 of 30 people found the following review helpful
on July 14, 2001
Gerald Sittser has written one of the best treatments on how to respond to any significant loss that happens in life. He is clear to point out that living brings with it suffering. Life includes both sorrow and joy, pain and pleasure. A person must learn to live with both. How we respond to the our pain is a choice that we must make. He carefully and gracefully reveals how a person can embrace the pain and grow from the experience regardless of how tragic the event. As we embrace the pain and learn to live with whatever has brought the pain by the grace of God, we will become whole people once again.
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25 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on September 20, 1998
Since loosing my daughter,husband,mother and unborn grandchild within an 11 month period I have been searching for answers of so many questions. While this author didn't always have the answers, it was a great comfort to me to see that he had most of those same questions, and was trying to work through them from a Christian perpective. At no time did he try to minimise the pain, but yet was able to experience even some joy, and to come to a peace, and strength to carry on and not stay enbittered for the rest of his life.He went through all this before me so this gives me hope to come through it with a stronger reliance on the grace of God, regardless of the terrible events that happened.It helps to know that someone has survived and grown stronger. Thank you for a wonderful book that gives help and hope.
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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on April 21, 1999
As a nurse, I work with many families who suffer tragic loss. Mr. Sittser's book is the best I've ever read. Don't expect to read it in one sitting. It is very deep and wise and thought-provoking. It's the type of book you could read three or four times and still learn something new each time. Thank you Mr. Sittser for sharing your tremendous insight with us.
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on March 12, 2002
Gerald Sittser's gifted eloquence speaks for my soul. As a mother who had to relinquish a child to God, I have experienced so much that he describes but could have never penned the words. I often described my own grief journey as learning to paint a new normal, a new picture of my life, beginning with a new canvas--and he described his own journey using the exact analogy. This is a must-read for those who are stuck in their grief and do not realize that God is the original "recycler" Who will turn suffering and pain into a masterpiece. The reward is a richer life, even without those you love.
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on July 28, 1999
Our 17 year old daughter was recently killed in a freak auto accident. We have had several books recommended to us, but none captures the essence of feelings, emotions, and sensations of the grieving process like this book. Mr. Sittser has been there, and has captured the essence of the journey in a way that will touch and challenge the reader. His "sailing on the sea of nothingness" analogy is right where we are now. His other descriptions and examples are right on point. Highly recommended reading..
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on July 16, 2000
My husband died in 1994 of an Annuerism. My childern were 3 and 6 years old.I read many books on grief and healing but this was by far my favorite. It helped me to understand my feelings. It also helped me to understand how God wanted to work through my grief to bring me hope and joy amidst the pain.God has already conquered death through His son Jesus dying on the cross for our sins. This act of God's love does not just bring us into eternal life with Him. God's power over death is here for us today, as we live our mortal lives on this planet Earth.He wants to transform us, to place His light into our hearts. This book helped me to see God's plan.It gave me hope and an understanding of how God works in our lives as we grieve.
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15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on August 14, 2005
As a mother who lost a child in an accident, this book confirmed that I was not going crazy That some of the emotions I was going through are the same that Mr. Sittser experienced. I would recommend this book to anyone who has lost a loved one.
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21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
on February 21, 2000
I was on the edge of my seat when reading . You'll need your highghter ,so you can go back and digest the profound statements that need to sink in . The past 2 yrs. of my life have been turned upside , down . My daughter of 10 yrs. was thought to have bone cancer ( had 2 surgeries to remove what was an infection ). My husband fell off the top of 25 ft . roof ( 4 days after daughter's surgery ). He was thought to be brain damaged , and worked to save his leg . Three ms. after my husband walked from the wheelchair , my father came to live with us and diagnosis with blood cancer . I tried to make sense of these losses. " A Disguised Grace " said what I couldn't even grample.This book became like my devotional .....encouraged me , and gives hope that am being covered in Grace ! Am buying a supply to have on hand for a gift to those who are in loss.
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