By Dane Skelton
It was February 10, 1976, very late in the day and Dad was overdue for dinner again. It was nothing new. His rather flexible notions of time management often made him late for dinner. Combining that trait with a bright blue sky, a seventy-five degree day and a friend that wanted to go flying with him made a missed dinner almost inevitable. Mom would keep his plate warm in the oven and we would eat without him.
That’s when the phone rang and we learned that we would from that day on always eat without Dad. His plane had spun out of an aerobatic maneuver into the ground and he was never coming home.
Life for the Skeltons would never be the same. Nothing could prepare us for it. But there is something that could have helped us deal with the aftermath better as the years went by. It is Granger E. Westberg’s excellent little book GOOD GRIEF. I read it while on vacation and want to recommend it to you.
Westberg was a pastor, a scholar, and a chaplain who served on the faculty of the University of Chicago Medical Center as well as theDivinitySchoolin the 1950s and 60s. In that capacity he had great exposure to the causes and results of grief and summed up with deep wisdom and skill his findings in the short, thirty-two page book that has now sold over three million copies. He dealt not only with grief through death but also with the grief generated by all kinds of losses: divorce, being fired, moving, difficulties with children, the death of dreams and many other things.
As one of Westberg’s students, Dr. Timothy Johnson, M.D., says in his foreword to the fiftieth anniversary edition, Westberg wrote “with the heart of a pastor, the insight of a psychologist, the humanity of a father and husband, and the hope of someone who has seen so many survive the process of grieving. It is simple but not simplistic. It is profound but not professorial…it describes the pathway through grieving that can only be found through honesty.”
I hope to explore some of what Westberg explains in this column over the next few months. But the best thing I can recommend, if you have suffered a loss of any kind, is to buy it and read it. GOOD GRIEF is a good book.