Grief, A Dark, Sacred Time

Non-Fiction - Grief/Hardship
234 Pages
Reviewed on 01/20/2020
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Author Biography

I am an art historian and a medievalist. I received my PhD in 2014 from the University of Bristol, in the UK. Prior to that I graduated from NIDA (National Institute of Dramatic Art) in Sydney, Australia, and worked for over a decade as a playwright. Several of my plays have won awards. Four have been published. From working in theatre I came to understand the power of telling stories, how to shape the people we encounter and the events with which we engage into a meaningful narrative.

I have also, since my late twenties, been a practicing, professional astrologer (FAA Diploma 1988). In the early years of my astrological consulting, clients booked in for many reasons, none of which was for bereavement. Some way into the consultation they would reveal a major loss that clearly was unresolved. I realised I could not continue the consultation until we had discussed that loss. I kept waiting for someone to write a book on how to help professional astrologers handle grief and loss in the consulting room. Finally I realised that would be me. That book was 'Life after Grief: An Astrological Guide to Dealing with Loss' (2004). When non-astrologers kept buying the book for the first 100 pages, Margaret Cahill, my publisher, and I realised that the essence of the work spoke to a much larger audience. Thus was born 'Grief, A Dark, Sacred Time'. Margaret and I are now in the process of turning this into an Audiobook.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Romuald Dzemo for Readers' Favorite

Grief: A Dark, Sacred Time by Darrelyn Gunzburg discusses surviving loss and finding strength and meaning in the dire moments when we traverse the dark waters of grief. No matter our status in life, we do get hit by grief when we lose a loved one and this author looks at the nature of grief as it visits children and adults and explores its different faces and how it impacts our lives. The book answers some of the challenging questions we face: Can we deal with the loss? Can we grow through it? Can the void we feel in our hearts be filled again and how? But how do we deal with the debilitating sense of loss that haunts us when someone dies?

In language that is clear and in a compassionate tone, Darrelyn Gunzburg provides practical and astonishing answers to these questions and shows readers how they can grieve for loved ones without losing their sanity and their grip on life. I have had my share of losses in life: a father dying in an untimely way, losing my youngest brother in an accident, and losing some of the people who have been very important in my life and I felt lost during the long periods of grieving that followed the losses. I wish I had read this book at that time because it gives the reader perspective and tools to deal with the pain. Grief: A Dark, Sacred Time is a beautiful book and it clearly shows a reader that losing someone dear isn’t the end of life but that it can open a new door for them to appreciate life in an even deeper way. Written in a confident and engaging voice, it is filled with insight and compassion; a book we should read and revisit, even before losing someone dear to us.

Tamara Holm Howard

The Most Helpful Book about the Grieving Process I have Read

For me, this book was the best book by far in helping me deal with my bereavement. When my 5 year son died suddenly and unexpectedly, I sought help from professionals, books and various societies who purport to assist with the bereavement process. Dr Gunzburg’s writings provided me with an explanation of the process and ‘hope’ that I would come out whole at the other end. Her use of personal narrative and individuals’ stories combined with analysis and scientific facts spoke to both to my head and my heart. No other book provided the same insight and support. I would wholeheartedly recommend this book both to those who have suffered a loss and to friends and relatives who wish to provide useful support.

Victor Olliver

A profound book about letting go

In this special and profound book, astrology is absent. But Grief is reviewed here because of the high standing of the author in the world of astrology. Dr. Darrelyn Gunzburg teaches at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David on its MA course in Cultural Astronomy and Astrology and is a professional consulting and teaching astrologer. “This book is about letting go,” begins Grief. “Specifically, it is about letting go of life as you knew it when death comes to call.” Through exploration of myth, literature, the arts, psychiatry/psychology and many real-life client case studies, we discover that “knowing the shape of grief and its consequences over time gives edges and boundaries to this dark pathway”. This is the necessary prelude to a new life to come “dressed in cloths of gold and sustained with love and warmth”.

I opened the book with some reluctance. As some of you will know, I lost my mother in January 2019 and I wrote about my response and the astrological track of the passing in the March/April 2019 issue of Journal. Neptune came to claim my Moon by conjunction, and yes sceptics, I saw it coming. Part of me wondered why I would want to read another book about a condition that is still an everyday part of my life. Why wallow? What have I not read on grief and bereavement in the past year that does not reduce a sacred experience to a list of blobbed ‘stages’ and action-packed how-tos on the soulless conveyor belt of packaged compassion?

In contrast, Grief is a nuanced blend of the academic and empathic, shaped by an intelligence that we soon sense has shed tears over loss and come to a resolution through reflection. Some measure of distance allows for fresh perspectives on the nature of the grieving process while the author’s beautifully written insights are drawn from the mindful heart, not a textbook or hospital folder. “Grief is the price we pay for living a full life,” Gunzburg writes at one point; the price of loving someone and caring for them – one of the precious experiences that gives real meaning to life. Grief in this sense is a painful sign of success of another order, a reward even, if we can accept it as part and parcel of renewal or rebirth on our mortal trip.

An early section on ancient myths and grief locates a timeless wellspring of wisdom for further self-understanding – and will resonate with some astrologers who understand the role of myth in their work. “Myths are not simply stories told to please children,” writes Gunzburg… “Today, myths continue to illustrate human qualities and behavioural attitudes that remain unchanging over time...inviting us to reinterpret or even change the endings through our own wisdom.”

Grief does include practical advice on coping with bereavement and learning how to grieve. And there are two priceless chapters on parents and grief and children and grief. Though no religion or philosophy is espoused, between the lines we sense a universal spiritual perspective in the liminal space of making sense of loss and rediscovery. We are not machines with simple reset buttons; we need to live the process before recovery. Grief is a book which should be adopted by bereavement organisations worldwide.

Wendy Davidson

Finding a new path with grief

“Grief A Dark, Sacred Time” is an important piece of work by Dr Darrelyn Gunzberg.
It is grounded and balanced in the richness of mythical stories, research, personal stories of grief, intellectual analysis and open-heartedness.
The book has given me a greater understanding of my adult behaviour patterns which were born at the age of 8 years when my father committed suicide. As an 8 year old a light went out in my life.
Reading this book invites me to dive deep and experience the raw darkness of vulnerability and the internal chaos grief brings to my door. It shines a light where I thought there was none.
I find myself more intrigued about loss and less afraid of listening to and experiencing my grief.
It invites me to be there with others as they too find their pathway with grief.
Darrelyn writes “Grief is a passage which leads to a changed future.”
With this book Darrelyn invites me to walk a new path with grief and supports me with very practical suggestions and strategies. I welcome the invitation.
Thank you Darrelyn Gunzberg.

Claudia E. Johnson

The title alone is compelling and oh so helpful -- Grief A Dark, Sacred Time

In 1981 friends of mine began to die – a lot of friends. I was leading seminars with titles like Be Here Now in those years and working on projects like The Hunger Project. And -- it was the Aids crisis. Folks I had studied with, worked with on projects for abused children with, laughed with, listened to the music of the musicians among them, knew their histories, their pals and recognized their laughter --began to die. Hospice wasn’t known yet and was in its early stages. Many families didn’t wish to associate with their gay children, so their dying days became the communities task. We had to learn and learn fast how to set up ‘teams’, learn the names of drugs, deal with the pain our friends were suffering, and provide services when the death did come.
I learned early on that death was inevitable and often frightening and frankly awful. I read whatever I could find that might help me know ‘what to do’ when death arrived. And those books were few and far between even tho’ I had attended graduate school and had a cursory knowledge of what the church said I ‘should’ do.
I was looking at my books yesterday and over the years I have collected and mostly read a vast number of books about death and dying. Some “good” and some “preachy”. The book that I just read is called Grief: A Dark Sacred Time by Dr. Darrelyn Gunzburg. For one thing—actually the main thing I appreciate is that her writing acknowledges the grief…it’s the title! These days many of our cultures run the other way as though death is a concept that if we don’t talk about it—maybe it will go away. It won’t. We call the services for people celebrations of life and altho’ that is where we want to be – we want to celebrate that life we knew – and should -- I am very sure that there is grieving that also wants its due and indeed that is part of the deal. We will miss them (mostly) and it hurts and our lives change – we are altered forever when we have lived with that friend, or relative, child or neighbor. And we grieve even if we think we will be better off not showing that pain—stiff upper lip and all that. Don’t make anyone uncomfortable seems to be a rule we made up somewhere along the line.
Dr. Gunzburg is a storyteller, a playwright, a professor, and so much more. She has dogs and cats and a loving partner. She has studied Grief and she has a grand sense of humor that deepens that rigorous attention to how to be and be good with the family, the children, the dying person. At one point in her life, she interviewed countless people who over time had either been with death in their own lives. Death and loss itself. She knows how to use lines from plays and movies and makes grand use of the stories from long ago—the Greek myths for example. In this book, she focuses throughout the book on the story of Proteus and Menelaus. Proteus lies down with the seals and Menelaus has to do the same in order to release his ship from the grip of the sea and he and his men can return home. I won’t tell the story here because I want you to read this book.
It is not a ‘how to’ book…but it is rich in story and captivating and frankly made me cry in various places. Her ability to relay a story – a true story—of the death of someone’s mate is poignant and rich. I was transported to when my parent or my friend or someone in my little town died. The way the family reacted, the immobilizing sadness and fear all of which also offers “an acute sense of existence”. I looked over at my best friend and spouse and experienced that moment that hasn’t happened when one of us will die ~ and soon after I was propelled into that space of living life now—the preciousness becoming real and available.
This book brings me to my knees and I am impacted such that I am a better person and better at being with the dying and much better at living my own life to the fullest.
Thank you Darrelyn Gunzberg. This is one of the best ever written and “I don’t say that to all the girls”.