The Mourning Report

Non-Fiction - Memoir
168 Pages
Reviewed on 03/21/2021
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Author Biography

​Caitlin Garvey is a writer and English professor in Chicago. She has an MFA in creative writing from Northwestern University, as well as an MA in English Literature from DePaul University. Her work has been published in Post Road Magazine, JuxtaProse Magazine, Apeiron Review, The Baltimore Review, The Tishman Review, The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts, and others.

Her debut memoir, The Mourning Report (Homebound Publications, October 6, 2020), is about losing her mother to cancer and collecting the stories of the people who played a role in her mother's care.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Erin Nicole Cochran for Readers' Favorite

The Mourning Report by Caitlin Garvey is raw with edges of true honesty that you won’t read anywhere else. A non-fiction memoir, Garvey sits her audience down to listen in as she interviews five people who were part of her mother’s passage from life to death. A priest, hospice nurse, hairstylist, estate planner, and funeral director do their best to give her the answers that she seeks. Each no doubt hoping to bring Caitlin Garvey some small bit of peace.

Caitlin Garvey’s The Mourning Report is able to put you in the center of what it feels like to lose someone too soon and to a debilitating illness. It also takes us on the journey of Garvey’s own recovery process from her days spent in a psychiatric facility. The strength and courage that Garvey exudes go beyond awe-inspiring. Her candor throughout is another connecting thread that draws the reader into her words; she doesn’t sugarcoat or exaggerate, and anyone that is human responds to that kind of voice. One of the instances that pulled me in and rang so true was on page 37: “Spirituality is strange because it’s invisible. You have to feel it. At that moment, I feel something, too. I feel warm…” There were many times that Garvey’s writing overtook me. And I honestly can’t tell you how many times I was overcome by emotion. Too many to count. All I know is that you will be able to understand grief more in depth and in almost every form that it can possibly take when you finish reading Caitlin Garvey’s The Mourning Report.

Jamie Michele

The Mourning Report by Caitlin Garvey is a non-fiction memoir written from the unique perspective of a daughter witnessing the deterioration and ultimately the death of her mother. Garvey describes “Momma” as a woman who loved her children and was truly well-liked by those who knew her, with a strong faith in God and a journal that sheds light on some of the darker moments. Garvey stands shyly but unquestionably at odds with the expectation of conformity, particularly as it pertains to religion, sexuality, and mental health, which makes the memoir as much hers as it does her mother's. The anguish of Momma's physical pain extends to her daughter in an emotional way that latches on, the battle still raging in Garvey long after Momma has passed. Healing manifests itself in ways that we cannot comprehend, but when Garvey begins a journey of reaching out to those in Momma's circle as her cancer progressed, we are able to witness firsthand the strength of two women: Momma and the daughter she'd be so proud of.

I had to take breaks reading The Mourning Report, which is somewhat unusual for me and especially so when it moves in a sphere I've been in myself. As I read Caitlyn Garvey's beautifully written memoir, I was moved to tears more than once, but also had a few good chuckles to get me through it. My mother passed away at the age of 43 in a manner that is hauntingly similar to Garvey's Momma, and I incredibly connected to both Momma and Garvey. There is a moment when she describes sitting down with a hospice nurse and then getting angry when the nurse says it's likely the last night of Momma's life. Garvey equates the nurse to a skeptic but then follows it with a heart-wrenching introspection that reads, “The hospice nurse was right. Momma died the next day. It took me months to believe. It was a different kind of skepticism. The kind that protects.” I absolutely love that Garvey interviewed so many people. The saying that it takes a village to raise a child is well known, but what is less known is that it also takes a village to tend to those who are on the final lap of their journey...and Garvey can tell you all about it. Very highly recommended.

Joe Wisinski

Author Caitlin Garvey lost her mother to breast cancer when she was only 18 years old. The loss devastated Garvey, and two years later she attempted suicide because of her grief and depression. Although she received treatment at a psychiatric facility, she still suffered emotionally. Her pain was the genesis of this book, The Mourning Report. Garvey interviewed five people who were involved in her mother's dying process and/or deal with death in the course of their professions. They included a hairstylist, a priest, a hospice administrator, an estate planner, and a funeral director. Garvey’s purpose was to gain insight into how they can still function, although they all also had to deal with her mother’s death or that of others. She hoped that through talking to them she could learn to deal with the pain in her own life.

Caitlin Garvey’s The Mourning Report must have been supremely difficult to write. The author is brutally honest about her pain of her mother’s death, her suicide attempt, and her on-and-off healing process. Each interview, although helpful to Garvey, brought sorrow back to her. But the book also appears to have been therapeutic for Garvey. Each of the chapters, which consist of the interviews with the five professionals, is interspersed with her memories of her mother and her family life. Like virtually everyone, I have experienced loss and pain, and Garvey’s book was therapeutic for me, too. Garvey is a fine writer. She has a dream of writing multiple books and there’s every reason to believe she’ll reach that goal. I highly recommend The Mourning Report.

Lesley Jones

It was in 1997 when Caitlin's mother was first diagnosed with leukemia and she realized how vulnerable her mother's body had become. Although she went into remission in 2001, in 2005 when Caitlin was only 15 years of age, her mother was diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer and died three years later. Two years following her mother's death, while Caitlin was in junior year at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, she attempted suicide and was admitted to a psychiatric ward. Caitlin was to battle depression and severe anxiety from that moment on. Although she spent time with several therapists and tried many different medications, the mental illness remained. Caitlin decided to take a journey back in time and interview the five pivotal people in her mother's life during her illness, to gain some perspective and answers to her grief. Follow Caitlin Garvey's 'grief journey' in The Mourning Report as she speaks with her mother's hairstylist and close friend, family priest, a hospice nurse and administrator, her parents’ estate planner, and her mother's embalmer. Caitlin believes her conversations with the people who were the closest to her mother in her final moments would offer much-needed support and guidance. It may even bring her inner peace and calm which will allow her to embrace life once more.

The Mourning Report by Caitlin Garvey is such a beautifully written memoir. The emotions Caitlin describes are poignant, heartfelt, and powerful. Her descriptions of the feeling of helplessness as she could only stand by and watch her mother's pain were superb. I especially found her definition of cancer as a 'disease was a kind of slow violence' so perfect. The strength of character of Caitlin's mother was evident and I admired her resolve throughout all her hardships to be the emotional rock for her husband and her three daughters. Anyone who has suffered loss or is going through their own personal grieving journey will gain so much comfort from this memoir. Caitlin's vulnerability and raw honesty are admirable and I resonated with her views and thoughts so much. Caitlin really travels on a road of self-discovery, even gaining an understanding of why she chose law as a career. I loved the inclusion of the parable of the Mustard Seed, this was extremely helpful to my grief journey too. A highly recommended read.

Mamta Madhavan

The Mourning Report by Caitlin Garvey is a heartrending memoir that gives readers glimpses of the author's battles with agitated anxiety and major depressive disorder after her mother's death due to breast cancer. The author speaks of trying 13 different medications, a mix of anti-depressants, anti-psychotics, anti-anxieties, and ADHD medications, and going to five different therapists in 2010 to deal with her anxiety and depression. The memoir also speaks of how difficult the author found it to deal with her mother's death and how she took part in the journey by having interviews with the people who were part of her mother's life and death; the hairstylist who was her mother's close friend, a nurse and administrator at the Heartland Hospice Care, their family priest, her parents' estate planner, and an embalmer/funeral director. The chapters in the book revolve around the interviews, and readers learn about the memories, angst, grief, and pain of the author through them.

The Mourning Report is raw, honest, and poignant, and readers will relate to the stories shared by Caitlin Garvey. Each interview takes readers closer to her mother and the ordeal faced by the author while trying to accept the reality of her mother's condition. The author was just 8 when her mother was diagnosed with leukemia and died when she was eighteen, and the memoir reveals her optimism and undying spirit while bringing up her three daughters. The mother's struggle through chemotherapy, mastectomies, and other progressive stages of the disease will leave readers heartbroken and will connect with any reader who has experienced the loss of a loved one. Caitlin Garvey's pain and sorrow are palpable and her personal story of how she dealt with the loss is relatable to many readers.