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GRIEVING FORWARD: Embracing Life Beyond Loss
Susan Duke
ISBN-10: 0446697125
ISBN-13: 9780446697125

When Susan Duke's teenage son was killed in a car crash in 1990, the grieving mother believed she would never recover from such a devastating loss. Now, 16 years later, she believes she is finally in a position to share her grief --- and the journey she has taken toward healing --- in book form. GRIEVING FORWARD documents the story of her loss and offers practical and spiritual help for those who are mourning the death of a loved one.

Duke begins with the moment she is told that the doctors attending to Thomas's injuries were unable to save him. But Duke is convinced they have the wrong person; one of Thomas's friends, who was following him in his own car, had assured her that his injuries are minor. Whether the friend intended to mislead her or whether he was given incorrect information, Duke never knows. All she knows is that the misinformation has prevented her from preparing for the worst.

Duke continues to take the reader along on her journey through 18 chapters that each end with a word of encouragement, giving the book more of a devotional feel. Throughout the book, she relates both her own experiences with grief and those of others to the classic stages of grief, though her own list differs somewhat from Elisabeth Kübler-Ross's, whom she cites. Kübler-Ross, considered to be an expert in the field for nearly five decades, identified five stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Duke's list includes shock and disbelief, anger, reality, acceptance and reconciliation.

In addition to providing comfort, the author helps those who are grieving learn how to deal with such things as insensitive remarks made by seemingly well-intended people --- and how to prepare for expected situations that result in unexpected shock, such as, in one woman's case, the delivery of her son's ashes by the crematorium. She also uses biblical examples of grieving, particularly the story of Job.

At times, though, the book can be confusing. At one point, a "heckling voice" taunts Duke over the despair that has immobilized her and that marks the end of Heartsong Ministries. But nowhere in the book or the accompanying publicity materials is there any mention of what Heartsong Ministries is or how Duke is connected with it. Equally confusing are the details of the crash; few details are given in the beginning of the book, and it is only much later that we have any inkling of what happened to anyone else who may have been involved.

Readers who are experiencing grief without the help of numerous friends and family members may have difficulty relating to Duke's situation; from the very beginning, she was surrounded by an extensive support system, people who for the most part seemed to know what she needed, when she needed it, and when she simply needed to be left alone. Still, the very personal story of her journey is likely to resonate with many who are grieving the death of a loved one.

   --- Reviewed by Marcia Ford. You may contact Marcia by email ( or through her website (

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