Is there a right time to reflect on how we grow through grief?

A professional grief coach, Stephanie Harris offers advice and insight in this self-help book.

DEATH EXPANDS US:
AN HONEST ACCOUNT OF GRIEF
AND HOW TO RISE ABOVE IT
Stephanie Harris
Lioncrest Publishing

By ELSPETH MCLEAN

In the midst of grief, I doubt I would have taken Death Expands Us off the shelf.

Its very title would have been off-putting at a time when I would have found death stultifying and constricting as I struggled after being plunged into sole parenthood of four sons.

Stephanie Harris, whose 33-year-old brother Brendon, died suddenly of an unknown illness in 2009, relates her story of grief and gives strategies for navigating various aspects of grief.

She exhorts her readers to remember they are not alone, grief has no rules and it is OK to grieve the way you want to, your life does not end with someone else's death and that grief can provide opportunity for significant and meaningful personal growth.

Harris, who is now a professional grief coach, is strong on the power of choice in how we deal with our grief and she wants us to be open to the idea we may not be given more to cope with than we can handle.

"Even when you feel that you are in your darkest moment of despair, try, if only for a moment, to consider the possibility that enduring such a difficult time may lead you to accomplish significant things that your experiences have uniquely qualified you to.''

While much of what Harris says about the aftermath of the death of a loved one is sensible and useful, I worry that her emphasis on transformation could make those who do not feel death has expanded them to believe they are inadequate.

Elspeth McLean is an ODT columnist and former health reporter.

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