Book Review: Good Grief! by Erica McNeal

I was asked by the author to read her new book Good Grief! and write a review. I was honored to have been given such a great opportunity because many of you know I am a firm believer that those of us living through the grieving process need helpful resources. I can tell you that without a doubt, Good Grief meets all the criteria to make on my library shelf and for those of you who follow me – you know that is not an easy accomplishment.


Normally I would take a grief resource book and blog through it as it relates to my own experience. Since the author has already done that for us, I will write my review with some interjection from my experience as well. This link will take you to her website: She has a great resource page on Facebook!/pages/Good-Grief/167406756656003 and she is also on Twitter @toddanderica.

Overall the book is well written and addresses some of the most difficult topics regarding grief. Regardless of how we found ourselves on this journey, her book can help those of us who live with grief and those of us who know someone who is living with grief. The specific area that I feel the author really nailed was how those who speak to us while in our depths of grief can cause more pain and suffering. This is really one of my most favorite parts of the book. She gives some great pointers to those who walk with us during our journey and tips on what to say or what not to say.

Through my journey I have found that my relationships after my daughter’s death changed. Some for the good and some not so good. Erica offers some great advice in this area and I would highly recommend her book to anyone who is walking with a friend or family member as it will give them the much needed advice to support in a positive and affirming way.

So often friends and family would stop calling or visiting. When I asked why they would say to me “I didn’t know what to say”. Can I just say how dreadfully hard that is to know that the people you thought were your friends and family would find it easier to stay away than to ask “what can I do?”. If you are experiencing this in your journey – please give them Good Grief! and have them specifically read Chapter Seven. Remembering one key component: your quiet presence will always trump your loud absence.

Erica speaks of the guilt she had over the death of her daughter Kylie and that pain resonated with me as well. Guilt can be devastating to a grieving family. So many questions are left unanswered when a child dies. Did we do enough? Should we have tried this or that? Was there something I missed? The plaguing questions can go on forever. But as Erica eludes to God’s grace and the support of some close friends and family can help begin to bridge the gap between unanswered questions and acceptance of the unknown. This has been the case for me as I have dealt with such guilt over my daughter’s death and have been able to come to terms with those questions. Some of them continue to be unresolved, but I have turned them over to God to keep for a later time.

Erica covers a topic that is near and dear to my heart and that is in Chapter Two – Why Me? I have written about that myself and as she so eloquently writes: “…when people use their grief and pain as ministry opportunities, it impacts the lives of those around them.” “Sometimes, a person has already begun to grieve, but can be given the gift of renewed strength and energy to continue pressing forward……use their difficulties to come alongside someone else…. and the best statement yet “his or her feelings and emotions are validated when somebody else can relate.” Extraordinarily important is the walk we can take with those who come along behind us and enter this life-long journey.

I have found that writing my blog over the years and befriending those who have joined the journey after me has given me a purpose. At the end of the day – sometimes it is the hope we get and the hope we extend that can make all the difference. A quote from a recent sermon I heard says it the best: “When your life meets reality – choose hope.”

Chapter Five – Grace. Here Erica contains some great advice for those who try to meet us in our walk and don’t know what to say or do. Grace is so easily given, but so often withheld and primarily because we have forgotten how to give grace. She goes on to write about other things we can do to support those in need in Chapter Six. Totally spot on with even those of us who are the grievers know what we need. We are new at this too. As I eluded to in the earlier paragraphs, she does a great job offering pointers with great rationale to support how to help, what to say and what not to say.

I’ve said this many times “The Silence is Deafening”. It’s heartbreaking and adds to the already unbearable pain the one who is grieving is experiencing. For me the silence speaks more than saying the wrong thing. But again the author really hits the mark with her suggestions and helpful hints for those who want to walk along side their loved one and be all that they can be at that moment. Whatever that looks like – just be actively present.

The other thing that resonates with me throughout the book Erica speaks about a journal. You all know I’m a big advocate for keeping a journal. I believe writing gives your grief a voice and takes it from your very broken heart and puts in a place where you can say “yes that is my pain” and now I can give it to God to heal and at some later point come back and read it knowing “yes that was my pain” and God is working to heal it and He always will. He never gives up and He never runs out on you. Never.

Erica says something so profound and it’s this: “Yes, specifically use the word “died” and remember to use the name of your loved one’s child.” I can’t even begin to say how utterly important this one small thing is. Validation of what happened and that their child existed once. As Erica says “it opens up the doors for him or her to start talking about their emotions and hurt with you.” Erica says “while this may feel uncomfortable, it shows that  you value the child that has died and their grief.” If there is one thing you can take away from all of this – please don’t forget this.

There are so many great moments in Good Grief! that I believe it is well worth purchasing for yourself and for anyone who is going through this journey. I believe it can be helpful any one no matter where they are in their journey. For me, even at the 6th year mark, find this book validating, resourceful and provides hope that I am not alone.

Awesome job Erica! Congrats on a well-rounded, resourceful and very helpful book about grief.

until next time,


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