I lost my mom when I was much younger and it wasn't until recently that I started to look around for grief therapy or even grief books. It was actually an HBO documentary that sent me back looking. When it first happened there wasn't as much in the way of therapy for kids near me or even stuff on the internet but now it's so much better and I really appreciate how there's more stuff available. I think it helped me to learn about grief and how other people dealt with death. That's probably weird but I guess that's how my brain operates.
I picked this up after reading the blurb to add to my 'grief bookshelf.' Which, yes, I have a sub-section just on grief and other bereavement books/articles. I don't find the books sad, instead I find them interesting and calming. Which, again, might be an odd view but I think it helps.
Ty Alexander has her own website, which fits into the "lifestyle" category of blogging. She talks about her travel, beauty, fashion tips, etc. plus life advice and commentary. She also has a podcast in addition to all her social media. I think her blog is nice, and it's one of the ones I follow even though I can't wear Ty's style as well as she does (nor am I technically in her 'audience'), I do enjoy reading her blog posts. She also gets migraines, girl I feel you! :(
Title: Things I Wish I Knew Before My Mom Died: Coping with Loss Every Day
Author: Ty Alexander
Page Number: 153 pages (paperback)
Genre: nonfiction, self-help, memoir
Publisher: Mango Media, Inc.
Ty Alexander didn't just lose her mother; she lost her best friend, confidant and biggest fan. The depth of their love for each other made the loss feel like a black hole with no end in sight. Writing about her grief became her solace, her therapy and the basis for this beautifully raw and real guide toward acceptance and healing. Ty Alexander emerges as an important new voice; her candor and hard-won wisdom offers much comfort to anyone going through the loss of a loved one.
Ty Alexander of Gorgeous in Grey is one of the top bloggers today. She has a tremendous personal connection with her readers. This is never more apparent than when she speaks about her mother. The pain of loss is unfortunately universal. Yet, we all grieve differently. For Alexander, the grieving process is one that she lives with day-to-day. Learning from her pain, Alexander connects with her readers on a deeply emotional level in her debut book, Things I Wish I Knew before My Mom Died. From grief counseling to sharing insightful true stories, Alexander offers comfort, reassurance, and hope in the face of sorrow. In this soul-touching book, mourners will find meaning and wisdom in grieving and the love that will always remain.
First off, isn't that cover beautiful? The inside of the book has the same watercolor motif (chapter headings) and it's such a lovely touch. It also really adds to the ephemeral beauty and sadness of Ty's words.
The book is split into nine sections, including a short forward and another introduction. In the introduction, Ty explains her career, her reasoning for writing the book and how depression kicked in with her mother's diagnosis and eventual death. Ty also talks about the things she learned upon her mother's death, the grief that begins and how your life can change drastically in ways you might not expect. That's not always a bad thing or a good thing, it can just be a different thing. For me, that was the most long-lasting aspect of my mother's death. It changed a lot of things in my life and set me on a different, disorientating path. What's the quote, 'there are many paths up the mountain, that all lead to the same place' or something similar? It's that.
While the introduction is short, each chapter is longer. The first chapter deals with some of the lovely aspects of Ty's mom. The things that she appreciated the most (for instance, her mom let her try so many different activities, allowing her freedom of expressions and artistic want...even if she wasn't the best at it). This all winds up to Ty's point about love, her mother's love for her was a 'shameless', all-encompassing love. It's nice to read because it sets up the relationship that Ty and her mother had (which is, a nice one) but I've read other memoirs dealing with grief where the relationship wasn't filled with love, that doesn't make it any easier really. It also sets up the next aspect of the chapter, which is that death happens to everyone. It's not an avoidable option, so coming to some form of acceptance helps. After the chapter is over, there is a page that I think Ty hopes you stop on. This one has three suggestions of things to do (one of them is that it's okay to cry). It can also be a bit of a decompression moment as the topic of death or grief can be a heavy one. There's one of these stopping pages after every chapter.
Chapter two deals with Ty's family (or family in general). Things can get messy in the aftermath and awkward. Sometimes people don't know what to do with a grieving person...and sometimes they just vanish instead of sticking around. Ty mentions that part of her family disappeared after her mom's death. I'm not sure how common this is (it happened to me as well) but my cousin had her family (which...is also mine) rally around after her mom died. How Ty navigated family, friends and her own feelings after the fact is the point of this chapter. Her main point is that it's best to have a healthy approach to dealing with feelings and with relationships.
Chapter three is far more complicated of a theme because it deals with the guilt of grief, suffering and pain. All different concepts. Wallowing in suffering is optional. Truthfully, I think it would be hard to continue on super positively as your brain is just going to shove a memory in front of you eventually but how you deal with it is the important concept. I would say chapter four continues on a bit with the roller coaster of emotions you can have as well as dealing with the "new normal" that is your life. I found both these chapters to be the hardest ones I read because I think part of grieving is about coming to terms and accepting the "new normal."
Chapter five deals with setting up new routines and finding joy and acceptance in your life. Ty put up affirmations and created newer routines to deal with her grief. Ty mentions transformational vocabulary, which is framing your emotions and experiences in a more positive language. Not lies!! Just reshaping absolute phrases to be less negative ("It's a bit of a bummer" from "This is the worst thing in the world"). It can change your attitude to people and to experiences and probably help with anxiety. It seems like a small thing in the overwhelming rush of feelings that can happen in grief but little things like this are great coping (and eventual great mental calm) abilities.
Chapter six is a lovely tribute to Ty's mother, motherhood and mother-daughter relationships. I feel like I didn't really sum up how lovely I found it but I think it shows how much Ty's mother shaped her life in a positive direction. The last chapter is titled "Dear Mommy' and is a letter from Ty to her mom, after that Ty wraps up her book.
All the books I've read and owned about grief have been useful in their own way. I found Ty's helpful because it was another affirmation that sometimes your family or friends are going to suck the big one in your time of need. They might continue sucking monkey butt even after...even two decades after (I'm being as nice as I can about that). I also think her book was good because it gave a name to some things I did without thought (I also have affirmations around me--my desktop wallpaper and framed art) in order to keep going in a positive manner. I struggled with the idea of optional suffering of guilt, not that I disagree with her, but because I struggle more with that concept. The book is shorter but packs a punch (for instance, her thoughts on the importance of gratitude was a needed read). I think it can useful if you're looking for a memoir that explains some decisions and some thoughts during the grieving process. It's not (and Ty mentions that it's her path) a road map for every type of loss. I think it's one of the better memoirs of grief because it does talk about some things that can happen that not everyone wants to talk about (family dysfunction, snot tears, creating a new normal and memories). I found the writing style the same as her blog writing style, so that's a lucky preview (she also has chapter one on her blog if you wish to read an excerpt). I did see a comment on goodreads about excessive use of curse words. After living with Scottish sports fans...nothing fazes me and I didn't think it was excessive (or noticeable? Yet again....passionate Scottish sports fans with vicious tongues).
The thing I found aggravating with books on grief would be some of the reviews. Sometimes people put all their hopes in looking for something to make them feel better than when it doesn't happen they leave annoyingly whiny (or rude) reviews. Or, another type of person uses the response to talk about their personal battles (often oversharing). Granted, I did mention some stuff I went through first hand too, so I suppose I shouldn't complain. Also, some reviewers freak out over details (language or small grammatical issues) and spend the entire time talking about that. I find those review types useless. I do want to review more books on grief while saying what they do or don't include in case anyone might want to see that. Mostly because that's what I wanted to read when looking for books. It's listed as a self-help book and while it might be that to some people I thought it should be categorized as a memoir. This is Ty's story, and while she shares some tips and such, it's simply how she navigated her new life.
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