The Heart of Grief: Death and the Search for Lasting Love

The Heart of Grief: Death and the Search for Lasting Love

The Heart of Grief: Death and the Search for Lasting Love

The Heart of Grief: Death and the Search for Lasting Love


"What's gone and what's past help," Shakespeare wrote, "should be past grief." But Thomas Attig argues that Shakespeare is wrong--that a grieving survivor need never let go. In The Heart of Grief, Attig gives us an inspiring and profoundly insightful meditation on the meaning of grief, showing how it can be the path toward a lasting love of those who have died. Recounting dozens of stories of people who have struggled with deaths in their lives, he describes grieving as a transition from loving in presence to loving in separation. The thing we long for most--the return of the one who is missing--is the very thing that we can never have, kindling the intense pain of our loss. But Attig argues that we can, in fact, build an enduring, even reciprocal, love, a love that tempers our pain. He tells stories, for instance, of a young girl taking some of her dead sister's practical advice as she enters high school, a widower realizing how much intimate life with his wife has colored his character, and an athlete drawing inspiration from his dead brother and achieving what they had dreamed of together. Far from forgetting our loved ones, Attig urges us to explore ways in which our memories of the departed can be sustained, our understanding of them enhanced, and their legacies embraced, so they continue to play active roles in our everyday and inner lives. Groundbreaking and original, inspiring and compassionate, The Heart of Grief offers guidance, comfort, and a new understanding of how we grieve.


Death ends a life, not a relationship.

--Morrie Schwartz

As a teacher, speaker, and author I've listened to countless grieving persons in the last twenty-five years. Most of what I know about grieving I've learned from their stories. I've never spoken to anyone who mourns for someone they love who does not want to continue loving them in some way. Not knowing how to continue to love brings great pain and anguish.

Recently a man came up to me at a conference to say, "I want you to know how much I hated you years ago." I'd never been approached quite like that before by someone with such gentle eyes. He seemed as eager to explain as I was to hear what he had to say.

He said he was in an audience seven years earlier when I spoke about what it is like after someone we love dies. He said it was as if I was looking directly into his raw grief over his daughter. He remembered my talking of how we naturally want someone we love to be with us. How we fear that if we stop wanting their return when they die, we will stop loving them. Then he said, "There I was wanting my daughter back more than anything. And you put your finger on my deepest fear."

He recalled how I said that the worst agony of intense grief comes when we realize that the return we want more than anything is the one thing we cannot have. "I was in the darkest place I'd ever been in my life. And you told me that the only light I could imagine was one I could never see. I felt so desperate I wanted to scream and rush you at the front of the room. . . ."

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