Unattended Sorrow Summary
by Stephen Levine

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Unattended Sorrow

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

In Unattended Sorrow: Recovering from Loss and Reviving the Heart, Stephen Levine, a grief counselor for more than thirty years, discusses the way grief impacts every area of life, persists over time, and intensifies the blow of later losses. Unresolved pain or “unattended sorrow” may result from any major loss—the loss of a loved one, divorce, illness, abuse, or humiliation, or even the loss of trust in the future or the stress of modern living. It is cumulative over time, troubling our sleep, robbing us of our self-assurance, and diminishing our zest for living. It affects most people at some level, and often leads to physical and emotional problems, including addiction and other self-destructive behaviors.

According to Levine, the key to healing is to stop suppressing the pain and to embrace it fully as a natural emotion, to become aware of all thoughts, feelings, and physical responses, and to respond with self-acceptance and mercy. In accepting the “not knowing” with profound “open-mindedness, ” there is meaning, though not always a reason, in what seems a meaningless loss. Accepting thoughts without judging them, and allowing them to flow through the consciousness, makes people aware of deeper truths from inner wisdom, and helps to tap into the strength to love and to forgive both oneself and others. Likewise, exploring the body's self-protective resistance to pain, letting go of its rigidity and physical hardness in response to pain, can bring healing.

Levine's solutions are influenced by Buddhist philosophy and may not find easy acceptance in Western culture, but these spiritual meditations provide universal insights into overcoming grief. Beautifully written in poetic prose, they can help anyone dealing with loss or sorrow move forward.