Crisis, Grief, and Healing > Recommended Grief Books

Dark Emotions

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Healing Through the Dark Emotions: The Wisdom of Grief, Fear, and Despair (Hardcover)
by Miriam Greenspan

Here's a book that offers a new prescription for coping with depression and anxiety, as well as other painful emotional states: don't try to escape them. In Healing through the Dark Emotions Miriam Greenspan shows us that there's something good in so-called "bad" feelings, if we would only stop and listen to them. In a down-to-earth and engaging style, Greenspan explains why learning to attend, befriend, and surrender to emotional pain actually leads to lasting relief, as well as to greater wisdom, compassion, and a deep sense of fulfillment. Most of us don't know how to listen very well to emotional pain. This is because we have never been taught that doing so is a good thing, or how to do it. Greenspan offers a step-by-step process for opening ourselves to the wisdom of painful feelings that she calls "the alchemy of dark emotions." She focuses on three of the most common forms of emotional distress: grief, despair (a.k.a. depression), and fear. Surprisingly, when we find the courage to move toward our pain and inhabit it fully, something magical happens. Grief leads us into a state of gratitude. Despair is a doorway to faith. And fear delivers us to joy. Drawing on inspiring examples from her private practice, and integrating some unforgettable stories from her personal life, Greenspan teaches us the art and magic of keeping your heart open in the presence of pain. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, in any one year more than 18 million Americans suffer from depression. More than 19 million are diagnosed with anxiety disorders. In the midst of this alarming epidemic of emotional distress, Greenspan offers a much-needed, penetrating exploration of the causes of our suffering—and practical advice on how to cure it. The culprit, she says, is our cultural intolerance for feeling bad. The biochemical view of emotions and other trends in our society have encouraged us to dismiss, deny, and pathologize the dark emotions. But to find peace and healing, she says, we need to cultivate a more open and trusting relationship to these feelings. We need to learn that the darkness has its own light.

Hi Seven- I read this book and even emailed the author and she wrote me back! I couldn't believe I wrote her and said,"Everytime I can't sleep in the middle of the night I read your book to go back to sleep." ha ha- just a tendency I have to put the foot in the mouth etc.
 Anyways, i really liked this book I found it very helpful and I highly recommended it to my friend who lost her newborn daughter at birth- she liked it too. Terri

"our cultural intolerance for feeling bad" - that's it in a nutshell, it says it all. Corporate America generally allows 3 days off over a death in the family. Can you imagine that? How can a person function properly on a job 3 days after losing a child, spouse, parent, etc.?

Where does this absurd notion come from, that there is something wrong with a person for feeling bad? To me, it comes from materialism, when a person(s) defines themselves by their possessions and status in life. We all know such shallow, intellectually sterile people who go into a minor state of crisis when something isn't working properly or gets broken - it becomes a loss of control for them, something beyond their reach and power to manipulate and own. To me, this is neurosis, very much so and intolerance quickly circumvents feelings of helplessness when such people are faced with death and serious loss of any kind. That's why we hear such absurd things as, " Get over it - just move on - you'll find someone else - God wanted her/him more than you - at least you still have the other children - be strong" ad nauseum.

What you say is very true, Kevin.  Bereavement leave needs to be a lot longer, even if only for the time needed to deal with practicalities, not to mention the grieving. 

Basically, I think there is some sort of fear at work, not to say a denial, in society.  Death is a sort of taboo subject, and I think there is an idea that "the less said about it the better".  Maybe if we don't talk about it, it won't happen. 


Was reading this today.  Perhaps some of it is pertinent.

"""So, we live with one foot in and one foot out - one foot firmly grounded in the here and now and the other resting in the realm of soul and spirit. For a wo/man to walk - to move forward -- s/he must have two legs, and for the seeker of self and spirit, that means living in these two worlds simultaneously. It means staying grounded in the here and now and taking advantage of the opportunities presented by that here and now to forge the spirit, coming closer, then, to the Source.

If we lose a great love, for example, or if it is taken from us, this is a cause to mourn. But it is also an opportunity in that our grief, rather than irrevocably binding us to our human sadness, can be an engine of evolution because it brings to us the lessons of impermanence and the constancy of change.

Should we mourn our loss? Yes, because we are human and we feel our feelings; and the sadness of loss is likely the most human of feelings. But, in setting aside our ego - our attachment, rather than our commitment, to the here and now - we can move into a space of soul-evolution by seizing the opportunity to explore these elements of impermanence, change constancy, our own fear and denial of death, and so on


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