Finding the Words…Colin Campbell

Posted on May 2, 2024 by Rev. Pam Reidy under Inspiration
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Every once in a while a book comes along that is so extraordinary I want to buy a copy for everyone I know! Colin Campbell’s book Finding the Words is such a book. On the advice of a friend I added it to my extensive library on grief and loss soon after it was published last year. It has become a book I unhesitatingly recommend to all types of grievers, but especially those who have experienced “a sudden, unexpected, tragic loss.”

Colin Campbell and his wife Gail were in a horrific car accident that took the lives of their two teenaged children, Ruby and Hart. Colin chronicles their grief journey, authoring a book that is at once a valuable grief primer and a powerful memoir. With the perfect balance of personal wisdom and solid information, Finding the Words helps grievers face loss with tenderness and the experience of a wise expert who discovered the pathway from anguish to peace.

You will quickly consider Colin a worthy grief companion as his refreshingly honest account and masterful gift with words affords him the credibility of holding his pain and yours.  Colin Campbell is downright eloquent in describing the depth of his pain:

When Ruby and Hart were killed, I was lost. Without them, all of life felt meaningless. I didn’t want to be alive without them. I felt like a scared little boy, all alone in a terrifyingly empty world. I was untethered from life. For the first few months, I wasn’t sure if I would be able to go on living without losing my mind. The enormity of their deaths was so awful it couldn’t fit in my head.

In a recent blog I urged that we become grief informed, so that we are able to support and guide each other through a death loss. For those whose favored style of learning is reading Finding the Words is an excellent place to begin. Campbell’s treatment of important topics is second to none. What I most cherish is his wisdom on navigating the emotions of grief, mourning a loss in a grief-illiterate culture, the necessity and efficacy of ritual and living in hope. One of the most important contributions Campbell makes in this book is to invite us into the intimate milieu of the grief stricken.

In reflecting on healing and finding solace, Campbell posed an important question to himself “What am I seeking as I travel through this journey of grief?” (pg. 113)  The answer to this query is what carries every griever to health and hope. In order to embrace the challenges and changes that accompany loss, we must ask and answer this question.

Campbell’s words on the emotions of grief are not only exceptional because they are raw and honest, but because he normalizes the pain of grief, not treating it as a disorder, but encouraging the griever to embrace the emotions as natural and necessary. In drawing a clear, concise, and comprehensive picture of what it is like to mourn a terrible loss in a grief-illiterate culture, Colin Campbell invites every one of us to become grief-informed that we may heal ourselves and each other.

Perhaps my favorite part of this book is its treatment of ritual. According to Campbell, both private and public rituals are efficacious. The public rituals provide a necessary public witness and the private offer the intimate occasions of continuing the bond with our deceased loved one. The book is replete with examples of how ritual heals and helps.

The great danger to a griever’s mental health is in grief’s predisposition for despair, especially when death is tragic, unexpected or complicated. The Campbell’s loss was tragic, complicated, sudden, unreasonable and unfair. To live in a world without your only children, to witness their demise while unable to save them, to experience the cruelty of life at your very core and return to living in hope is nothing short of pure grace.

Every page of this book is a lesson in how to move from despair to hope. Whether you are a griever, a companion to someone who has suffered a difficult loss, an end-of-life, or afterlife care professional, adding this book to your library will be the best $25 you ever spent! Available wherever books are sold.

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