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Bibliotherapy

hand&shadow2.pngBibliotherapy means using the reading of books (or the watching of movies) as a way to heal yourself, gain insight, or solve a problem. ~ from The Sibling Connection

Suppose you were struggling with grief after losing a loved one, and so you sought out a grief counselor for guidance. Because it is often less threatening to deal with painful emotions indirectly, your counselor might use a treatment modality called bibliotherapy, suggesting a book for you to read or a movie to watch with themes that relate to your issues. I first learned about bibliotherapy when my book, “The Jim and Dan Stories” was reviewed by Pleasant Gill White, Ph.D. and listed in the bibliotherapy section of her sibling loss website, “The Sibling Connection.” Some of the ways bibliotherapy can help facilitate healing, listed on the website, include: It can give you a vocabulary, reduce your feeling of isolation as you recognize characters who remind you of yourself, and help you work through your grief experience by giving you an opportunity to compare and contrast your experience with others.

But you don’t need a therapist to practice bibliotherapy. Some who are coping with loss will find themselves instinctively reaching for books and movies about death and grief. After losing my brothers 4 years ago, I did. I browsed through so many books on death that I can’t remember one from the other now. “Tuesdays with Morrie” was one I do remember that was so good I bought an extra copy to have for lending to others.

Over the last few years only a couple of movies with death and grief themes continue to stand out in my mind. One is “Moonlight Mile” with Susan Sarandon and Dustin Hoffman, and the other is “In America” about an Irish immigrant family who lost their young child. I saw both too long ago to comment on in detail, other than to say that they were deeply moving and dealt with the subject intelligently and sensitively and in a way that I could relate to.

I recently saw another movie to add to this list of favorites. It’s an independent Canadian film made in 2003 called “My Life Without Me.” The plot line described on the video box that drew me in was something like: Young woman conceals the fact of her terminal cancer to live her life with a passion she never had before.

In the movie, the main character, played by Sarah Polley, decides to face death on her own terms. She rationalizes that by keeping her pending death a secret she will spare her family months spent crying in hospital corridors and eating bad cafeteria food. She sets about to make her children audio tapes for each birthday, reunites with her incarcerated father, looks for a new wife for her husband and mother for children, and explores doing things she’s never done before. It’s sad but not sappy with balance of tragedy and resolution, and the fact that the lead role was a strong female character wasn’t lost on me. One reviewer summed the movie up like this…it makes you think twice about what’s really important and a movie that can do that is a movie worth seeing. Ultimately, that’s probably the underlying reason that I’m involved in the study of death.

“My Life Without Me” and the other movies I mentioned will probably make you cry, but you won’t feel manipulated to do so, as with some Hollywood fare; at least I didn’t. But why watch movies that you know will make you cry? How can that be therapy? I think watching movies about death when you’re grieving can act like a homeopathic remedy, aligning with feelings you’re already having and bringing them to the surface for you to plainly see. Another reason not to avoid what you know will make you cry refers back to a line in the “The Jim and Dan Stories,” the book I wrote after losing my brothers: “The sadness is already there… the crying just lets it out.”

Comments

I will not even jinx myself by talking about such, I will just say I have been very, very blessed in my life and leave it at that. Always a pleasure to read your posts. Have a great weekend!!!

I totally do this! Many years ago, I lost someone very close to me. He died an upper respiratory infection, made fatal by his AIDS. He meant the world to me, and I have no memories of life without his presence. I think I am still healing. There were several movies and books I would watch and read that would allow me to escape from the pain, but also made me face it, to a point. It really does help. You don't feel so alone.

I'm a sucker for sad movies, even ones that aren't that sad can make me cry if I relate to it in any way, shape, or form. And, I agree that it can be therapeutic during those times that it seems easier to try to suppress the things you truly feel. I'll have to check out My Life Without Me, sounds like a good one. Thanks for the read, and I like the picture - it goes with the post nicely.

Michele sent me. Happy Friday!

I learned a new word today, thanks to you! I haven't had a significant loss, but my parents are getting older and this is becoming a concrete fear...You always offer such interesting readings , I am very honoured that you stop at my little blog sometimes, thank you!

I wish there were more books out there for teenagers; to help them deal with grief. When Nyssa's friend killed himself in high school the kids in that small close knit class were devastated. The teachers and adults around them tried to help as much as possible but we were in shock as well. The thing that did help them the most was a video they made for his memorial. They gathered pictures of him in happier times and made a movie collage to his favorite song. The tears flowed that day and healing began.

This is spooky... I posted today on my own blog about a book (F. Scott Fitzgerald's "The Great Gatsby") which has proven tremendoulsy therapeutic for me over the years!

I watch Lifetime movies with issues I have faced or do face for the same reason. For example: Movies on Eating Disorders.

I'm going to look for some of those movies.

I'm glad to hear the route is strengthening. My Life Without Me I'll have to check out one of these days.

I can relate to the healing power of books,,..

This is my type of therapy!
I loved the movie Crash, it was one of those movies that makes you think. I have based what I do in my life by the many books I read. Whatever sounds good to me I implement in to my life. The flylady(a declutter teacher) has done wonders for me!

Loss is never easy and I’m glad you’ve found a suitable way to cope!
Wonderful blog…this is my first visit and I’ll be back often.
DL

I love that line that you quoted from your book, Colleen..it's true and I agree...
Crying is a wonderful release..I do it all the time! I have seen the first two films you mentioned and liked them both very very much. I now am going to add the third to my Netflix Queue...
One of the great things about watching films at home in a safe and private environment is, that it allows me or anyone, the freedom to 'feel' as much as you want or need...with no restrictions of other people being upset by your emotion...I love that! And I think it is a great gift to be able to 'feel' anything and everything your heart and soul needs to....

I never REALIZED that's what I was doing, but yeah, I can see it now....strange!

Reading books and watching movies helped me realize that I was not alone in my grief.

Sarah Polley is as close to acting royalty as we're ever going to get in ever-so-humble Canada. I loved the feel of this entry: how right you are. When life gets tough, we immerse ourselves in works of art. Beautifully said.

Here from Michele this time.
And another HAPPY BIRTHDAY to your sister!

Not only in dealing with death and grief, but I can point to books and poems that have changed my life by helping me resolve issues. Marge Piercy's novel "Small Changes" helped give me the courage to escape my marriage; her poem "The Sabbath of Mutual Respect" gave me the knowledge I needed for my voluntary sterilization. In my first long-term job I identified so strongly with a scene in Arnold Zweig's novel "The Case of Sergeant Grischa" that it helped me to move on.

I have never heard of this name before. Yes, I read books or watch movies and the crying starts.

What gets me more than books or movies is music. Certain bands I cannot listen too. OR, a song you rarely hear comes on the radio and I am done for.

Happy Birthday to your sister.

Loved reading about the Museletter. You live in a great community.

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