It’s OK that you’re NOT OK : Meeting Culture and Loss in a Culture That Doesn’t Understand
[Click the cover below to check it out! If you don’t see a book cover below it’s probably ad-blocker settings]
“When a painful loss or life-shattering event upends your world, here is the first thing to know: there is nothing wrong with grief. “Grief is simply love in its most wild and painful form,” says Megan Devine. “It is a natural and sane response to loss.”
So, why does our culture treat grief like a disease to be cured as quickly as possible?
In It’s OK That You’re Not OK, Megan Devine offers a profound new approach to both the experience of grief and the way we try to help others who have endured tragedy. Having experienced grief from both sides—as both a therapist and as a woman who witnessed the accidental drowning of her beloved partner—Megan writes with deep insight about the unspoken truths of loss, love, and healing. She debunks the culturally prescribed goal of returning to a normal, “happy” life, replacing it with a far healthier middle path, one that invites us to build a life alongside grief rather than seeking to overcome it.”
So amongst all kinds of fantasy and horror I read, this book probably sticks out like a sore thumb.
Sadly it’s because recently I experienced a real-life horror. In January of this year, my father died unexpectedly.
This is going to be a long, emotional sort of review as well, so buckle up.
While I will probably be publishing this later, I wrote this review in late March/early April not even a full two months since his death.
This entire time, I have been utterly devastated. This isn’t my first rodeo with the Grief Game, but it’s the first time I’ve had to play it with someone as close as my own father.
One thing that I experienced first hand is that people treat you weirdly and expect weird, awful things of you, and the only real easily-accessible grief-related advice I found out there at first was either hyper religious [which I’m not at all], telling me that the way I felt was an illness that needed curing, or sunshine and rainbows about how it’s all going to be great!
Even with other people’s stories, my loss and feelings didn’t seem to match theirs. I didn’t consider this some sort of ‘fateful’ experience that was meant to be, or that this was a test for me to come out stronger. I’ve hated everything like this.
My friends and family who have also experienced death-related grief [including losing their own parents] helped, but I still felt strange and empty afterwards. I felt also like a lot of people tried to ‘out grief’ me, even a coworker going so far as to tell me about how they lost their baby on the day that another child was born and immediately made the story about them, and how losing a father at my age was nothing compared to having to deal with what they do.
Then within just a few days of ranting to a friend of mine about this who works in the death industry, they recommended this book and a day or so later, the Ask a Mortician youtube channel that I’ve mentioned in reviews of their books [here] and [here], published this video about Grief. Here she suggests the book this review is about, and a blog that the Megan Devine wrote for her site.
I watched the video, read the blog, and bought the book all within the same hour.
Finally, someone talking about the way -I- felt about my dad’s death.
I actually pushed my book queue back a bit in order to shuffle IOTYNO front and center due to how I was/still am feeling. I also trusted Megan as someone who is genuine in how they feel and what they’re talking about, as she had to witness the fatal drowning of her husband and was unable to do anything about it, and was a psychological counselor before his death, and a grief counselor after.
Entering into the book itself, it’s divided into a few parts:
Part 1: This is All Just as Crazy as You Think it Is
Part 2; What to Do with Grief
Part 3: When Friends and Family Don’t Know What to Do
Part 4: The Way Forward
While technically this is a ‘self help’ book and it has suggestions of what you can do to try and handle certain situations, I never really felt like it was going to be any kind of requirement in order to get the proper results I was looking for, which was nice. With other self help books, I’ve noticed they can be really pushy about their intended goals.
The author helped me sort of realize why grief hurts so fucking bad. Grief, is a form of love. You grieve because you love. You hurt because someone or something you love/d is gone. She also covers different kinds of grief outside of death – divorce, severe illness/dismemberment, tragic life changes in general, etc.
She also emphasizes that grief is not something to be ‘fixed.’ It’s not something that you can just pop a pill for or do yoga and it’ll be better. Even if anti-depressants [for example] numb you for awhile, it’s not like you’re not going to stop grieving whatever set you there in the first place, especially if you stop doing what you were prescribed/suggested to do. Grief is just something that you carry.
Western views on grief is/are as phobic as they are about death. It’s awkward and no one likes to be around it, or talk about pain in general. Despite that it’s now been multiple months since my dad’s death and the time I’m posting this review, the amount of people asking me if I’m still upset about it [or even better, that they’re surprised I ‘still’ am and question it] has been staggering. And me suggesting that I’m going to be fucked up about it for a long time, even possibly the rest of my life, makes people think that there’s something wrong with me.
But there’s not. The book made me realize more that my initial intuitions that there was/is nothing wrong with the way I’m feeling was correct, and our culture is made up of a bunch of assholes who think that your default emotion should always be ‘happy.’ Briefly mentioned before, Megan goes into that grief can’t be fixed, and that it just has to be carried. Some people only carry their grief for a short time and then they get used to the pain. Others carry their grief until they themselves die. There’s a full chapter that goes in what to do to remind yourself to keep yourself alive [remembering to eat, sleep, etc] and also general suggestions of how to sort of just survive at the bare minimum while in grief.
Another aspect that I was extremely thankful to read that’s in the book is how grief manifests in other ways other than emotional pain. Since my dad died, I’ve had a surge of increased mystery physical pain [that being said, don’t ignore going to the doctor to be safe], nightmares, unrestful sleep [when I can even sleep at all], memory loss, forgetfulness, and have just had little to no interest in things that normally are my favorite. I’ve felt like I’ve become a different person, and I’m going crazy. But there’s actual science and biology behind how grief changes you forever.
Another thing that stood out to me though, directly related to what you’re reading now, is how hard it was to start reading again, which apparently is a known grief side-effect across the board with almost all grief-stricken people. It actually took me a long time to get through this book [compared to how fast I usually read] because I getting more distracted than I had ever experienced before, and would have to re-read sections multiple times. Either because I wasn’t actually reading it, or I did and it just didn’t click. It was the first book I had started/finished after my dad died, and seems fitting, sadly.
The book also, thankfully, goes into how to deal with the friends, family, acquaintances, and even strangers that say some weird or truly asinine shit to you. [And trust me, if you haven’t experienced it yourself – some of it is just like… brain-explodingly offensive] Their actions, and their attempts to help that often seems to do more harm than good. She gives general suggestions, tips, and actions you can do to either bring up that what they’re doing sucks/is making it worse, how to ignore it, how to educate [and if its worth it], and how not all relationships are worth saving if someone in your life is shitty when you’re in some of the worst kind of pain. She even has whole chapters and an essay to give these people in your life who want to help you but are sucking at it. [And it’s helpful to read for yourself as well in the future case of your own friends/family who you want to support without being shitty at it]
I’ve since scanned it, and made copies that I have provided to people.
Obviously, this book is really specific. I hands down would recommend it to anyone that is experiencing any kind of grief. Doesn’t matter whether you’re religious or not. If you to be told everything’s going to be okay, or even moreso if you’re tired of being told that and know it’s not going to be okay. Experiencing grief and everything that surrounds sucks and it’s going to suck for a long time.
I also suggest it for anyone that wants to help someone else in the throes of grief. It’s awkward, it sucks, and it still may go wrong for you. But at least you tried, and the person you’re trying to help, will [hopefully] eventually come to realize that. This also is suggested, no matter how old you’ve been holding onto your grief. It doesn’t matter if it’s been years, or days.
I give It’s OK That You’re Not OK 4/5 Stages of Grief [which, sidenote, is bullshit – and that’s also covered in the book]
“This really is as bad as you think. No matter what anyone says, this sucks. What has happened cannot be made right. What is lost cannot be restored. There is no beauty here.”
“You are alone in your grief. You alone carry the knowledge of how your grief lives in you. You alone know all the details, the subtlety and nuance of what’s happened and what’s been lost. You alone know how deeply your life has been changed. You alone have to face this, inside your own heart. No one can do this for you.”