When Barbara Abercrombie’s husband died, she found the language of condolence irritating, no matter how well intended. “My husband had not gone to a better place as if he were off on a holiday. He had not passed like clouds overhead, nor was he my late husband as if he’d missed a train. I had not lost him as if I’d been careless, and for sure, none of it was for the best.” She yearned instead for words that acknowledged the reality of death, spoke about the sorrow and loneliness (and perhaps even guilt and anger), and might even point the way toward hope and healing. She found those words in the writings gathered here.
The Language of Loss is a book to dip into and read slowly, a collection of poems and prose to lead you through the phases of grief. The selections follow an arc that mirrors the path of many mourners — from abject loss and feeling unmoored, to glimmers of promise and possibility, through to gratitude for the love they knew. These writings, which express what often feels ineffable, will accompany those who grieve, offering understanding and solace.
“Here is a treasury of words for when there are no words. There is comfort here, and there are tears.”
— Abigail Thomas, author of A Three Dog Life
“We are mortal creatures who love deeply — never forget it. All great poetry is about this. And here is the anthology that proves it — simply, beautifully, tenderly, lovingly. Everyone should have at least one copy.”
— Erica Jong, bestselling author of Fear of Flying
“A deeply moving collection of voices that intimately reveals the universal complexities of loss: how love navigates our absences, how our insurmountable grief becomes a companion, how our mourning becomes resilience.”
— Richard Blanco, 2013 presidential inaugural poet and author of How to Love a Country
“With this remarkable anthology, Barbara Abercrombie has given us solace for the soul, a companion to keep close by, for there is never a timeline for grief.”
— Jacqueline Winspear, New York Times bestselling author of the memoir This Time Next Year We’ll Be Laughing and the Maisie Dobbs series of historical mysteries
“In these pages, more than a hundred writers who have known what it is to lose someone they deeply love offer language for the meaning of this most powerful life experience. This is not a book you read once and put on a shelf. It’s a precious resource to take out again and again, as life deals its inevitable blows. The Language of Loss looks squarely in the eye of heartbreak and offers what all of us need most: a community of voices reminding us we are not alone, and that it is possible to survive great loss and tell the story.”
— Joyce Maynard, bestselling author of Labor Day and The Best of Us
“A book to be brought to the attention of anyone, especially in this time of pandemic, that has suffered the loss of a loved one, a friend, or a colleague. Especially and unreservedly recommended . . .”
— Midwest Book Review