Grieving a Soulmate is a candid and often heart-wrenching, part diary, part self-help book designed to inform, guide and prepare the reader through the dying process, death of and grieving over a loved one, based on author Robert Orfali’s own experience of losing his soulmate Jeri after a ten-year battle with cancer.
Orfali begins the book with Jeri’s diagnosis that she has ovarian cancer, and then recounts their ten-year journey as they dealt with Jeri’s chemotherapy and how she forged ahead in spite of her pain and inevitable fate.
The second part of the book deals with Jeri’s final stages of life, the active dying process and finally, death. In this part of the book, Orfali addresses factors that make what he considers a “good death”, which includes a pain-free death and considerations such as placing her in a hospice versus a hospital for the final days. Orfali offers suggestions to help the patient and the caregiver in the last days, from physical suggestions such as helping the patient move around, to emotional and spiritual support to help them keep up their spirits and enjoy every last moment, to advice for the caregiver to be prepared for the signs of active dying, and to avoid care-giver burnout by making time to exercise, shower and sleep, for example.
The final part of the book deals with Jeri’s death and Orfali’s “private holocaust” in his mind as he faces life without his soulmate. Orfali addresses the process of grieving in philosophical, scientific, spiritual and personal terms. He shares the anger, pain and despair he went through after Jeri’s death and the things that helped him heal the sense of desolation and devastation of losing a loved one. Orfali breaks through what he calls the “privacy of the deathbed” and reveals in detail the ugliness behind dying, death and grieving because the knowledge that others were also going through the end-of-life process helped him through his grief.
Orfali does include many of his own feelings and ideas on how to get through grief in a very personal, almost diary-like manner, which might take away from objectivity or scientific aspect that some might prefer in a self-help book; however Orfali acknowledges that his book, ideas and methods may not work for everyone because loss and how one copes is a very personal thing.
Grieving a Soulmate is both a candid, heartfelt account of Orfali’s personal loss and experience, but also a thorough collection of information and supportive advice about what to expect and how to prepare oneself to help both patient and caregiver make the dying process simpler and less frightening for both, and the grieving process less painful for those left behind. A sure companion for a patient or caregiver who wants a no holds barred look at the active dying process, death and grieving.
Reviewed by Maya Fleischmann for IndieReader