Good Grief! Let us help you with grief now … before … MACABRE from the 13th-Century Church of St. Nicholas in Tallinn Estonia. These elaborate artworks spread through churches in Europe, reminding men and women to prepare for grief as a natural part of life. In one Danse Macabre scene, Death comes for an Emperor, captioned with the lines: “Emperor, your sword won’t help you out; Scepter and crown are worthless here; I’ve taken you by the hand; For you must come to my dance.” Image courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

Why read about grief? Because we’re all going to die and, before that, we’re all going to grieve as others die around us. Most Americans hate to even think about aging—let alone dying—so we have become a dramatically aging nation poorly prepared for the losses ahead of us.

We can help! For two years, ReadTheSpirit has been working with Georgia-based pastor Rodger Murchison to produce our new Guide for Grief: Help in Surviving the Stages of Grief and Bereavement after a Loss. Not only has Rodger specialized in working with grieving families and grief-ministry workshops for many years, but he earned his doctorate from Princeton Theological Seminary specializing in ministry with grieving families. His research into grief counseling spans work in both American and British universities, including the resources of Oxford University. This week, we are publishing this long-awaited book and we encourage you to order a copy by simply clicking on the book’s cover at right.

Rodger Murchison’s
“Guide for Grief:
Help in surviving
the stages of grief
and bereavement
after a loss,” Part 1

PART 1, today, is ReadTheSpirit Editor David Crumm’s introduction
PART 2, Meet Rodger Murchison in a personal introduction from the author.
PART 3, coming soon, is our author interview with Rodger Murchison on his new Guide for Grief.

Everyone dies.
Every family grieves.
There is no other pastoral challenge as universal as death. This truth is so simple and powerful that medieval churches often displayed vivid images of Danse Macabre, the Dance of Death. In stained glass windows, tapestries or murals, a skeletal or sometimes a dark-robed grim reaper moved through the world calling everyone of every age and social status.

Today, no American church architect would propose decorating with Danse Macabre. Americans are terrified of admitting that we are aging, let alone dying. Before I became Editor of ReadTheSpirit magazine and books, I was a journalist who specialized in reporting on religious issues for newspapers. One year, I worked with a team of investigative reporters studying every family who visited Dr. Jack Kevorkian for assistance in suicide. We found that some families were so terrified of death that a mere diagnosis of a scary disorder drove a loved one to suicide. The greater tragedy we uncovered in our reporting is that, in some instances, the dead man or woman was misdiagnosed and had years to live. They rushed to end their lives out of the sheer terror of contemplating a slower death. What happened after these deaths? None of the Kevorkian families were convicted of a crime, of course, but their reactions to these deaths were so intense that many families found themselves locked in a prison of grief. Yes, Kevorkian and his clients do represent an extreme response to death and grief. But they also illustrate the depth of the American anxiety concerning all things having to do with death.

In his new Guide for Grief, the Rev. Rodger Murchison describes how easily all families—ordinary families like yours and mine—can fall into negative patterns of grief. Of course, grief is not only natural, it is essential. Grief is both a painful and a healthy part of life.

“Grief is the price we pay for love,” Queen Elizabeth II told the world after the terrorist attacks on 9/11/2001. Right now, one in three American households includes a person who is a full-time caregiver for someone with a chronic and, in many cases, a life-threatening condition. The American population is aging at a relentless rate as Baby Boomers finally confront their own mortality. All of us who love will grieve—and our grief may run far longer than many of our friends will understand. We all need help in exploring the universal journey of grief.

This guide takes a Christian approach to death and grieving. That’s the religious affiliation voiced by 4 out of 5 Americans, according to research by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. Families who are not Christian also will benefit from these basic, well-tested principles, which Rodger Murchison has gleaned from ancient traditions as well as the latest scholarly research into coping with grief.

How to order Guide for Grief

E-EDITIONS OF GUIDE FOR GRIEF: Soon, Guide for Grief will be available for all E-readers.

GUIDE FOR GRIEF: Visit Amazon to order your copy of Guide for Grief, Help in Surviving the Stages of Grief and Bereavement after a Loss.

GUIDE FOR GRIEF (Deluxe Color Edition): Soon, Guide for Grief also will be available in a full-color edition, featuring 10 inspirational, full-page paintings by Sara Pollock Searle designed to enrich readers’ reflections on overcoming grief.

Originally published at, an online journal covering religion and cultural diversity.

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