A Buddhist Grief Observed
By Guy Newland
In 2013, Guy Newland, a scholar and teacher of Tibetan Buddhism, lost his wife of 28 years, Valerie Stephens, to breast cancer. Although her death was not a surprise (she was diagnosed in 2004), losing her proved a physical shock that seemed to eviscerate him. But it was only when he listened to others tell of their traumas that the penny dropped: he had been pitying himself. Buddhist teachings may have helped on one level but still Newland fell apart. His situation wasn’t helped by acquaintances who reminded him that Buddhists are supposed to be able to transcend grief. Anyone who has battled with bereavement – Buddhist or not – will find this volume absorbing. As Newland points out, we are all aware of the unwritten rule that it is selfish to be miserable, so we suffer the consequences of feeling awful about feeling awful. Readers who like what he has to say and appreciate the sources from which he draws wisdom, should check out his reading list: Joyce Carol Oates, Roz Chast and Joan Didion come highly recommended.