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Necessary Losses

4.05 of 5 stars 4.05  ·  rating details  ·  1,840 ratings  ·  89 reviews
"This perceptive book should absorb and enrich anyone who admits to being human."
Benjamin Spock, M.D.
Essayist Judith Viorst, who has humorously eased our journey to middle age, now turns her considerable talents to a more serious and far-reaching subject: how we grow and change through the losses that are an inevitable and necessary part of life. Arguing persuasively that
Hardcover, 447 pages
Published April 1st 1986 by Simon & Schuster (first published 1986)
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Number 3 on my top ten books that most formed my worldview. Ms. Viorst brought me face to face with the normal (required?) speed bumps in the road of life. It was through this book that the concept of "process" became clear to me. Because we are born to aspire to achievement and recognition we are creatures of hope and when it happens, as it most surely will, that the edifice of our hopes comes crashing in on us we each, in our own time, in our own way and by our own initiative must undertake a ...more
I read most of this a few years ago, and I keep thinking about it. So now I'm delving in again. Judith Viorst of "Alexander" fame is very insightful.

I'm having to return this one before reading as much as I would like, but it's just as illuminating as I remembered. This time around, I got a lot out of the chapter entitled "Convenience Friends and Historical Friends and Crossroads and Cross-Generational Friends and Friends Who Come When You Call at Two in the Morning." It is something of a relie
I finally finished this book! It's one of those that you want to read slowly because it's somewhat dense even though it's written for a lay audience -- there's so much to mull over.

Yes, this book is by the same Judith Viorst who wrote children's favorite, "Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day." But this book is definitely for grownups who want to learn more about being grownups. Viorst chronicles the many beliefs we have to let go of in order to become fully mature, respo
The main idea of the book is that in letting go of some things we make valuable gains throughout the stages of our lives. The author starts with childhood and the separation we make from our parents. Some people suffer from premature separation from parents and so the author describes some of the emotional consequences of that because it affects how well they deal with loss in later stages of development. She talks about growing up and leaving home. She includes a whole chapter on fantasies and ...more
Ginni Dickinson
Really great stuff in this book by Judith Viorst. (Yes, she is also the children's author who wrote "Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day," think that is the title.) If you are suffering a loss, going through a life transition or just trying to understand life, love and relationships give this book a look. You don't have to read it cover to cover. But do read the chapters on friendship and marriage. Some might take issue with her heavy references to Freudian theory--but ev ...more
Agnes J
I unequivocally recommend this book to everyone, at whatever age. It was especially poignant for me to read it just as I resigned from full time work and started social security. I suffer the loss of a job I loved to do and people I loved to work with, of a beautiful building with all my beloved books. But in giving up, in losing, I gain free time to do things I've wanted to do forever, to spend time with family whom I love more than life. But as author Judith Viorst delineates, there are losses ...more
Gregg Bell

I was taking this book to the health club one night to read while I walked on the treadmill. I ran into a friend of mine there, and he saw I was carrying a book and excitedly asked me, "What you reading?" I turned the book toward him so he could see the title, and his face fell. "Oh," he said. "Pretty heavy." "Yeah," I said. "But worth it."

That sums up the book. Another Reader's Digest description can be plucked from the inside cover. The book is about "what we have to give up to grow." And yet

May 16, 2013 Jodi rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Not sure
Recommended to Jodi by: Jorene Ring
A lady at my book club kept referring to this book and so I finally read it. Kind of depressing and at times I didn't like it at all. I understand her point that we need to give some things up so we can grow, but still awful to think about. It was also a tad dry. How could the author who wrote, "Alexander and the No Good Very Bad Day" have written this book too?!?

Quotes I liked:

p. 163 "A normal adolescent describes two major goals in life 1. putting an end to the threat of nuclear holocaust and
NECESSARY LOSSES reads like a textbook but serves as a bible. It took far too long to complete it, yet I had to digest the material bit by bit in order to experience the wealth of material to the fullest. Judith Viorst allowed me to revisit my past, birth to adulthood, where I confronted "demons" and found consolation and truth.From adulthood I revisited the childbearing years with all the confusion and delight those times entailed. Finally I have confronted my twilight with the sensitive suppor ...more
Lorna Collins
This was a book I had to read a chapter at a time and then reflect on it. I survived quite a bit of loss from the time I was a very small child, and this book helped me to understand the impact of that loss. One or two chapters opened up very deep emotions. I spent one weekend in bed sobbing after reading one. nevertheless, I highly recommend this book to anyone dealing with loss or abandonment issues. It was wonderfully insightful and helped me deal with issues too long buried.
Mariano Pallottini
This was the most important book of my life. I is so pleasent to read it that I can say this book is a masterpiece. You can always identify the influences of most known psychoanalysts, but it is far from dogmatic. We can feel this book very close to us because reveals how all of us suffer a succession of separations and losses from which we grow and how is possible to refuse the losses, committing our common mistakes just for the fear of pain.
Juli Kinrich
I wish I had discovered this book 30 years ago, (even though it wasn't written that many years ago!). It could have saved me a lot of heartache and anger.

But better late than never. A very illuminating book, helping me understand both the losses anybody endures as well as the specific losses that shaped me.

The chapter on marriage (Chapter 13) will be one I turn to time and again to remind myself of all the wisdom there.
A real kick-in-the-pants ... this is no lightweight read, nor is its message. This should be required reading for all couples wanting to be on the 'married side' of the divorce-statistic ... right up there along with 'Passionate Marriage'.
Tricia Veech
Brilliant. Another book I frequently recommend to clients who are experiencing loss (which covers just about everyone). Wrote a paper on this book in graduate school and it is one of the few books I re-read regularly.
Jun 20, 2008 Stacey rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Dr. Laura?
Recommended to Stacey by: Jorene Ring
Shelves: book-club
This book makes me insanely angry. It reminds me of the college days I used to listen to Dr. Laura on the radio and arrive back at our dump of an apartment FIRED UP. While saying that, I agreed with some of what Dr. Laura said, I just hated her delivery. I don't agree with this and find it doesn't line up with my biblical worldview. No, we should not indulge our daydreams and fantasies, to begin with... we should cal sin "sin". In the mean time, don't mention this book to me if you are unprepare ...more
Rev Z
This book is a classic. As foundation for understanding how loss operates in our lives from our earliest days, it is well-written, soundly-researched, and decidedly worth the read. Viorst asserts that loss is central to, and pervasive in, everyone’s life. She divides our losses into four major categories: 1) the losses of childhood and the becoming of a separate self; 2) the losses of accepting the limitations of our power and potential including the forbidden and the impossible; 3) the losses o ...more
Viorst is known for her "Alexander" series of children's books ("Alexander Who Used to be Rich Last Sunday," etc). Those books, which beautifully depict complex, everyday family dynamics, didn't just spring from nowhere. Viorst is a trained psychoanalyst who has studied and thought deeply about family interaction. In Necessary Losses, she looks at the expectations and patterns we must give up in order to live happy, fulfilling adult lives. The chapters on attachment, sibling rivalry, friendship ...more
This is a difficult book to read because of the subject matter (living involves multiple and ongoing losses) and because the writing is a bit dry in places. Judith Viorst traces all the many losses that we humans experience from birth until death. Losses she sees as necessary although distressing. The chapters on the losses experiences by babies and toddlers were eye-opening. Learning to literally stand alone is "The losing, leaving, letting go of paradise"; necessary, desired even, and final - ...more
I got 200 pages in to this book, and I couldn't stand it any further.

I wanted to like it ... The intro seemed exciting, and I eagerly dove in full of high hopes.

But dear god.... Every issue in life does not go back to wanting to have sex with your parents, or unresolved mommy and daddy issues.

I haven't lost friendships over unresolved homosexuality issues from Oedipal issues from when I was a toddler... I don't have anxiety because of going to day care.

Give me a break --- this book is full of
I read this book a very long time ago. It definitely helped me come to terms with some of the difficult passages of my life. I believe Ms. Viorst is very insightful and right on the money. Have thought about re-reading this lately. With an aging parent and friends losing theirs, it seems it might help put me in a frame of mind of acceptance.
A look at psychological/emotional changes throughout the human lifespan--womb to tomb. Viorst approaches this from a psychoanalytic angle, looking at the origins of our very human needs within our unconscious and how they drive and affect us throughout our lives. She focuses on the beliefs and ideals we must shed at each stage in order eventually to become better functioning adults. Very readable, although in parts I felt like she got carried away with writing "poetically", and some notions were ...more
I first read this book in nursing school and remember thinking it was quite poignant. It's a cheesy book about stages of personal growth and how we have to grow, change and mature to really reach our potential (I'm glossing over here because I just got up - it's 4 pm.). When I re-read it, I kind of skimmed it - granted, I was at work - but I the book had lost its magic for me. Maybe it's that I'm so focused on growing as a parent and having the kids grow socially that I can't focus on self-grow ...more
Dec 08, 2008 Susie rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Susie by: John Landgraf
This book was a GREAT look at developmental losses throughout life and the subtle (or not so subtle) grieving processes that accompany them. Some of the early life losses are based on Freudian psychodynamic theory, so that may not connect well with everyone. Later on, however, the losses Viorst discusses are easy to connect to one's own life, and she treats them with an expert and gentle hand. Fascinating. Invites you to process your own life and how you feel about the stage you're in. Gave me s ...more
This is the same review I wrote for Imperfect Control, also by Judith Viorst. If you appreciate her books for children, you will appreciate her ability to reach deeper into the meaning - and importance - of loss, as it pertains to adults.

"This is a dense book, not summer beach reading. It's important material that can be difficult to absorb, but Viorst breaks it down so the reader can manage the concepts. Even so, this is a book that I read for a while and then set down so I could think about w
An excellent take on development and how one must endure loss in order to develop.
Wow. This is really a terribly depressing book. The author describes all of the "necessary losses" we must endure in life but doesn't offer any insight about how to deal with it. She basically just says, "Loss is the nature of life. Suck it up." Ke-rist. If I'm going to read 327 pages about the things that I will have to lose in life, could you at least offer up a little hope?

Also, she bases her ideas on Freudian philosophy. If you ask me, Freud was a KOOK.

I did however learn that I tend towar
Jun 10, 2009 Tamra rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
I read this almost 20 years ago and thought it was insightful. It is very psychoanalytical and Fruedian. Very good insights in the illusions, expectations and dependencies we must give up in order to grow up.
One of my favorite quotes in is the chapter I grow old. Florida Scott-Maxwell is quote as saying the following"When a new disability arrives I look aboutme to see if death has come, and I call quietly,'Death, is that you? Are you there?' So far thedisability has answered, 'Don't be silly, it
I like Judith Viorst as a writer. I found this very helpful as a preview of what happens in life so as not to be shocked or disappointment as the losses came along. All things, all relationships end. I am not being maudlin but it is a grown-up thing we face. It did not make me depressed, it kind of fits in with all of the "be in the now" philosophies. Enjoy the people, things in your life at present but don't waste your energy trying to hold on with a death grip, it won't help. It like meditatio ...more
I think this book would have benefited from some judicious editing. I didn't need 10-12 examples for every point the author wanted to make--I got the idea in the first 5-6 examples. All the verbiage made this very tedious to read.
Jotam Magracia
the best psychological novel. must read!
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Judith Viorst is the author of several works of fiction and non-fiction for children as well as adults. Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, her most famous children's book, was first published in 1972 and has since sold over two million copies. Ms. Viorst received a B.A. in History from Rutgers University, and she is also a graduate of the Washington Psychoanalytic Institu ...more
More about Judith Viorst...
Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day Alexander, Who Used to Be Rich Last Sunday Lulu and the Brontosaurus Alexander, Who's Not (Do You Hear Me? I Mean It!) Going to Move The Tenth Good Thing About Barney

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