Rhonda's Reviews > The Long Goodbye

The Long Goodbye by Meghan O'Rourke
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Aug 23, 11

bookshelves: read-in-2011
Read in August, 2011

I probably shouldn't have read this book just yet, but it caught my eye and I was interested in how this daughter dealt with the loss of her mother to cancer. She chronicled parts of their lives together, her mother's illness, and her adjustment following her passing. Poignant.

I want to preserve many of the passages from this book, thus the following:

Favorite Quotes:

"Nothing prepared me for the loss of my mother. Even knowing that she would die did not prepare me. A mother, after all, is your entry into the world. She is the shell in which you divide and become a life. Waking up in a world without her is like waking up in a world without sky: unimaginable." P 10

"I was counting the days until my mother would have the radiation surgery on her brain. I already missed her. I was irrevocably aware that the Person Who Loved Me Most in the World was about to be dead. Of course, I had my father, too. But fathers love in different ways than mothers do." p 69

"Grief isn't rational; it isn't linear; it is experienced in waves. 'No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear,' C.S. Lewis had written at the beginning of 'A Grief Observed', and scientists have in fact found that grief, like fear, is a stress reaction, attended by deep physiological changes. Levels of stress hormones like cortison increase. Sleep patterns are disrupted. The immune system is weakened. Mourners may experience loss of appetite, palpitations, even hallucinations. " p 151

"Erich Lindemann studied 101 people, he defined grief as 'sensations of somatic distress occurring in waves lasting from twenty minutes to an hour at a time, a feeling of tightness in the throat, choking with shortness of breath, need for sighing, and an empty feeling in the abdomen, lack of muscular power, and an intensive subjective distress described as tension or mental pain.' Intensive subjective distress. Yes, exactly: that was the objective description I was looking for. The experience is, as Lindemann notes, brutally physiological. It literally takes your breath away. Its physicality is also what makes grief so hard to communicate to anyone who hasn't experienced it." p 152

"...researchers now believe there are two kinds of grief: 'normal grief' and 'complicated grief' (also called prolonged grief). Normal grief is a term for what most bereaved people experience. It peaks within the first six months and then begins to dissipate. Complicated grief does not, and often requires medication or therapy. But even normal grief is hardly gentle. Its symptoms include insomnia, or other sleep disorders, difficulty breathing, auditory or visual hallucinations, appetite problems, and dryness of mouth." p 153

"The researcher said "My husband just died." To which her colleague responded, "It's been three months." A mourner's experience of time isn't like everyone else's. Grief that lasts longer than a few weeks may look like self-indulgence to those around you. But if you're in mourning, three months seems like nothing---three months might well find you approaching the height of sorrow." p 154

"It is impossible to think that I shall never sit with you again and hear your laugh. That every day for the rest of my life you will be away." p 181

"I thought I was prepared for my mother's death.
I knew it would happen.
Yet the reality of her 'being dead' was so different from her death." p 199

"I was thinking about how hard it was to say how much I missed my mother, yet how cetnral the feeling was. It is heartsickness, like the sadness you feel after a breakup, but many times stronger and more desperate. I miss her: I want to talk to her, hear her voice, have a joke with her. I am willing for us to be "broken up" if she'll just have dinner with me once. And as I was walking I thought, I will carry this wound forever. It's not a question of getting over it or healing. No, it's a question of learning to live with this transformation. For the loss is transformative, in good ways and bad, a tangle of change that cannot be threaded into the usual narrative spools. It is too central for that. It's not an emergence from the cocoon, but a tree growing around an obstruction." p 217-8

"People kept saying to me, "It gets better at a year, doesn't it?" or "I hear it gets better at a year." it did. It got 'better' in that I could go for days without thinking too much about the fact that someone I still loved as dearly as I ever did was dead But to expect grief to heal is to imagine that it is possible to stop loving, to reconcile yourself to the fact that the lost one is somewhere else. So 'heal' isn't the right work. I love C.S. Lewis's metaphor: A loss is like an amputation. If the blood doesn't stop gushing soon after the operation, then you will die. To survive means, by definition, that the blood has stopped. But the amputation is still there." p 278-9

"When memories you haven't thought of since the death first come up, they hurt. But I kept finding that it hurt less to remember things a second time. I think this is why people always say that it gets better after a year---even though after a year you're not 'done' with mourning, you hae cycled through the seasons, through holidays, family rituals, living through them for the first time without the person who's gone." p 280

"My mother is not now.
But she was, and she is now, in the minds of those who remember her: her smile, her voice, her little intonations, her smell--all in us." p 280-1
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message 1: by Daya (new) - added it

Daya Alexander Thank you for sharing this. Of course against my better judgement now I have to go read this - but truly - thank you.


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