Getting Grief Right: Finding Your Story of Love in the Sorrow of Loss (Paperback)
When the New York Times ran Patrick O’Malley’s story about the loss of his infant son—and how his inability to "move on" challenged everything he was taught as a psychotherapist—it inspired an unprecedented flood of gratitude from readers.
What he shared was a truth that many have felt but rarely acknowledged by the professionals they turn to: that our grief is not a mental illness to be cured, but part of the abiding connection with the one we’ve lost.
Illuminated by O’Malley’s own story and those of many clients that he’s supported, readers learn how the familiar "stages of grief" too often mislabel our sorrow as a disorder, press us to "get over it," and amplify our suffering with shame and guilt when we do not achieve "closure" in due course.
"Sadness, regret, confusion, yearning—all the experiences of grief—are a part of the narrative of love," reflects O’Malley. Here, with uncommon sensitivity and support, he invites us to explore grief not as a process of recovery, but as the ongoing narrative of our relationship with the one we’ve lost—to be fully felt, told, and woven into our lives.
For those in bereavement and anyone supporting those who are, Getting Grief Right offers an uncommonly empathetic guide to opening to our sorrow as the full expression of our love.
About the Author
Patrick O'Malley, PHD, has been providing grief counseling and education to clients and colleagues for over 35 years. For more, visit drpatrickomalley.com.
Tim Madigan, an award-winning journalist, is the author of The Burning: Massacre, Destruction, and the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921 (St. Martin’s Press, 2003) and I’m Proud of You: My Friendship with Fred Rogers (Gotham/Penguin, 2006).
“Patrick O’Malley has created a subtle, honest, and delicate understanding of living a life of grief. Getting Grief Right is not a list of stages or rules. It does not pretend to know about the grief of others. Because O’Malley, a psychotherapist, himself suffered the inconsolable loss of the death of his child, he can accompany others through their grieving. His book becomes a warm, accepting presence, telling stories and inviting readers to tell their own. Grieving does not end, O’Malley softly notes, but the stories that we tell about those we have lost turn the grief right back into the love from which it springs.” —Rita Charon, MD, PhD, professor of medicine at Columbia University Medical Center; executive director, Program in Narrative Medicine
“In Getting Grief Right, O’Malley dispels the myth that we’ll get over a death, achieve closure, and move on with our lives grief-free. O’Malley validates my experience of ministering for forty-five years to grieving people: they want to, they need to, talk about and remember their loved ones who died. He helps us understand what is unique about each person’s grief story, and how our grief story is our ‘therapy.” —Fr. Charles Calabrese, chaplain, Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Fort Worth
“Getting Grief Right should be required reading for all those entering the counseling profession, as well as those of us who mourn the death of a loved one. Dr. Patrick O'Malley is a very wise, compassionate storyteller. He gives us reassurance and permission to embrace our own grief journey by removing the fear that we are not grieving correctly. He helps us understand that to mourn and grieve is as natural as breathing. We ask, ‘How long will it take?’ Dr. O'Malley says, ‘How deeply did you love?’ This book is a masterpiece that will touch your heart and soul with healing powers.” —Peggy Bohme, cofounder of The WARM Place Grief Support Center for Children in Fort Worth, Texas
“Patrick O’Malley is a rare and refreshing voice in the world of grief literacy. This wonderful book belongs in the hands and hearts of every grieving person.” —Ken Druck, PhD, author of The Real Rules of Life: Balancing Life's Terms with Your Own
“O’Malley gives us the tools to tell the story of the deceased: favorite memories, when he or she was happiest and saddest, how you learned about the death, and so forth. Different kinds of loss bring different stories, and different kinds of pain. Telling the story of how you loved and how you lost gives shape and meaning to what first seems to be a meaningless, uncontrollable event.” —The New York Times Book Review
“There is no right way to navigate the mysterious and holy landscape of grief. And there is no wrong way. With profound compassion and juicy storytelling, Patrick O’Malley offers those of us whose lives have been shattered by loss permission to mourn our loved ones with all our hearts and find our own transformational stories in the crucible of our authentic life experiences.” —Mirabai Starr, author of Caravan of No Despair: A Memoir of Loss and Transformation; translator of Dark Night of the Soul (St. John of the Cross)
“Getting Grief Right is a compassionate, wise, and practical guide that gives space for our grief to tell its own story and be as it is. A very valuable, up-to-date resource for anyone wanting to consciously navigate this challenging inner landscape.” —John J. Prendergast, PhD, author of In Touch: How to Tune In to the Inner Guidance of Your Body and Trust Yourself; psychotherapist; adjunct professor of psychology (retired), California Institute of Integral Studies
“Nearly four decades ago, Patrick O’Malley and his wife Nancy experienced every parent’s nightmare: the death of their infant son. Over the years since, O’Malley has allowed his grief to shape not only his heart but also his mind, and in this book he offers profound wisdom about the texture of grief. Avoiding clichés and shattering the idea that grief marches through some predictable and lock-step set of ‘stages,’ O’Malley instead understands that every experience of grief is personal and unique and that every griever has a story worth telling. This book is immensely valuable, both for those who grieve and for those who want to offer them true consolation.” —Thomas G. Long, coauthor of The Good Funeral: Death, Grief, and the Community of Care
“Getting Grief Right offers both individual mourners and grief groups a restorative approach to handling grief while preserving memories of our loved ones. Asserting that grief is embedded in the everyday experience of being human, O’Malley and Madigan argue for a re-framing of grief as something that mourners recognize and accommodate, rather than a stage to be worked beyond. Through an effective formula based on years of both personal and professional experience, the authors offer a template for the reader’s grief journey that works in both private and group settings. I highly recommend the book’s study guide for anyone interested in honoring their own grief journey or eager to help others who have recently experienced loss. This book is an ideal companion for grief workshops, and it is sure to become an integral tool in learning to live with loss.” —Candi Cann, PhD, associate profession of religion at Baylor University and author of Virtual Afterlives: Grieving the Dead in the Twenty-First Century
“With Getting Grief Right, Patrick O’Malley touches an issue dear to my heart and mind: the importance of telling the truth about loss, which is really the truth about love. Through his personal experience and the stories of others, he normalizes grief, offering it back to the griever to explore and define their own experience within the wide frame of health and wellness.” —Megan Devine, teacher, speaker, psychotherapist, and author of It's OK That You're Not OK: Meeting Grief and Loss in a Culture That Doesn't Understand