By Jessica Sanford
I met Valerie Derry in 2021 when we joined the same writing group. The group met to read and discuss writing. Valerie’s poems were wonderful – emotive and thought–provoking. This month I’m reviewing a book by Valerie, a selection of self–help options for people in grief, The Gallery of Loss.
In 2019 Val lost her son to cancer. After the news that the illness was terminal, she cared for him daily and ensued his comfort. Instead of curling into a ball and giving up, as would have been her right to do, while enduring the worst possible sadness, she took note of practical, daily processes to manage grief one day at a time. This book is an outline of those processes. But it’s more than that. The guide is weaved with poetry – a salve for the soul – written by Val, who has used her creative talents to ease her anguish.
When I read The Gallery of Loss I cried, of course. It deals with immeasurable sorrow. However, I was also uplifted. The Gallery of Loss provides awareness and hope. Chapter 1 is titled, The first realisation that death is near – how to respond. It outlines achievable goals to follow that may ease the unknowingness of the early days and beyond. For instance, treat each day as a lifetime and take one day at a time. By thinking about each day as a whole – with a beginning, a middle and an end – and talking about your day in the evening, you will learn to cherish each moment, making your time seem to last longer. Also, forward thinking about days in advance may be too overpowering when it comes to your calendar of appointments and challenges. One day at a time will limit this overwhelm.
The book includes meditation and practical information about the positive power of the mind and daydreaming. It offers advice on dealing with health professionals, talking about death with loved ones and coping with the future.
In one instance, Valerie demonstrates how writing helped with her feelings of remorse over forgetting her son’s shoes for his burial. In what I found to be one of the most moving parts of the book, Valerie describes this moment and includes a poem she penned to help process her guilt, titled Even in Winter.
“…he now strides through heaven
with bare feet,
dabbling his toes in the clear
gathering gold–dust on his ankles,
just as he wanted to in life…”
In her forward Valerie says,
“I hope that in reading this self–help guide, the personal accounts here can help some of you who are struggling with events and people that may seem surreal. Writing down our experiences is therapy in itself and even if you don’t like expressing your feelings in words, doing so can bring healing and peace.”
V.G. Derry is a retired English teacher who has published a variety of poems in Australian magazines since the nineteen nineties. She lives on the Central Coast.
This special eBook edition is offered by the author at no cost to the reader.
Go to the following link to download. www.vividpublishing.com.au/thegalleryofloss