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A Review of the Book “Stitches: A Handbook on Meaning, Hope, and Repair”
Star Rating (Out of 5):
Whom this book is for:
People who are grieving and/or facing difficult times and are looking for ways to stitch back the pieces of their lives into a whole that may not be traditionally beautiful or what they expected but can lead to meaning and hope. This book may speak especially to people with religious beliefs, and it also has an interesting chapter on growing up as a child of parents with alcohol addictions and finding one’s voice during the women’s movement.
Stitches reads similarly to a journal, full of questions and stories about how we find meaning and repair when our lives or the world feel like they are crumbling. Lamott speaks about personal tragedies, such as the loss of a husband to dementia, the loss of a friend to cancer, the loss of a son to homelessness and mental illness, as well as global and local tragedies such as a devastating fire, a school shooting, and a natural disaster. She points out that it is easy to see the meaning and the beauty of life when things are flowing- when our children are young, when we have a job that fulfills us, when we are in a loving and healthy relationship. But, she asks, how do we find meaning when things fall apart? How do we take the tattered remains of the life or the world we knew and stitch together a new reality that can lead to healing?
Top 1 or 2 takeaways / skills from the book:
I loved this quote on how we can support people who are in times of crisis: “I talked in general about what good people can do in the face of great sorrow. We help some time pass for those suffering. We sit with them in their hopeless pain and feel terrible with them, without trying to fix them with platitudes; doing this with them is just about the most gracious gift we have to offer. We give up what we think should be doing, or think we need to get done, to keep them company. We help them to bear time and space during unbearable times and spaces.”
I also liked this passage on grieving and loss: “But what if the great insider-trading truth Is that you don’t ever get over the biggest losses in your life? Is that good news, bad news, or both? The good news is that if you don’t seal up your heart with caulking compound, and instead stay permeable, people stay alive inside you, and maybe outside you, too, forever. This is also the bad news, not because your heart will continue to hurt forever, but because grief is frowned upon, so hard for even intimate bystanders to witness, that you will think you must be crazy for not getting over it. You think it’s best to keep this a secret, even if it cuts you off from certain aspects of your life, like, say, the truth of your heart, and all that is real. The pain does grow less acute, but the insidious palace lie that we will get over crushing losses means that our emotional GPS can never find true north, as it is based on maps that no longer mention the most important places we have been to. Pretending that things are nicely boxed up and put away robs us of great riches.”
And lastly, this quote on meaning and support: “The world is always going to be dangerous, and people get badly banged up, but how can there be more meaning that helping one another stand up in a wind and stay warm?”
Top 1 or 2 things you disliked about the book:
This isn’t necessarily a dislike but more of a heads up. Anne Lamott is Christian, and the book mentions Christian topics, especially in the first chapter. If this resonates with you, you may appreciate reading about how religious concepts can apply to the struggles and difficult times we face in life. If you do not ascribe to a religion, it is helpful to be aware that these are a part of the book, and there are also many other stories and ideas of meaning and hope that are not based in religion, especially past the first chapter.
Would you recommend this book?
Yes, to a reader I believe would resonate with the writing and the topic.
I like how it gives ideas and inspiration for how to navigate life’s tragedies and challenges, as well as giving permission to feel all of the difficult feelings that come with these. It normalizes the grieving process and also gives insight into how we can be there for people who are grieving.