Book Review

The Bereaved Parent
by Harriet Sarnoff Schiff

Schiff begins with a tale about a prince fleeing from revolutionaries who want to kill him. The prince seeks shelter in a peasant's cottage and the peasant hides him under his bed.  The pursuers come and search the house and prod the bed with knives, but leave when they cannot find him.  The prince, grateful to the peasant for saving his life, grants him three favors.  After asking for two very simple favors, the peasant asks as his third request that the prince tell him how he felt when the knives were pushed through the bed. 

The prince becomes angry and shouts, "How dare you offend majesty by asking my emotions?  For this I will have you beheaded tomorrow."  The next day, as the terrified peasant awaiting his execution kneels on the block, a soldier rides up and hands the peasant a note which reads, "As your final favor you wanted to know how I felt under that bed when the revolutionaries came.  I 
have granted your request because now you know!" 

In this powerful introduction Schiff explains how some things are beyond describing,  "No matter how eloquent the words, their impact can fall flat when not accompanied by a similar experience.  And so it is with bereaved parents.  No one has gone through this catastrophe without thinking sometime or other that you can't possibly know what it feels like!" 

A bereaved parent herself, Schiff takes us through the painful  journey of coping with the loss of a child.   She describes the initial numbness and intense grief that follows. The author also deals with the issues of guilt, marriage, siblings, religion, functioning, pleasure, communication, and the 
feelings of powerlessness that one experiences when a tragedy such as this occurs. Throughout the book Schiff expresses her own feelings and how she coped.  "All I could envision was an endless number of hours and days stretching indefinitely and filled with pain and grief." 

How many of us can identify with those same feelings!  Yet she offers hope that things do get 
better.  "Now I find myself and my family going and doing and functioning and taking a joy in life and its challenges I never believed would be possible." This exceptionally well written book is a small paperback of under 150 pages.  Yet it is a classic among books about parental bereavement.  Many of the books that I have read list "The Bereaved Parent" in their 

Reviewed by Anita Becker 
TCF Rockland County, NY 


You may order these or any other books by clicking on the links provided below. Books ordered by entering through this page will help support The Compassionate Friends of Atlanta. You will also receive a discount from the list price on many books by ordering online. If you have read a book that you would recommend we include on this page, please email.

TCF Atlanta| Suggested Reading | After Death Communications
Parental Grief | Sibling Grief | Suicide | Children's Section | Reflections