A Manual for Heartache – Book Review

This is an extraordinarily good book. Practical and direct but overflowing with compassion Cathy Rentzebrink will gently talk you through how you can be kind to yourself when overwhelmed by grief.

And she should know.

Her ‘back story’ is of surviving a devastating and protracted loss which began in her teens when her brother, to whom she was very close, was knocked down by a car. He didn’t actually die until another 8 years had passed during which he never emerged from a persistent vegetative state.

She wrote about this experience in her first book.

This was recommended to me several years ago but just the blurb sounded so sad, I couldn’t bring myself to read it.

This new book is not about the ‘content’ (the specific thing that happens to us which causes us heartbread) but all about the ‘process’ – the way we work out how to accommodate or live on in spite of whatever event it is that has gone off in our life like a grenade.

And it is crammed full of insightful, gentle and good advice. Read it with a broken heart and I do not think you will feel lectured, I didn’t. Instead you will feel the immense reassurance of listening to someone who knows how it feels to be utterly broken.

I thought her chapter on looking after your own mental well-being ‘I am one in four’ was particularly useful and I loved her ‘letter to my future self‘, so full of hope and encouragement.

It’s not a long read but worth every penny. (I borrowed the audiobook from Borrowbox, the Warwickshire Library app, so I listened to it for free. She reads her own work which makes her feel even more like your new best friend, so I’d recommend the audio version). It’s not written from a faith perspective but is still very positive about the benefits of spirituality. The only part where it veered slightly from it’s brief of universal applicability was the final chapter where she speaks in detail about how the family eventually dealt with her brother’s ashes. She had not covered this in her first book. But if you had read that far, you would I’m sure be more than willingly to hear how this further step on her grief journey helped bring healing.

In these difficult times – a book like this could be a literal life-saver. It deserves to sell millions.

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