Words of Comfort
Written by: Rebekah Ballagh
Allen & Unwin
Reviewed by: Jo Lucre
Rebekah Ballagh’s Words of Comfort offers a grounding and simplistic response to grief. Navigating grief, whether it’s sideways, through it, or crawling under it, Words of Comfort offers a sense of stillness through grief’s noise.
Like a journey that has no set place or time, Words of Comfort has no prescriptive actions or ‘must dos’. Instead Ballagh encourages living in a moment, whatever that moment may be, whether it is navigating guilt and anxiety, loss and despair, or trying to tread water in the face of sadness and longing for what once was. The chapters hit you where grief hits you, right in the place where it lives on any given day: the past, the present, or the every day. Ballagh talks about being grounded, being safe, and being okay when nothing feels okay.
Ballagh suggests creating a memory box to remind you of all the moments you’ve shared with someone. She reminds us that in the process of loss we learn we were never promised a perfect life, and that it’s okay to go on living even when you are lost and have lost something or someone.
Words of Comfort is a heartwarming and gentle book that neither preaches about how someone should grieve nor assumes where grief ends or begins. Despite its gentle nature and soft calming illustrations, a small part of me wonders if these messages would seem trite to someone facing overwhelming grief, a grief that untethers you and is palpable in every breath you take. Or would it instead offer small comfort on the days when the mundane act of reading a book has only just become manageable?
I lean towards the latter. If only one quote resonates and makes someone feel a little bit better, for that moment in time, I think it’s a good thing.
“It’s okay to go on living, to have a life that carries on in a future you hadn’t imagined. It’s okay to laugh again. And it’s always okay to cry again,” Ballagh says.