I ordered a book on BookBub that I vaguely remembered as a comedy starring Hugh Grant — Four Weddings and a Funeral. Instead, however, I ordered a book titled Four Funerals and a Wedding. It was very different from what I expected. Which just goes to show that sometimes you don’t get what you want, but you get what you need.
Four Funerals and a Wedding, by Jill Smolowe, is a book about resilience. A fifty something woman talks about the deaths of her husband, sister, mother-in-law, and mother — all of which occurred in a 15-month time frame. God willing, most of us won’t go through this much loss in so short a time, but most of us will go through this much loss over time.
If you’re a baby boomer, chances are you’ll be burying your parents (if they are still with you), your aunts and uncles, and sometimes, your friends. We don’t want to talk about it, although while we are in the midst of the experience, it’s often all we do talk about.
In spite of its title, Four Funerals and a Wedding is not about dying. It’s about living through loss, and developing your unique perspective on how to deal with your grief, because there is no set formula on how to behave.
One story that stayed with me begins when Jill sees an acquaintance she knows to be recently widowed. Jill avoids her, not because she wants to, but because she doesn’t know what to say. Three years later, Jill is “that woman” — the widow — and she wonders if friends are avoiding her because they too don’t know what to say.
She also talks about how people react when you share bad news. Some give advice. Some insist on addressing issues that may not be your priorities. Most don’t know what to say. But some, and these were the ones Jill especially valued, asked simply how could they help.
Four Funerals and a Wedding is not maudlin or tragic or heroic or inspiring. It is one person’s journey through grief, and the operative word here is “through.” When Jill remarries four years after her husband’s death, she is clear that you don’t stop loving or grieving for someone who died just because you learn to love someone else.
I wasn’t sure what I thought about this book when I finished it, but when a friend wrote recently that tests showed several ominous “hot spots,” I asked simply, “How can I help?”
Sometimes, you get a book that is not what you want, but is what you need.