Cheryl Strayed is one of my favorite authors. I discovered her when I received her New York Times best seller, Wild, as a present this past Christmas. From the first page, I was all in and couldn’t stop reading and definitely didn’t want her journey in Wild to end.
I was totally drawn into every aspect of her memoir and in reading Wild, came to respect the amount of introspection and hard work she put herself through to bring that compelling story out of herself.
No other writer that I know of delivers the goods about life and loss the way Strayed does. Her writing is clean and honest, direct yet compassionate.
After I finished reading Wild, I went through some kind of Strayed withdrawl and had to go back and read various parts of Wild again because I really needed to feel I was in a “life is more” zone that she courageously created in Wild.
But then I found another book that Cheryl Strayed had written. This one, Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life From Dear Sugar, was written by Strayed before she wrote Wild. Dear Sugar is an advice column that appears on the website, The Rumpus, and is not anything like Dear Abbey or any other advice column you may read.
Simply put, Dear Sugar is a million times better.
But only if you are prepared for someone to give you the unvarnished truth.
Dear Sugar is a powerful book because the answers that Strayed gives to people’s questions about what to do when they find themselves in troubling situations are the simple and direct truth but her guidance is also sprinkled with love and concern for the person seeking help. Strayed takes from her own poignant and joyful life experiences and uses them as a place to begin a dialogue with the person seeking support with a problem.
It’s not a “you should do this” kind of advice column but more of a “this is what happened to me, this is how I felt and this is what helped me feel better and maybe it will help you” kind of advice column.
Today I write about a letter that a young man who calls himself Bewildered wrote to Dear Sugar seeking advice on how to emotionally support his girlfriend whose mother died many years ago. Since her mother’s death, his girlfriend has moved forward to find and build a wonderful life for herself but naturally she sometimes she misses her mom and talks with him about the emotional hole left in her life because of her mother’s death. The boyfriend says he tries to empathize but “feels lame in the face of her grief” and just wants to know how he can be a better partner when it comes to handling grief.
I think that’s something we all struggle with and need to know more about.
Please listen below to this amazing Soundcloud link that features Cheryl Strayed reading the letter that Bewildered sent her and her amazing and insightful answer to Bewildered’s timely question about handling another person’s grief feelings: