In her latest book, Ann Hood, author of last year's semi-autobiographical novel The Knitting Circle, puts the reader on the harrowing frontlines of every parent's worst nightmare: a crisis involving a child. Comfort: A Journey Through Grief is Hood's account of the death of her daughter, Grace, and the aftermath of her loss. This is an intensely personal, painfully moving collection of essays that take readers to a place no one wants to visit.
Grace was a healthy, vibrant five-year-old when she contracted an especially virulent form of strep that ravaged her internal organs and, in less than 48 hours, took her life. Suddenly Grace was gone, leaving a heartbroken mother, father and eight-year-old brother, Sam. Hood could find no solace. The platitudes issued by well-meaning friends and relatives (recounted in the book's searing first chapter) only made things worse. It was when she learned to knit and joined a knitting group at a local yarn store that she was able to move toward some sort of healing. And, when Hood and her family adopt a new baby, joy finally returns to her life.
Hood's honest recounting of the terrible day and all the terrible days that followed does not spare the reader, instead giving an idea of just what havoc the death of a child causes. Reading what helped her (the dinners, the cards, the listeners, the knitting) might help the rest of us who wonder what to do and what to say when our friends and relatives face loss. Reading Comfort is a wrenching experience, but, when I shared this book with a dear friend who had lost a child, he agreed that Hood talks about loss in the most honest, useful way he has ever read. He was comforted by her words, even as they brought him back to the day when his own daughter died.
There are so many empty phrases that people say to those who have suffered loss, but the real truth is clear to Hood: "Time does not heal. It just passes."
Robin Smith reads, teaches and knits in Nashville.