If you love, you will grieve—and nothing is more mysteriously central to becoming fully human.
Foreword INDIES Award-Winner — Gold Medal for Self-Help
When a loved one dies, the pain of loss can feel unbearable—especially in the case of a traumatizing death that leaves us shouting, “NO!” with every fiber of our body. The process of grieving can feel wild and nonlinear—and often lasts for much longer than other people, the nonbereaved, tell us it should.
Organized into fifty-two short chapters, Bearing the Unbearable is a companion for life’s most difficult times, revealing how grief can open our hearts to connection, compassion, and the very essence of our shared humanity. Dr. Joanne Cacciatore—bereavement educator, researcher, Zen priest, and leading counselor in the field—accompanies us along the heartbreaking path of love, loss, and grief. Through moving stories of her encounters with grief over decades of supporting individuals, families, and communities—as well as her own experience with loss—Cacciatore opens a space to process, integrate, and deeply honor our grief.
Not just for the bereaved, Bearing the Unbearable will be required reading for grief counselors, therapists and social workers, clergy of all varieties, educators, academics, and medical professionals. Organized into fifty-two accessible and stand-alone chapters, this book is also perfect for being read aloud in support groups.
“An especially powerful book. It is not just for those who have suffered a loss. Anyone who's trying to deal with a loss, or anyone who know someone dealing with a loss, (and in truth, isn't that everyone?) will benefit from reading this amazing book.”
– Foreword Reviews
“Simultaneously heartwrenching and uplifting. Cacciatore offers practical guidance on coping with profound and life-changing grief. This book is destined to be a classic, simply the best book I have ever read on the process of grief.”
– Huffington Post
“In this poignant, heartrending, and heart-lifting book, Joannne Cacciatore teaches how loss is transformed to peace, devastating grief to active and practical love. Beautifully, beautifully written, Bearing the Unbearable is for all those who have grieved, will grieve, or support others through bereavement.”
– Gabor Maté MD, author of In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts
“A wise guide—intimate, tender, and fierce—reminding us what it means to fully love. This is a holy book, riddled with insight and compassion. It will bless all of us in our times of sorrow.”
– Francis Weller, author of The Wild Edge of Sorrow: Rituals of Renewal and the Sacred Work of Grief
“There are sentences in this luminous book that took my breath away. With penetrating insight and tender warmth, Dr. Jo meets the broken-hearted where we live: in an utterly transformed and transformational space. This is the secret potion I have been yearning for, offered from a brimming cup.”
– Mirabai Starr, author of Caravan of No Despair: A Memoir of Loss and Transformation
“A truly remarkable book.”
– Robert D. Stolorow, author of Trauma and Human Existence
“Bearing the Unbearable is an experience more than a book. In recounting many cases from her extraordinary therapy practice devoted to helping people who are undergoing severe and traumatic grief, the book offers the reader an experience that—like grief itself—is painful but for which one will be deeply grateful afterwards. Cacciatore’s amazing book shows us through its many emotionally gripping examples–guaranteed to trigger readers’ own lurking tears—much that is novel and illuminating about the ineffable depth and labyrinthine nature of intense grief.”
– Dr. Jerome Wakefield, DSW, PhD, Professor, NYU School of Medicine and author of The Loss of Sadness
“An approach to grief that moves beyond platitudes and cliché. It offers a way to truly grow through grief that is not a moving beyond but is more of an organic composting and recycling of the soul. It offers hope for those who feel like their loss has disconnected themselves forever from humanity and the circle of life. There is something for everyone in this garden that will restore and rejuvenate. I would highly recommend this book!”
– Doug Bremner MD, Professor of Psychiatry, Emory University, and author of The Goose That Laid the Golden Egg
“At a time when even the most normal of human experiences, such as grief and suffering, are being pathologized and medicated by a bio-psychiatric industry, Bearing the Unbearable is an honest and courageous examination of the most common of human experiences…Dr. Cacciatore’s powerful book doesn’t stop with delineating the process of grief. [It] shows grieving human beings how to reclaim the process as normal and sacred, and how to insist on defining the process for themselves, which leads to powerful healing…This book will become a staple in my practice, and as well as at Warfighter ADVANCE programs.”
– Mary Neal Vieten, PhD, ABPP, Executive Director, WARFIGHTER ADVANCE
“This masterpiece is the greatest gift I could give to someone entrenched in grief, or to the loved ones of the bereaved.”
– The Tattooed Buddha
“When we feel pain, our natural instinct is to do something to make the pain go away. But what can we do if the pain is unbearable and will never go away? Joanne Cacciatore learned about this kind of unbearable pain when she suffered the death of her own child. In her book Bearing the Unbearable, she tells us in a deeply personal way about this experience of unbearable traumatic grief and what she learned from it about healing, and she also tells us, in a series of very moving personal stories, what she has learned from her life’s work helping others in their healing. She learned that, while our instinct may be to make the suffering go away, our deepest need is to feel the suffering, to experience it fully, as often and as long as the suffering demands to be felt. Because it is only by deeply and repeatedly feeling our suffering that the process of healing can occur. As Joanne describes it this healing is a profoundly mysterious process in which the suffering doesn’t change but in the process of not changing is paradoxically transformed into healing. So bearing the unbearable is not impossible. It is the only way to heal. But how exactly does that healing happen? One aspect that Joanne emphasizes is that in the process of fully experiencing our unbearable suffering we come to accept the unavoidability of the suffering and our own helplessness in it, and in that acceptance we discover a new compassion, first for ourselves and then for all our suffering fellow human beings. Another aspect is that we cannot and should not feel so much suffering alone; that to heal we need to be able to feel and express our suffering to another person who understands and accept it and feel it with us. Ideally, it should be a person who can continue to understand, accept, and feel it with us throughout all the weeks, months, and years that we will continue needing to feel it. Such a person is a true healer. Such a person is Joanne Cacciatore.”
– Elio Frattaroli, MD, Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania and author of the book Healing the Soul in the Age of the Brain