The painful first line of Richard L. Mabry’s 1999, The Tender Scar: Life After the Death of a Spouse*, was true. I hadn’t lost a spouse, but my mom had. And while I have tried to be there for her during this time of mourning, my grief for my step-dad has been real and present.
When my mom recently asked me to help her find this book she had read about in an old magazine, all it took was a quick search on Amazon, and I had it delivered to her within two days. Finding the book was easy. Reading the book was hard.
But within days she had finished the small guide and recommended that I read it to. Because of that first line, I imagine.
It’s a strange book to write about here, really. The Tender Scar is more instruction book than literature, and the subject is so painful, so specific, so not something you want to read about. Unless, of course, you or someone dear to you has lost a spouse, like that first line says, because reading this book explains a lot.
First, Mabry clearly understands the grieving mindset, having lost his own wife to a massive stroke. The chapters are short, ideal for quick moments of transient focus that often accompany grief. No one wants to spend more than a page or two thinking about putting flowers on a grave or throwing away sympathy cards. Mabry knows that.
But the second appeal of the book is that someone who is trying to decide whether they should throw those cards away or not can actually hear one man’s perspective. Many of the issues Mabry covers in this book are exactly the situation my mom finds herself in. Seeing someone else navigate those obstacles feels reassuring. Though no one would wish it, it’s helpful to know that even in these dark days, someone has already been there and can help lead the way.
Perhaps the best part of this book are the bits of journal entries and emails the author shares at the beginning of each chapter. These are the raw moments of pain and grief, written in real time, that really convey the heart of the author. In this brief sections, more than anywhere else in the book, readers can connect with Mabry in the despair and uncertainty that come in these moments.
It’s hard to recommend a book that I know will be hard to read. Really. And many of you don’t need this book right now. I hope never. But realistically, someday, you–or someone dear to you–will have lost a loved one. And this book might be the glimmer of hope that gets you through another day.
A fun discovery about Richard L. Mabry: Quite accidentally, I found a link to Richard L. Mabry’s new medical thriller, Critical Condition*, when I was looking at his agent’s (Rachelle Gardner) Pinterest Page. I wondered what had happened to Mabry, since The Tender Scar was written 15 years ago. You can find his other medical thrillers by visiting his webpage, http://www.rmabry.com.
*This website uses “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”