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I Understand

Grief: A Dark, Sacred Time

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“This book brings me to my knees” Claudia Johnson
“In the West, we still find it difficult to talk about death. This powerful and much-needed book confronts the many faces of loss head-on, and will help to initiate the deep, intelligent and nurturing conversations we need to heal and move through grief – everyone should read this.” Stephen Gawtry, Managing Editor, Watkins Mind Body Spirit magazine
“‘Grief’ is a book which should be adopted by bereavement organisations worldwide.” Victor Olliver  The Astrological Journal
In 2004 we published Life After Grief: An Astrological Guide to Dealing With Loss (which is still in print). The first 100 pages deal solely with the process of grief and grieving (and no astrology), and they struck a chord with many of our readers who aren’t astrologers – and who wanted more.
The idea of expanding that section out into a whole book fermented through the intervening years, and now we’re delighted to present the result.
Grief doesn’t discriminate. It will touch all of us at some point; an uninvited guest that can’t be shown the door, that takes over our lives and changes us forever. In this gut-wrenchingly beautiful book, Darrelyn shows us how knowing the shape of grief and its consequences over time give edges and boundaries to this dark pathway, revealing that through the prickly branches and the mist, life awaits us at the edge of the forest, dressed in cloths of gold and sustained with love and warmth.
Helping ourselves first means we gain the wisdom that grief gives us to help others on their unique journey to encounter a changed future with focus, determination, and understanding when grief comes to call. To allow someone in grief to give voice to their experiences is not just being kind. It is saving their life.
You can watch an interview with Darrelyn here. Have the tissues ready.
Go to our Youtube channel here for a gorgeous video featuring more of Darrelyn’s work
Grief: A Dark Sacred Time is now available as an audiobook. Go here to purchase/download.

Darrelyn Gunzburg

Darrelyn Gunzburg

To say that Darrelyn Gunzburg is multi-talented would be a bit of an understatement. In AstroGraphology: The hidden link between your horoscope and y...

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Reviewed by Ian Argent - UKCP Registered Psychotherapist for Cruse Bereavement Organisation This book starts by recounting the myth of Menelaus from Homer’s “Odyssey”. The ship of Menelaus is unexpectedly becalmed for an indefinite period, and Menelaus must consult Proteus to find out what to do. To gain access to the wisdom of Proteus, Menelaus must endure a shocking and painful series of trials, without letting go of the magical Proteus who changes shape and attacks Menelaus in a variety of ways, inviting him to let go and thereby give up the chance to gain wisdom. The painful series of trials is a very useful illustration of the grieving process that Darrelyn Gunzburg goes on to describe. The first section of this book asks the question “What is grief?” and goes on to describe some experiences and symptoms of grieving people. Gunzburg offers real-life examples, giving helpful detail to the picture. A compassionate and respectful view is maintained throughout. The section on crying/tears, and their importance in grief is a beautiful example of this; it was a moving and reassuring passage to read. The next sections of the book go on to describe the work of grieving (or as Gunzburg describes it, “learning to grieve”), and observing how people may find a way towards a “normal life”. Again, Gunzburg offers case studies of loss, showing the arc of individual grief journeys, based on some qualitative research. There is a sense of hope overall, but these sections don’t avoid acknowledging the difficulties and complications. Gunzburg devotes the final two chapters of the book to specific types of grief:- the grief of parents who have lost a child, and the grief of children. These chapters again are interesting and well researched, leaving one with with some very clear impressions of the unique grief experiences of these specific groups. I liked the word “sacred” in the title of this book; it fits nicely with the thoughtful and humane attitude taken by the author. The case studies, and quotes from various sources in the humanities, are very valuable. This book will certainly be of interest to anyone wishing to broaden their understanding of grief, and in my view would be most suitable as a relatively unthreatening introduction, for perhaps bereavement volunteers and other such workers. It is a manageable and readable book, with a pleasantly textured cover, so I enjoyed holding it as well as reading it.   Reviewed by Romuald Dzemo for Readers' Favorite 'Grief: A Dark, Sacred Time' by Darrelyn Gunzburg discusses surviving loss and finding strength and meaning in the dire moments when we traverse the dark waters of grief. No matter our status in life, we do get hit by grief when we lose a loved one and this author looks at the nature of grief as it visits children and adults and explores its different faces and how it impacts our lives. The book answers some of the challenging questions we face: Can we deal with the loss? Can we grow through it? Can the void we feel in our hearts be filled again and how? But how do we deal with the debilitating sense of loss that haunts us when someone dies? In language that is clear and in a compassionate tone, Darrelyn Gunzburg provides practical and astonishing answers to these questions and shows readers how they can grieve for loved ones without losing their sanity and their grip on life. I have had my share of losses in life: a father dying in an untimely way, losing my youngest brother in an accident, and losing some of the people who have been very important in my life and I felt lost during the long periods of grieving that followed the losses. I wish I had read this book at that time because it gives the reader perspective and tools to deal with the pain. 'Grief: A Dark, Sacred Time' is a beautiful book and it clearly shows a reader that losing someone dear isn’t the end of life but that it can open a new door for them to appreciate life in an even deeper way. Written in a confident and engaging voice, it is filled with insight and compassion; a book we should read and revisit, even before losing someone dear to us. Review by Victor Olliver In this special and profound book, astrology is absent. But Grief is reviewed here because of the high standing of the author in the world of astrology. Dr. Darrelyn Gunzburg teaches at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David on its MA course in Cultural Astronomy and Astrology and is a professional consulting and teaching astrologer. “This book is about letting go,” begins Grief. “Specifically, it is about letting go of life as you knew it when death comes to call.” Through exploration of myth, literature, the arts, psychiatry/psychology and many real-life client case studies, we discover that “knowing the shape of grief and its consequences over time gives edges and boundaries to this dark pathway”. This is the necessary prelude to a new life to come “dressed in cloths of gold and sustained with love and warmth”. I opened the book with some reluctance. As some of you will know, I lost my mother in January 2019 and I wrote about my response and the astrological track of the passing in the March/April 2019 issue of Journal. Neptune came to claim my Moon by conjunction, and yes sceptics, I saw it coming. Part of me wondered why I would want to read another book about a condition that is still an everyday part of my life. Why wallow? What have I not read on grief and bereavement in the past year that does not reduce a sacred experience to a list of blobbed ‘stages’ and action-packed how-tos on the soulless conveyor belt of packaged compassion? In contrast, Grief is a nuanced blend of the academic and empathic, shaped by an intelligence that we soon sense has shed tears over loss and come to a resolution through reflection. Some measure of distance allows for fresh perspectives on the nature of the grieving process while the author’s beautifully written insights are drawn from the mindful heart, not a textbook or hospital folder. “Grief is the price we pay for living a full life,” Gunzburg writes at one point; the price of loving someone and caring for them – one of the precious experiences that gives real meaning to life. Grief in this sense is a painful sign of success of another order, a reward even, if we can accept it as part and parcel of renewal or rebirth on our mortal trip. An early section on ancient myths and grief locates a timeless wellspring of wisdom for further self-understanding – and will resonate with some astrologers who understand the role of myth in their work. “Myths are not simply stories told to please children,” writes Gunzburg… “Today, myths continue to illustrate human qualities and behavioural attitudes that remain unchanging over time...inviting us to reinterpret or even change the endings through our own wisdom.” Grief does include practical advice on coping with bereavement and learning how to grieve. And there are two priceless chapters on parents and grief and children and grief. Though no religion or philosophy is espoused, between the lines we sense a universal spiritual perspective in the liminal space of making sense of loss and rediscovery. We are not machines with simple reset buttons; we need to live the process before recovery. Grief is a book which should be adopted by bereavement organisations worldwide. Victor Olliver - The Astrological Journal "In the West, we still find it difficult to talk about death. This powerful and much-needed book confronts the many faces of loss head-on, and will help to initiate the deep, intelligent and nurturing conversations we need to heal and move through grief – everyone should read this." Stephen Gawtry, Managing Editor, Watkins Mind Body Spirit magazine. "In 1981 friends of mine began to die – a lot of friends. I was leading seminars with titles like Be Here Now in those years and working on projects like The Hunger Project. And -- it was the Aids crisis. Folks I had studied with, worked with on projects for abused children with, laughed with, listened to the music of the musicians among them, knew their histories, their pals and recognized their laughter --began to die. Hospice wasn’t known yet and was in its early stages. Many families didn’t wish to associate with their gay children, so their dying days became the communities task. We had to learn and learn fast how to set up ‘teams’, learn the names of drugs, deal with the pain our friends were suffering, and provide services when the death did come. I learned early on that death was inevitable and often frightening and frankly awful. I read whatever I could find that might help me know ‘what to do’ when death arrived. And those books were few and far between even tho’ I had attended graduate school and had a cursory knowledge of what the church said I ‘should’ do. I was looking at my books yesterday and over the years I have collected and mostly read a vast number of books about death and dying. Some “good” and some “preachy”. The book that I just read is called Grief: A Dark Sacred Time by Dr. Darrelyn Gunzburg. For one thing—actually the main thing I appreciate is that her writing acknowledges the grief…it’s the title! These days many of our cultures run the other way as though death is a concept that if we don’t talk about it—maybe it will go away. It won’t. We call the services for people celebrations of life and altho’ that is where we want to be – we want to celebrate that life we knew – and should – I am very sure that there is grieving that also wants its due and indeed that is part of the deal. We will miss them (mostly) and it hurts and our lives change – we are altered forever when we have lived with that friend, or relative, child or neighbor. And we grieve even if we think we will be better off not showing that pain—stiff upper lip and all that. Don’t make anyone uncomfortable seems to be a rule we made up somewhere along the line. Dr. Gunzburg is a storyteller, a playwright, a professor, and so much more. She has dogs and cats and a loving partner. She has studied Grief and she has a grand sense of humor that deepens that rigorous attention to how to be and be good with the family, the children, the dying person. At one point in her life, she interviewed countless people who over time had either been with death in their own lives. Death and loss itself. She knows how to use lines from plays and movies and makes grand use of the stories from long ago—the Greek myths for example. In this book, she focuses throughout the book on the story of Proteus and Menelaus. Proteus lies down with the seals and Menelaus has to do the same in order to release his ship from the grip of the sea and he and his men can return home. I won’t tell the story here because I want you to read this book. It is not a ‘how to’ book…but it is rich in story and captivating and frankly made me cry in various places. Her ability to relay a story – a true story—of the death of someone’s mate is poignant and rich. I was transported to when my parent or my friend or someone in my little town died. The way the family reacted, the immobilizing sadness and fear all of which also offers “an acute sense of existence”. I looked over at my best friend and spouse and experienced that moment that hasn’t happened when one of us will die ~ and soon after I was propelled into that space of living life now—the preciousness becoming real and available. This book brings me to my knees and I am impacted such that I am a better person and better at being with the dying and much better at living my own life to the fullest. Thank you Darrelyn Gunzberg. This is one of the best ever written and “I don’t say that to all the girls”." Claudia E. Johnson   "I enjoyed reading this book. It is well written and well researched. Though it is a work of non-fiction at times her prose soars into poetry. Who hasn’t been touched by grief? It comes to all of us sooner or later. We could say that life itself is very much about dealing with grief. The way we deal with grief will determine how we live our lives. There are all kinds of grief that happens to a person. Here she deals (mostly) with the grief of death - the death of a loved one, a parent, lover, child, sibling etc. But there are many forms of grief. Some not so dramatic. Some are merely the annoyances of everyday life. The plumber overcharges you. The girl/guy you loved doesn’t love you. There is a spat with the beloved and mean things are said. One is separated from family members. I have seen people grieve over movements in the stock market and over financial loss. All these things can catapult a person into a negative state. Of course, death is the more serious kind of grief. There is much insight here. She shows the effect of grief on the physical body. People in grief are more prone to physical type ailments. She understands the mind-body connection involved here. She explains why it is dangerous to repress grief – it needs to be expressed – it shouldn’t stay in the psyche. She explains the problems of unresolved grief – many diseases can be traced to that. (In my opinion cancer is the result of unresolved grief – but grief that was there for a long, long time – sometimes thousands of years.) She takes a psychological approach to grief. One must go through the process. Talk to a therapist or understanding kind of person. One must allow time to go through the grieving process. Sometimes up to 5 years. But this is case by case. For sure these ways will work, but they are very time consuming. In the meantime one is basically out of commission. (And if not out of commission at a lowered rate of mental and physical capacity.) Perhaps there is another way – a way that doesn’t deny the author’s insights –  but which achieves the same result. This is the way of higher consciousness. I met my teacher as I was sitting “shiva1” for my brother. He died a horrible death. There was much suffering. He had incurable cancer. My teacher came to my home. I was unshaved and unkempt. My shirt was torn as prescribed by law.2 He came in, did some spiritual healing on me and said, with a tone of disgust - “get up! You don’t need this!” So I did. Later as I started to study regularly with him, he showed me how to deal with this. The way of higher consciousness is about looking at an event from a higher place in ourselves – from the place of superconsciousness or as religious people might say –  the place of the Divine. Yes, one will feel the pain, the anguish and the hosts of emotions that happen during grieving. But with a difference. One will have, eventually, a higher understanding of the event. We are separate from the event. Yes, the feelings are there and they play themselves out. But the person is watching from above. It is like watching a storm at sea. One doesn’t need to wait 5 years to see “the end of the tunnel” – it is seen rather quickly (it is all case by case). In this consciousness we see that the Higher Consciousness doesn’t grieve. Grieving is of the lower mind – the mortal mind – the 3D mind – which believes that it is somehow diminished by a particular event. We find that the grieving is mostly based on false assumptions – assumptions about life, reality and one’s true nature. The higher consciousness is eternally happy and harmonious. Also while in higher consciousness, solutions and thoughts will come in that allay the grief. This is not repression – the feelings are allowed free rein - but the interpretation of things is totally different. I very much enjoyed her reference to the myth of Menelaus and Proteus.3 But I have a different take on it. After a harrowing experience with Proteus, who keeps changing his shape and trying to elude Menelaus’ grasp, he tells Menelaus that the reason for his travails was that he neglected to sacrifice properly to the gods. So Menelaus makes his sacrifices and is released from his travails immediately. What if Menelaus had done this from the outset? Wouldn’t he have been spared all the grief? Yes. It wouldn’t have been necessary. And so it is with us. Much of the grief we encounter comes from not “sacrificing” properly to the Divine - not honoring it enough - not being connected enough. The solution? Get connected as soon as possible. We live in a psychological age these days. There are many, many people on this path. This book is for them. It is well worth reading."
  1. This is the prescribed mourning period among Jews when one has lost someone close.
  2. It is forbidden to shave or shower during the shiva period and one cannot even sit on a normal chair. The clothing must be torn.
  3. The Odyssey.
Joseph Polansky Diamond Fire magazine. This is a wonderful guide to understanding the pain of grief. Whether you are grieving and wondering why you are having panic attacks, or you're witnessing the grief of a friend and feeling helpless. Darrelyn gently takes you through the process that all who grieve go through, albeit in their individual ways. Using myth and real life stories, she helps us to understand that this is a process which can lead to greater compassion, understanding and a more meaningful, engaged life. Review by Ana Isabel for Goodreads

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