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Grief and Loss Across the Lifespan: A Biopsychosocial Perspective by Carolyn Ambler Walter and Judith L. M. McCoyd, Springer Publishing,, 2009.

In 1986 Judith Viorst wrote Necessary Losses: The Loves, Illusions, Dependencies and Impossible Expectations That All of Us Have to Give Up in Order to Grow. It was and is a very influential book as it explores from birth to old age the losses one experiences by just by living. Its theme was two-fold: Loss is a continual part of life and how we respond to loss determines how we grow and mature. While filled with many worthwhile insights and observations, it also had its limits. It was written from a firmly psychoanalytic perspective which proved an obstacle for some readers. While it has been a useful text for a class on grief and loss in the Graduate School of Social Work at the University of Arkansas-Little Rock, there has been a need for a more contemporary and inclusive text that covers loss throughout one's lifespan. Grief and Loss Across the Lifespan will hopefully fill that need.

Carolyn Ambler Walter and Judith L. M. McCoyd boldly take on a huge task as they explore the varieties of loss that occur from pregnancy (losses from the parents' perspectives) to old age. True to the title, they approach losses from a developmental perspective inclusive of biological, psychological and social aspects as well as losses that are often found in the particular developmental stage of life such as the death of a caregiver or family member and the loss of health. They reference and apply Erickson's developmental stages following early chapters on contemporary understandings of grief and exploration of perinatal attachment and loss. In each developmental stage, case examples are offered including a description of helpful social work interventions (this is written as a social work textbook). These case examples and stories are a real strength of the book as they bring the issues to life which were described previously, and sometimes dryly, earlier in each chapter. Along with the comprehensive scope of loss, the other major strengths of the text are the applications and insights to the great varieties of loss described brought from contemporary grief theory and understandings.

Necessary Losses was a compelling read written for the masses but with significant limitations, especially as nearly thirty years have passed. Grief Across the Lifespan aims at both an academic audience and a more comprehensive understanding of loss and grief using a wide variety of current perspectives on development, loss and grief. It sets out to be a textbook and somewhat unfortunately reads like one, too, but the payoff is at the end of each chapter as the issues come to life in stories and insights offered are both deep and broad.

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