Saturday, July 16, 2022

A Hole in the World by Amanda Held Opelt

When a loved one dies, they leave a hole in your world. The sister of Rachel Held Evans reflects on the sorrow, the confusion, the unanswered questions that come with an untimely death.

Opelt notes that, while we are taught many life skills, grieving is not one of them. She found that grieving rituals helped her in the grieving journey. While she writes some about her thoughts on God, the primary focus of the book is the impact rituals have on experiencing grief. She weaves interesting historical information on the customs into the significance each ritual plays in the grieving journey.

While each of the twelve rituals she covers has value, I found a few of them gave me much to think about. In writing about sitting shivah, Opelt recognizes the need to feel the pain and not avoid it. It helped her think through her idea of God, realizing He doesn't always behave the way we think He should. She found she could “...experience the presence of God even in the absence of peace.” (829/2812) The section on casseroles reminded me of the need for physical sustenance and restoration. Her comments on post mortem photography was a stark reminder of the importance of not being forgotten. Her insights on sympathy cards and the changed language they contain was telling, as was how we have outsourced dying and death to hospitals and funeral homes.

Opelt admits she has not figured out grief. She is still fumbling her way through it. But she does know God has been there. While no two people experience grief the same way, this book will help readers understand the process of letting grief have its way. I recommend the book for those grieving and for those who want to gain insights into the process.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Amanda Held Opelt is an author, speaker, and songwriter. She writes about faith, grief, and creativity, and believes in the power of community, ritual, worship, and shared stories to heal even our deepest wounds. She has spent the last fifteen years as a social worker and humanitarian aid worker. She lives in the mountains of Boone, North Carolina, with her husband and two young daughters. You can find out more at

Worthy Books, 256 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher. My comments are an independent and honest review.

(My star ratings: 5-I love it, 4-I like it, 3-It's OK, 2-I don't like it, 1-I hate it.)

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