Maureen Ryan's The Other Sided of Grief is an ambitious project that attempts to draw together the entire range of the Vietnam War experience under the umbrella term "cultural narratives." Ryan doesn't spend much time explaining what she means by this but her point becomes clear: the Vietnam War and "Era" still permeates the American cultural imagination and the mass media that has, since the late 1970s, fed back to us a steady stream of visions and revisions in a variety of narrative forms. Ryan quotes Ward Just's "The American Blues" to set up her subsequent chapters that do their best to lay out the full measure of what was wrought by the U.S. war in Vietnam. Just begins his narrative with a confession that while not intending to write a "story of the war," nevertheless "everything in my unsettled middle age seems to wind back to it." Moreover, whereas the war itself is still "essential to the story," the more pressing need is to express something about "the peace that followed the war." In this sense, all Vietnam narratives are cultural because they are about the aftermath, the representations and stories that continue to flow in the difficult period of adjusting to a lost war and to the millions of people who were lost to it in so many ways. But rather than offer another survey of writings about men at war, which neglects the larger story of the Vietnam War's aftermath, Ryan focuses on "women's roles in the Vietnam experience, as well as the anti-war movement…the Vietnamese diaspora, and the larger relationship between the conflict in Vietnam and the social upheavals on the 1960s and '70s home front." (10)
Acceptance is a major milestone on the journey through grief. In the Beyond the Broken Heart program, grief group participants experience both spiritual and emotional adjustment to life without their loved one as scriptures and topics are presented and discussed. This leads ultimately to acceptance. Then, as participants near the other side of grief, the fervent desire to be filled again with the goodness of life and taste again its sweetness becomes irresistible. A thirst for the adventure of life returns. The heart longs to rediscover vitality after the arduous journey through grief.
Readers will find getting to the other side of grief less lonely and more promising in the empathetic company of these two authors. Those who assist grieving persons on their journeys--pastors, counselors, family members, friends--will find this a useful supplement to the support they offer.