Saying Goodbye in the Classroom
Saying Goodbye was compiled with the goal of creating an anthology of creative nonfiction that is “short and deep” – short essays with lots of substance. The anthology has received praise from reviewers and other readers, and it is being used in the classroom at the College of Idaho as part of a course on “The Psychology of Grief.” Below are the comments of Dr. Jann Adams and some of her students, including student answers to several of the “Reading Guide” discussion questions from the back of the book.
Comment from Professor Jann Adams, Department of Psychology, College of Idaho
“This is a book that meets a need for teachers of death and dying classes. Most of the books currently available are either directed at people who are going through a grief process due to the loss of someone important to them or are fairly dry academic type books that focus on the physiological (and some psychological) aspects of dying. This book gets to the heart of what I have been focusing on in my course – that life is filled with loss of all kinds and we can learn from each one and ultimately experience life more fully. The stories in this book do a wonderful job of showing that out of loss there are new beginnings. I recommend it for any teacher of death and dying classes. I also recommend it for anyone who is struggling with a loss – no matter what kind.”
Comments from Students
- The readings in “Saying Goodbye” were sad, but nice to read because they helped me realize even more that there are many forms of loss. I cracked up about the “Skid Row Float” because I have an uncle that always gets everyone’s hand-me-downs. I thought I wouldn’t cry at the stories I read, but some of them got to me because I could imagine how difficult it may be to lose someone or watch them lose something. Some of the stories dealt with cancer and it made me think of the friend I lost. I could relate to the “Santa Sack” because I am the youngest in my family so the older I got I can see how much has changed with our traditions—some for the better and others for the worse. I thought it was cool for these people to share their stories, even though some of them were not very flattering and pretty revealing about their lives.
- The story titled “Mom’s Last Scrabble Game” stood out most to me. I cannot imagine what it would feel like to watch your mother or father get weaker and degrade more and more each day. I liked how she had the patience to wait for her mother to play her tiles and how her mother accepted her illness and took her time. I thought her mother would get frustrated because she had so much time that she even did chores around the house, but it seemed like everyone had accepted what is happening.
- I think storytelling is very important to both the deceased and the survivors. It makes sure the memories of the deceased are carried on, and it’s also a healing process for the survivors. If you can tell someone about your experience, you feel more free. But also to know that you can share the good things with other people is important. It helps you to remember the good things about the deceased and to mourn and let them go.
- I really, really liked this book. It’s just unlike any other book I’ve read. The stories are captivating, and it’s hard to put the book down. I honestly just went through the majority of this book without much stop and didn’t get bored at all. Usually books make me want to fall asleep but I liked how this book had multiple stories which really kept me on my toes anticipating a better story to come.
- Reading this book allowed me to see death from a different point of view. Most stories were very sad, but each one always had a sparkle that lighted me up and made my spirit happy in the end. Actually, all the stories had a big positive in the end that made up for the negative at the beginning. I liked how everything was practical and real life situations rather than a list of things to do to deal with grief. I enjoyed this book.
- I loved reading this book. It was easy to read and all the stories were interesting. There were so many types of losses. The most unique one was of a sweat suit. This guy wore it every time he wrote. His wife threw it away because it was stinky and ripped. She didn’t realize how important that was to him. It was like a part of him.
Student answers to discussion questions. (Click on “Answers” after each question to see student responses.)
- Q: What was your first experience with death or dying? What lessons did you learn? Did your experience change your views about living and dying? Answers
- Q: What does the expression “dying well” mean to you? What would be a “good death” for you when that time comes? Answers
- Q: In “Love Letters” by Mary E. McIntyre, the author wants to read old letters her parents wrote to each other, but her father keeps his vow to destroy them after his wife’s death. Did the father make the right decision? Why or why not? Answers
- Q: “Puppy Love” by Susan Weich tells the story of a death of a pet. Have you ever experienced the death of a pet? How is the death of a pet similar to and different from the death of person? Answers
- Q: In a “Bloody Good Party” by Alison Cameron, the author’s father takes an active role in planning his funeral arrangements. Have you discussed your final wishes with those who are close to you? Why or why not? Answers
- Q: After reading “Santa Sack,” do you have something like this in your family? Do you understand it differently now? Answers