Comfort: A Journey Through Grief by Ann Hood is the memoir of an unimaginable loss, the death of a five-year-old daughter, and how Hood eventually grieved through the experience. The book begins with an incantatory meditation of sorts that establishes a tone for the rest of the book. Hood echoes the advice she was given by well-meaning others and her often visceral response, presumably unspoken.
If this memoir proves anything about grief, it proves there is no right thing to say to someone who has experienced a death and no right way to grieve. For me, the grief Hood explores in this book is genuine. At times it is as raw as Didion’s Year of Magical Thinking and not pretty and neat like some other writers. It is also echoic, as Hood revisits the day her daughter died, repeats details about the girl’s favorite meal, what she was wearing, the emptiness of their lives without her. When one reads the acknowledgments at the back of the book, it becomes obvious some of the content appeared in various magazines. While this lends a context to the seeming redundancy, there is also something honest about how Hood’s grief circles back and cycles through the same things over and over again. This is how grief is, in spite of the stages because we don’t move from point A (denial) to point B (acceptance) in a straight line. Rather, we find ourselves going through the stages again and again, perhaps with a little more grace each time but never with a final conclusion.
There is no “moving on” or “getting over” the death of a child and how Hood does it is so beautifully and honestly shared in this memoir that I found myself crying, sighing gratefully that I can only sympathize, and knowing even now that such things remain unimaginable no matter how clearly or candidly the story is told.