The Road to Resilience: From Chaos to Celebration

  • Review
By – March 14, 2016

Sher­ri Man­dell deliv­ers a suc­cinct book on loss, grief, and the jour­ney towards heal­ing. Her work emanates from her per­son­al expe­ri­ences, most pro­found­ly the death of her teenage son in a vio­lent attack in 2001. The mur­der of Mandell’s son has shaped much of her pro­fes­sion­al expe­ri­ence as a pas­toral coun­selor in the past decade, and The Road to Resilience—part text­book, part mem­oir — reflects the extent to which over­com­ing such a dev­as­tat­ing loss can become an all-encom­pass­ing and ulti­mate­ly empow­er­ing experience.

The book is extreme­ly well orga­nized, with a chap­ter devot­ed to each of the sev­en spir­i­tu­al stages” that Man­dell defines as steps that will help the read­er address per­son­al suf­fer­ing. While she presents these sev­en C’s” in a par­tic­u­lar order, she does not intend the book to be a step-by-step guide. Each chap­ter is suf­fi­cient­ly well delin­eat­ed to effec­tive­ly stand alone, and is accom­pa­nied by a set of ques­tions for reflec­tion direct­ly relat­ed to that par­tic­u­lar chapter’s top­ic. It is cer­tain­ly pos­si­ble and reward­ing to read the chap­ters accord­ing to what seems to res­onate most strong­ly, rather than what’s on the next page. Read­ers may well want to jump around in the book, scan­ning some ideas, and may find them­selves return­ing to review some chap­ters often, while leav­ing oth­ers almost untouched.

The end of chap­ter ques­tions give the text more of a work­book feel, and it’s a shame that the pub­lish­er didn’t leave more space in the book for read­ers to record their thoughts. Some addi­tion­al infor­ma­tion in the intro­duc­tion about how to use the ques­tions, either to facil­i­tate dis­cus­sion or to pro­mote greater intro­spec­tion, would have added even more val­ue to what is an excel­lent set of tools.

Unsur­pris­ing­ly, Mandell’s spir­i­tu­al focus is almost entire­ly framed by tra­di­tion­al Judaism. Her unapolo­getic clar­i­ty on the abil­i­ty of Jew­ish teach­ings to be her pri­ma­ry source of spir­i­tu­al sup­port adds strength and authen­tic­i­ty to her voice as the author. Read­ers who are less famil­iar, or maybe less com­fort­able, with Jew­ish texts and prac­tices may find her tone some­what heavy-hand­ed. Because Man­dell draws so much from her per­son­al own expe­ri­ence, the bal­ance between this is what worked for me in my grief” and the more uni­ver­sal this is what one can learn from these sources” is some­times dif­fi­cult for her to maintain.

An essen­tial part of Mandell’s pro­fes­sion­al work is ded­i­cat­ed to her son, and the foun­da­tion that she and her hus­band estab­lished fol­low­ing his mur­der. She describes the foun­da­tion as an exam­ple of the way in which resilience ide­al­ly leads to growth: after a loss, the goal is not to find a new nor­mal, but to find a new extra­or­di­nary.” This allows Man­dell to move beyond the dis­cus­sion of loss and to inspire any­one who wants to make a dif­fer­ence in the world.

Man­dell tells her read­ers that they have more inner strength than they might believe they pos­sess. While Man­dell hopes that no one expe­ri­ences the pain that led her to dis­cov­er her own capa­bil­i­ties, this book will inspire read­ers to think big­ger dreams for them­selves, for their fam­i­lies, and for their communities.

Relat­ed Content:

Deb­o­rah Miller received rab­bini­cal ordi­na­tion at the Jew­ish The­o­log­i­cal Sem­i­nary. She lives in New Jer­sey with her hus­band and daugh­ter, where she serves as a hos­pice chap­lain and teacher.

Discussion Questions