I Used to Be ___: How to Navigate Large and Small Losses in Life and Find Your Path Forward – Chuck Elliot and Ashley Elliot

I Used to Be ___: How to Navigate Large and Small Losses in Life and Find Your Path Forward by Chuck Elliott, Ashley Elliott
Published by Fleming H. Revell Company on August 15, 2023
Genres: Non-Fiction, Christian Life
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Navigate Through Grief with Biblical Mental Health Tools

When you suffer a loss, you enter the realm of "used to be." You used to be married. You used to be employed. You used to be pregnant, secure, healthy, sober, thin. You used to be a son or daughter, a brother or sister, a mother or father. And in that used-to-be space there is deep emptiness, loneliness, and sorrow. It's a place we all dwell for a while. But it's not a place in which we are meant to remain.

The path forward includes exploring the unseen elements of grief. With this book, pastor Chuck Elliott and counselor Ashley Elliott light the way to a better future. Sharing biblical advice and proven mental health techniques, they help you learn how to fully feel and face your grief, hold onto your faith, and develop healthy ways to see yourself, your life, and your loved ones. They offer coping strategies for when moving forward seems impossible and guide you toward building new thinking patterns that will result in true healing and growth.

Maybe you "used to be" something--but there is a future waiting when you "will be" once more.

This book about grief and loss comes from the perspective of a husband and wife team who have suffered together and ministered together. Chuck Elliot is a pastor, and Ashley Elliot is a licensed counselor. Throughout this book, they combine their areas of expertise, sharing truths from the Bible and wisdom from psychology to help people process their losses. I have read a number of books about grief and bereavement, but this one caught my attention because of the unique focus on the identity shift that many people experience after loss. The Elliots acknowledge how difficult it can be for people to move forward after losing someone or something important to them, and they share genuinely helpful advice on a variety of emotionally fraught topics.

The Elliots share personal stories about losses that they have experienced, including recurrent miscarriages. I appreciate their vulnerability with their readers, and their advice and encouragements are convincing because they have walked through so much pain. I appreciate their caring, thoughtful, and nuanced reflections on different challenges that bereaved people face, and they do an excellent job of acknowledging the good impulses behind some unhealthy things that people do in their grief. They provide a variety of practical examples and case studies, and they encourage their readers to explore “the function in the dysfunction” when considering their unhealthy coping mechanisms. I like this emphasis, since it helps people recognize their deeper needs and meet them in healthier ways.

My only critique is that there isn’t enough material related to “small losses.” The authors include some examples of people dealing with identity changes and loss after moving, losing a job, and so on, but that just doesn’t compare to losing multiple children in the womb. Because so many of the case studies and personal examples involve incredibly tragic circumstances, someone who is dealing with a smaller loss may find that reading this book makes them feel guilty for being so sad about something smaller. That certainly isn’t the authors’ intent, and they do acknowledge different forms of disenfranchised grief, but some additional case studies or special advice for smaller losses could have enriched the book further.

I Used to Be ___: How to Navigate Large and Small Losses in Life and Find Your Path Forward is an excellent book for people who are processing grief and identity changes associated with loss. Although this is definitely geared towards Christians, it can also appeal to people who don’t share the authors’ faith, as long as they are open to lots of talk about God throughout the book. Chuck and Ashley Elliot share a wealth of helpful information and deep, heartfelt encouragement here, and I would recommend this to grieving people and their support systems.