Reviews
Editor Review, Kirkus Discoveries, February 1, 2011
Rather than bringing release, a long-foreseen death prompts anguished soul-searching in this tender, hopeful memoir-cum-self-help primer.

The author nursed his wife Jeri through a 10-year battle with ovarian cancer that he feels was the most rewarding part of their marriage: life in their Hawaiian home, where Jeri became an avid surfer, was full and even romantic—baldness and colostomy bags included. Orfali's reminiscences of those years are fond and forthright and packed with information and tips on everything from coping with chemo to choosing a hospice. But because of their extraordinary closeness as soul mates, "totally intertwined and fused" into "an entity called we," Orfali was unexpectedly traumatized by Jeri's death; her sudden absence provoked endless crying jags and "grief bursts" that overwhelmed him "like molten lava." As he looks for a way out of his pain, he takes us on a journey through the psychological literature on death and grieving, visiting writers from C.S. Lewis to Elisabeth Kubler-Ross and Dr. Joyce Brothers (and sternly rejecting the "forget and detach" school of "Freudian psychobabble"). Orfali synthesizes what he learns into a workmanlike cure that is inflected by his career as a software designer and involves a "grief meter" and "grief burst buckets." What he means by that mechanistic terminology is something very simple: a sustained meditation on the ideas and feelings behind his grief. As he explores everything from his anxiety that he didn't manage Jeri's treatment optimally to his survivor's guilt, he gropes his way toward an acceptance of death, a philosophy of existentialism softened by Hawaiian surfer spirituality and a renewed sense of the lasting value of his relationship with his wife. Orfali writes in a straightforward, often bullet-pointed style, but infuses it with intellectual seriousness and emotional depth. The result is both a useful guide to end-of-life issues and a profound reflection on their meaning.

A heartening testament to the ability of love to transcend loss.
Amazon Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5.0 out of 5 stars A must read for professionals in the field as well as for anyone who has ever been in loveJanuary 7, 2011
This review is from: Grieving a Soulmate: The Love Story Behind "Till Death Do Us Part" (Paperback)
In Grieving a Soulmate, Orfali presents the intimate details of the last stages of his late wife's struggle with cancer as well as his journey from the intense pain of "grief bursts" to a place of peace. He provides a creative framework for healing with step-by-step instructions presented in his "grief cure." Orfali also presents a thorough educational review of grief and attachment theories. I found this book to be far more than a survivor's manual. While theorists have outlined the stages of grief and referenced the idea and importance of "grief work," Orfali provides the missing link between theory and life application. He offers us explanations and instructions for implementing this "grief work" described by many grief theorists as necessary for healing. Orfali also provides the reader tips on navigating the medical and hospice systems in a readable and interesting manner. As a mental health therapist specializing in trauma and loss, I found Orfali's book an invaluable resource. This book is truly a must read for professionals in the field as well as for anyone who has ever been in love. 


Kelly Gill Wells, LCSW, PIP 
Adult & Adolescent Psychology Associates, LLC 



5.0 out of 5 stars A compassionate and moving story of love and griefJanuary 7, 2011
By 
Richard E. Beth (Birmingham, AL USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Grieving a Soulmate: The Love Story Behind "Till Death Do Us Part" (Paperback)
Grieving a Soulmate is more than a manual or guide. It's a compassionate and moving story of love and grief. One man's struggle to make sense of his soulmate's illness and death. Theorists have given us the stages of grief; Robert gives us a template to resolve one's loss. He presents a manageable plan to process the "bursts" of overwhelming pain and sorrow following the death of a soulmate. He has synthesized elements of attachment and grief theories into an applied model of processing existential pain for lovers, spouses, and soulmates. He ultimately provides a roadmap to help guide you beyond your loss into finding meaning in your new life. Unlike Freud, the author advocates "continuing bonds" with the deceased lover. He makes a strong case that this continuing love can be a powerful coping mechanism. The book is a must read for all therapists, but also a compelling read for those contemplating marriage, planning their life with a partner, facing end-of-life issues, or grieving the loss of their beloved companion. Robert has written from the experiences of a secular existentialist, but his work has practical meaning for all women and men who have experienced a loving and reciprocal life relationship with a cherished soulmate. 

Richard E. Beth, Ph.D. 
Licensed Clinical Psychologist


5.0 out of 5 stars Extremely Intelligent Guide to Dealing with LossJanuary 29, 2011
This review is from: Grieving a Soulmate: The Love Story Behind "Till Death Do Us Part" (Paperback)
Grieving a Soulmate is a highly intelligent, compassionate, and 
well-written guide to dealing with loss. I recommend it to anyone who has lost a loved one, works as a professional in bereavement counseling, or teaches in a program addressing the issue of loss. His resources are superb and provide guidance for further reading on the subject of loss. 


5.0 out of 5 stars A journey that hopefully will end in comfortApril 12, 2011
This review is from: Grieving a Soulmate: The Love Story Behind "Till Death Do Us Part" (Paperback)
Jeri and Robert were young, beautiful and the loving look in their eyes told everyone they were destined to be soulmates. In the late seventies they began their lives together and in time their identities became intertwined. Throughout the years the simple touch of a knee or the twinkle of an eye were captured in photographs. The invincibility of youth denies the inevitability of death and as they lived, loved, and worked together, the Orfalis never gave it a passing thought. It wasn't until Jeri was diagnosed with stage three ovarian cancer that they were jolted into an unwelcome reality. Society, perpetually living in a state of denial, didn't talk much about death and it wasn't until Elizabeth Kübler-Ross began to write about it that we began to listen. When Jeri began to die, Robert began his desperate search in an effort to learn how to ease his lover's transition from life to the unknown throes of death. 

Jeri was a free spirit and strong. First it was the surgery, where they first encountered the colostomy bag, they humorously dubbed, "Rosie." The unpredictability of chemotherapy and its side effects were daunting, but Jeri and Robert would weather its stormy seas for ten years after her diagnosis at the age of forty-seven. It was unfathomable that a "surfer girl," who was so athletic and lithe would one day say to the love of her life to "Please make sure I do not suffer at the end. I don't want pain." (pg. 20) Soon after the plumerias drifted down to the ocean at Jeri's "surfer funeral," Robert's pain began. He later claimed that "Thirty years of my life had just vanished into thin air." (pg. 76) The grief was overwhelming and Robert was inconsolable as he searched for the touch of a soulmate who was no longer there. Only Jeri could have helped him, but she was now a part of their beloved Hawaiian surf. The constant grief bursts that threatened to take over his life were practically nonstop, but what could he do? 

Robert instinctively realized that "One of the big challenges for grieving soulmates is how to disentangle the interlocked identities. As a soulmate, your identity is totally fixed with that of your partner's." (pg. 66) He began to read nonstop about death and dying, from the medical, intellectual, and self-help, to the existential texts. He didn't want to find himself a victim of "complicated grief," but rather wanted to help himself out of an abyss that could destroy him. Robert wanted to hold Jeri into his heart, but also wanted to rid himself of the pain. He began to separate what was useful in the books and discard the psychobabble. He listened to the experiences of Dr. Joyce Brothers and pondered the advice of the likes of Dr. Katherine Shear. It was after he absorbed and sorted through thousands of pages that Robert formulated his "grief cure," a cure that would not only help him, but also others. Their loved ones would be remembered and the grief bursts would lessen and stop. 

This part self-help book, part memoir, and tribute to Jeri, Robert Orfali's soulmate, reaches out to anyone adrift in the chaotic world of grief. The grief that could have destroyed him became a catalyst with which he could help others along their path to recovery. His search for a "cure" from his pain led him through a literary litany, much of which proved to be useless in the long run. Robert does discuss many of these works telling the grief stricken what helped him the most and how these theories helped him formulate his own. The grieving process is different for each person, but I feel that many people will be able to benefit from his difficult journey and "grief cure." Robert stated that "I needed something to help me immediately forget the last few days of Jeri's battle with cancer." (pg. 68) 

Part of this healing process included the development of a website to her memory where the reader can absorb her spirit more fully in photographs and videos as this book does not include photographs. The conversational writing style cannot match the prose of C. S. Lewis, nor is the information contained in these pages akin to medical dialogue (nor is it intended to be), but it is written from the heart. This is the aspect that I liked the most and am finding the most useful. I feel this book could be best utilized by someone attempting to mentor another as they grieve, but can also be used by the individual. I am mentoring someone who lost their soulmate recently and in an effort to help, took down pages and pages of notes about Robert Orfali's process. Simple, heartfelt sentences such as "It was like having a non-stop conversation with her in my head," are very comforting to the grieving, who want to know they aren't alone. 

Quill says: This book is a journey, a journey that hopefully will end in comfort and joyful remembrance of those we've lost.



5.0 out of 5 stars Grieving a SoulmateApril 9, 2011
By 
This review is from: Grieving a Soulmate: The Love Story Behind "Till Death Do Us Part" (Paperback)
Robert Orfali tells a heartbreaking story in his book Grieving a Soulmate: The Love Story Behind "Till Death Do Us Part." In this part survival guide/part memoir, Orfali begins by describing when his wife, Jeri, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 1999, which marked a turn in their journey, that their time together was coming to an end. He briefly discusses the details of their battle with Jeri's cancer and highlights her strength, courage and her ability to overcome her circumstances, after which he then describes in detail his own battle with the grief he was left when his wife passed. 

At one point, Orfali mentions that he wishes he could have read this same book before his wife passed, and so in order to help others, he writes about his experience with grieving the death of his soulmate, Jeri. He writes about how he dealt with his own grief and gives an analytical but heartfelt approach to sorting through the mess death leaves behind--both the emotional aspects and the practical. Through sharing his wife's passing and the grieving that followed, Orfali seeks to provide the reader with the preparation, support, and understanding needed to grieve their lover when death comes. He discusses how to reconstruct one's life, find new meaning as a survivor, and that it is possible to learn to live again and once again be whole. 

Orfali's writing style is gentle, but firm, handling the reader with care while guiding them through a difficult topic. There is a section in the book in which he attempts to give a thorough overview of the available "grief theory--" the theories published by psychologists ranging from Sigmund Freud to Elizabeth Kubler-Ross and how this research impacted his grieving process, and also acknowledges the various self-help books available and what they did for him. 

Because death is inevitable and is always waiting on the doorstep, this book is for lovers of all ages.