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Grief and God: When Religion Does More Harm Than Healing

In many religious traditions, God is assumed to be responsive to the needs of believers, and in difficult times, the faithful turn to God for comfort and guidance. When God is viewed as a benevolent protector that can shield us from harm, what happens to faith — and healing — when God fails to provide that protection?

In Grief and God, Dr. Terri Daniel explores a range of theological constructs that can inhibit healing for those who are grieving a profound loss. Doctrines such as original sin, salvation and eternal punishment in hell can be soul-crushing for someone dealing with loss and trauma. Similarly, the belief that petitionary or intercessory prayer can change the course of events can lead to confusion and guilt when prayers don’t produce the desired results.

This book explores the cognitive dissonance we experience when our religious beliefs — whether inherited or chosen — do not match up with our lived experience. Based on the author’s doctoral research on how toxic theologies can complicate the mourning process, the reader is invited to explore specific religious mindsets that can interfere with healing and psychological well-being. These mindsets tend to be rooted in Judeo-Christian doctrine, and can lead to complications in the mourning process, which can result in confusion, depression, and the inability to regain emotional equilibrium after a traumatic loss.

Dr. Terri Daniel is an interfaith clinical chaplain and educator certified in death, dying and bereavement by the Association for Death Education and counseling, and in trauma counseling by the International Association of Trauma Professionals. She conducts workshops worldwide for bereaved individuals and bereavement professionals, teaching meditative, ceremonial and therapeutic processes that focus on inner transformation rather than external events.

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