From Hell to Happiness: How to Heal When Your Loved One is Terminal
Hardcover ISBN: 978-0-692-10570-2 $22.00
Paperback ISBN: 978-1979335423 $14.00
From Hell to Happiness: How to Heal When Your Loved One is Terminal charts the author's path through hell from the death of a loved one, but holds several differences from the usual account of grief and dying.
Christopher Cooper's counselor introduces his story, admitting that when he first came to her for help in accepting and living through his wife's imminent demise, she questioned her ability to help him. Unlike others in such situations, Cooper was only thirty years old and just beginning his life in many ways; not at the end of it, like so many who face the loss of a spouse from a terminal condition. He had babies to care for and a life to rebuild.
With this and other factors in mind, she began not at the usual first stage of the five stages of grief; but at the last: acceptance.
Cooper lived through his wife's agonizing cancer progression, her death, and beyond. His descriptions of this process pull no punches, it should be warned: they are brutal reminders of cancer's terrible toll on everyone involved: "After more than a year and a half of fighting, thinking we had beat her cancer, and then finding out it was back for good, that it would eventually kill her, after her struggling through countless rounds of treatment and the horrible side effects it caused, after all of that, she was exhausted. Jenn didn’t want to die, but she was ready. This spasm, which she described as exponentially more painful than child labor contractions, and which must have lasted for twenty minutes as we lay on the living room floor, she curled in the fetal position while I held and talked her through it, this was the thing that finally broke her."
From Hell to Happiness doesn't sugar-coat or gloss over a single moment of the experience; and that's the second remarkable aspect of its story. It lends a 'you are there' feel to events which go beyond following Cooper's life and experiences to delve right into the agony and ecstasy of love, loss, and survival processes.
A third note to his story is that no false hope is offered. There is no magic pill for grief and loss: only the experience of another man's journey through hell and back again, and some of the lessons it offers which may resonate with the reader: "By sharing my story in this book, I hope to help others who are going through their own devastation or grief. Cancer sucks. Any terminal illness sucks. You watch your loved one disappear one small piece at a time. Sometimes it takes a while before you realize, “Wow, they didn’t used to be this way.” It is hard. It is gut wrenching. How do you cope when the life you built with someone you love is falling apart? I offer no promises or easy answers. These pages do not contain expert opinions or science but my personal experience. You may learn more about your own journey by reading about mine. While everyone’s grieving process is different, many of the emotions and coping mechanisms are the same. What worked for me and my family might work for you and yours."
By now, it should be evident that Christopher Cooper writes with a remarkably candid, straightforward approach that pulls no punches. During his wife's initial treatment for an exceptionally aggressive form of breast cancer, Cooper mused on life without her, driven by the grim statistic that her form of cancer (triple negative) held a zero percent survival rate after five years. He envisioned a joyless future as a struggling single father trying to juggle family and career alone without his beloved partner and without all the dreams they held for their future. He wondered if happiness would ever return to his life. And he faced her ongoing battle, which wore both of them down and changed their strength, personalities, and relationship.
Throughout the remainder of her life, he cultivated new tools for 'living in the now', and after her death he was challenged to use these and the task of rebuilding his life without her. Her caretakers and family also weigh in, here, while color photos capture her journey to provide startlingly real reminders of the progression of not just her disease, but her connections and relationships to those in her life.
From Hell to Happiness offers others in similar situations a series of frank insights from Cooper's experience. While it can't be said to be a 'blueprint' in the usual sense because everyone's approach and lives are different, it does make for a remarkably astute, sincere coverage that others may use to help clarify and support their own choices, options, and lives.
Those struggling with grief, a new diagnosis of a terminal condition, or an end-of-life changed relationship should read From Hell to Happiness. Its lessons resonate in a voice that is strikingly clear, reflective, and specific about how Jenn and Christopher handled the end of her life and the advent of his revised goals. It was all about finding the 'silver linings' which made this transition not just survivable, but a gentler shift for the entire family. The experiences charted in From Hell to Happiness provide a invaluable lessons on better approaches to death and its aftermath.
Hard-won hope and happiness conquer death and despair in this wonderfully inspiring new book by Christopher Cooper.
In its pages Cooper recounts his wife Jenn’s brave two-year battle with cancer and the ripple effects her illness caused for their small family.
His intimate narrative, often tinged with touching vignettes about Jenn’s grueling treatment regimen, puts the reader right in the middle of a family in crisis, and vividly brings home the truism that cancer doesn’t have just one victim. In this case, it tried to claim Cooper and both boys — one school age, the other in daycare.
To fight back, he made a number of proactive moves that he strongly recommends to anyone going through a similar struggle. First, he advises, seek the help of a professional therapist well before your loved one passes on. Friends are great to vent with and talk to, he says. But there is no substitute for professional assistance. It can mean the difference between you making it all the way through the dark tunnel of despair — or going down in flames emotionally midway through, never to rise again. In that case, he points out, you’re of no use to anyone, much less the people counting on you.
There is also a wealth of solid practical advice throughout this remarkable book. Cooper tries a number of techniques to cope with the pain, grief and — occasionally — guilt brought on by Jenn’s impending death. Everything from binge-playing Minecraft to Zen Buddhism meditation to making sure he listens to plenty of therapeutic music.
Then he goes into great detail about the fulfillment of Jenn’s Bucket List. This included seeing — and meeting — several world-famous bands and a classical music composer whose work both Jenn and Chris admired. Plus, there were trips to Disneyworld and DIsneyland, thanks to generous donors.
At one point, however, Cooper references a brief YouTube video Jenn made about this time, to be posted after her death, and it is well worth searching for. It is both riveting and heartbreaking at the same time. Some readers may be upset by it. But even so, it shouldn’t be missed. All the verbiage and photos in the book can’t make the story as real as watching these eleven unforgettable minutes. It’s no wonder it has amassed more than 70,000 views.
In the final analysis, this book is a thoughtful, articulate, detailed account of a young mother gone too soon and the husband and children she leaves behind to cope as best they can.
Cooper does an excellent job of allowing us to share in their emotional journey. His hope is that others going through a similar Hell can also find happiness on the other side by reading his book and adopting some of his coping techniques.
Early and often, he admonishes, put these tips into practice — before your loved one passes away. You’ll still have to go through all five stages of grief. But, by following this patient and good man’s advice, you’ll arrive on the other side of Hell with a much better chance of being happy.
We award five and a half stars to this courageous book. It is so much more than just another self-help primer on how to cope with losing a loved one. It will undoubtedly have a huge and life-altering impact on anyone who finds himself — or herself — in Chris and Jenn’s unfortunate situation.
Reviewed By Lesley Jones for Readers’ Favorite
In From Hell to Happiness by Christopher Cooper, when Chris met and fell in love with Jenn at work, little did they realise that their time together would be short lived. They were happy raising a young family, and were looking forward to the future. When Jenn discovered she had breast cancer, their lives were torn apart. How do you care for your soul mate in their darkest hours while your own heart is breaking? How can you possibly prepare young children for the day when their mother is no longer there? Follow one family's courageous battle against this unforgiving disease and how they faced the struggle and uncertain future head on. What is it like to watch a loved one be consumed by depression and pain and can do nothing to help? This is a brutally honest account of a husband coming to terms with the knowledge he is losing his wife, and trying to figure out how he and the children will face each day without her.
Having lost a father to cancer, I can say the feelings and emotions captured by the author are very accurate. The book was filled with honesty about his feelings of helplessness, his shortcomings as a husband during his wife’s darkest hours and also the truth about this illness. I thought the book was extremely well written, and the way he and Jenn prepared the children was superb. Although there were parts of the story that were truly heartbreaking, I felt an overwhelming sense of courage and optimism not only from Chris, but from Jenn too. I did watch the video he mentioned in the book, and it completely humbled me. The family pictures throughout were a great addition also. I would like to see this book in every hospital waiting room as a means of support for families facing the same uncertain future. Well done to the author.
Five Stars. "I was moved reading “Hell to Happiness” by Christopher Cooper a highly emotional story by a very intelligent and strong man who boldly bares his feelings for the love of his life now dying of cancer. The family pictures in the book give it tremendous impact and real-life meaning.
I felt the author was a practical and courageous man, and he offers advice and strength to anyone who is in this unfortunate situation. He concludes the book by offering to help anyone who may be in this situation as he knows how to avoid the demon of depression. Here is an excerpt on the author's thoughts about depression:
“Depression is like living in a bubble surrounded by thick fog. You don’t notice any of the good things going on around you, because the fog obscures them. All you see, and feel, is pain… After a while, it becomes your normal state of being. It may seem like it’s all you’ll ever feel again.”
The author has indeed “Walked the walk” on this dark journey and explains and shows anyone who is grieving over the loss of a loved one (or for that matter anything that might lead you to the seemingly inescapable depths of depression) there is hope.
Here is another excerpt from the author on hope: “Please listen, and believe me when I say, everything is going to be okay. You may have to lean on people for help. You may have to get therapy, start antidepressants or other medications. You may have to reach out and build a support network around you, but everything will be okay. Whatever you do, don’t try to go it alone. Otherwise, you just might be stuck in that place forever.”
I highly regard this book as one of the most moving books I’ve ever read. I feel it is definitely a must-read for everyone."