That’s Exactly How I Feel

by Peggy Shafer

Most people who suffer catastrophic loss say that during the years following the loss they have encountered few, if any, people who are able to comprehend the array of powerful, and sometimes conflicting, feelings that haunt them long after the tragedy occurred. To come across one person who “gets it” seems a miracle; to come across an author whose experience and insights reflect their own is equally rare and, to at least a small degree, comforting.

No doubt, each of us has had the experience of reading a book, or a passage from a book, that evokes this thought: That’s exactly how I feel, and for a few moments, a day, or even longer, we carry with us a feeling of connection, of being understood.

Sonali Deraniyagala’s unforgettable book, Wave, deals with the emotional aftermath of losing her two young sons, her husband and her parents in the tsunami that swept 280,000 people from six nations to their deaths in 2004.

What makes her deeply sad story bearable to read is the author’s raw honesty, her elegant, simple prose and the poignant and unsparing portraits of the loved ones she lost and, after six years of wincing away from remembering them clearly, the wholeness she reclaims as she begins to welcome her memories of the family she lost. She writes, “By knowing them again, by gathering threads of our life, I am much less fractured…I can recover myself better when I let in their light.”

Most anyone suffering the loss of someone whose absence feels unbearable would find comfort in reading Deraniyagala’s Wave, and would likely think, over and over again while reading it, “That’s exactly how I feel.”