I hadn’t heard a lot about Comfort: A Journey Through Grief before I decided to buy it; I did so because as far as retrospective illness narratives go, it was unlike anything I’d read before. I have come across and loved a couple of accounts of women who sadly miscarry, and those who have lost adults (husbands or sisters, for instance) to terrible diseases, but I haven’t read anything about the loss of a child. In Comfort, Hood writes about the death and its aftermath of her five-year-old daughter Grace, who passed away from a virulent form of strep throat. In doing so, she also encompasses Grace’s short but worthy life; she writes of her daughter’s favourite activities, and the little quirks which were already such a part of her.
From the outset, I knew it would be honest and heartbreaking. Hood launches the reader, and herself, into the deep end at the book’s very outset; in the harrowing prologue of Comfort, she runs through the supposed ‘coping techniques’ which have been recommended to her, from drinking single malt whisky and taking regular courses of drugs such as Prozac, to reading memoirs about the grief of others. As she writes of this last course of action, ‘But none of them lost Grace. They do not know what it is to lose Grace’.
Comfort is, of course, incredibly emotional; one can feel Hood’s pain and anguish from its opening paragraph. Some of the details were repetitive, but there was a therapeutic element to this; it seemed crucial for Hood to mention different elements or happenings at intervals, just in order to convince herself that everything had happened, and to reinforce the impact which her young daughter had had on people, both in terms of Hood’s nuclear family, and in the wider world.
I very rarely cry whilst reading (yes, I’m one of those people), but Comfort brought me to tears on several occasions. Hood’s work is so candid, so honest; it felt like a real privilege to read. I can only hope that the writing process gave Hood some comfort, and that my paltry review will encourage others to read it whilst also putting across how important this book was to me.