HOLLAND — When Hope College professor Daryl Van Tongeren and his wife Sara, a mental health therapist, set out to write a book on coping with suffering, they had no idea that its release would coincide with a global pandemic.
But their book, “The Courage to Suffer,” was published on March 9 — just one day before Michigan’s first confirmed case of COVID-19. While the timing is coincidental, the message of the book applies remarkably well to the coronavirus crisis, Daryl Van Tongeren said.
“The timing was nothing that we could have predicted,” the associate professor of psychology said. “But it’s incredibly applicable to what’s going on. This pandemic is going to change us individually and as a society in profound and indelible ways. It will be a generational memory that we’ll reflect on.
“There’s been a tremendous amount of pain, and a lot to still endure. I think it’s a book we need right now, all people could benefit from reading it.”
Van Tongeren is hoping that the book will help people cope with “life changing events,” be that a global pandemic, a loss of a family member or any other scenario.
“We were trying to give a way of helping people who had experienced life changing events, situations in which life couldn’t go back to normal,” he said. “We need to engage the suffering in an honest way and acknowledge the pain and show there is hope for living through it.”
He added that coming to grips with suffering and loss can help people lead a more meaningful life.
“We need to acknowledge and accept the reality of the situation,” Van Tongeren said. “We don’t have control of the world, our time here is limited. Rather than being terrified by these realities, we need to engage them as truths.
“We should be motivated to leave as meaningfully as we can and be grateful for what we have. We should make concerted efforts to respond with love and compassion.”
The Van Tongerens have been working on the book for a long time, and were inspired by their personal bouts with suffering.
“It took us three years,” Van Tongeren said. “This was a tough book to write. It’s deeply personal, it’s tough to write about suffering. We spent the time to do it in a way that was genuine and honest.”
Initially, the book was intended for clinicians, to help those who are helping people deal with suffering. But Van Tongeren said the book is written in a way that it can be grasped by the general public.
“We tried to write in a widely acceptable way, “ he said. “Several people who are not professional therapists have reached out and said they read and loved and got a lot from it.”
For those interested in reading “The Courage to Suffer,” the book is available on Amazon or through the website of publisher Templeton Press.
— Contact reporter Mitchell Boatman at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @SentinelMitch.