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Book Review: The Only Way Out Is Through

It is often said that it is the most challenging life experiences that plant the seeds for the most profound growth. When we are struggling to find meaning in our losses, it is then that we reconsider our lives very deeply, ask fundamental questions about our beliefs, and quite often, uncover what is – and always has been – most important to us.

For Gail Gross, the loss of her child proved to be much more than the darkest and worst experience imaginable. It opened a doorway into her soul, ultimately illuminating her most profound truths, and transforming her life.

In her new book, The Only Way Out Is Through: A Ten-Step Journey From Grief To Wholeness, Gross takes readers along on her inspiring journey, offering teachings about how to listen deeply, tune into that part of the self that can heal, and transform grief into growth.

“My own journey with grief began April 12, 1990, when I received the heartbreaking phone call in the dark of the night that changed my life irrevocably. Dawn, my twenty-four year old daughter, had been discovered dead in her apartment in Los Angeles. She had died unexpectedly in her sleep, from an undetected heart condition,” writes Gross.

While the experienced uprooted Gross’s life, hurtling her into a “debilitating form of grief,” it also inspired her to understand her grief.

“As part of my own personal coping process, I gained advanced degrees in education and psychology, which culminated into a career as a family, child development, and human behavior expert,” writes Gross.


Like many others who have lost a child, the pain of loss for Gross was unbearable, creating a dis-identification in the mind, which paralyzes the ability to cope. Yet it is only in the surrender to the pain that we find relief.

“The approach is to allow you to have your pain, to surrender to it, to let it wash over you, and not contract against it….For it is the very act of contracting against your pain that causes suffering,” writes Gross.

Part of the process of grief is that we lose the selves that we know, the emotions, the sense of normalcy, and the personality that were all tied to the person we lost.

“As endings break the connections with the emotional set by which you have come to know yourself, your personality deconstructs,” writes Gross.

When we can hold the tension of such a deconstruction, however, we can also begin the process of reconstruction and growth. Ultimately, Gross tells readers, we are peeled down to our natural selves, the undefended us, and it is from here that we can let go of our defenses against the pain of loss, and reclaim our energy and vitality once again.

As we search to redefine ourselves, we must reintegrate parts that have been cast off – too painful to bear – to ultimately emerge as who we were meant to be.

“Those who truly go through this process transcend into a new persona not only different, but also often larger than the one they left behind,” writes Gross.

One of the first steps is to have courage to make the conscious and deliberate decision to choose life, to transition into something new, and to realize that in doing so we are not letting our loved one go, but rather, bringing them into life with us.

Following no predetermined timeline, grief ebbs and flows, enters our dreams and our waking moments, and when we surrender to its process, it eventually leads us toward growth.

“If you can hold the tension in this neutral space and do nothing to change your heightened feelings of intensity, you will naturally grow and unfold into the inner you and find your true vocation and purpose… This expended sense of your self is always better than the contracted and familiar patterns of your former persona,” write Gross.

Grief breaks us apart, but it also breaks us open, unveiling the most true, most honest, version of ourselves. It is the process of grief, but is it also the process of healing, of individuation from the shadow self, and of the discovery of a new, stronger version of the self.

Drawing on her own personal experience of transformation, and the universal concepts of psychoanalysis that helps to understand them, Gross offers her readers an insightful guide to navigate pain, loss, and grief, and to ultimately uncover the profound growth that they offer. 

The Only Way Out Is Through: A Ten-Step Journey From Grief To Wholeness

Gail Gross

Rowman & Littlefield

January 2018

Hardcover, 159 Pages

Book Review: The Only Way Out Is Through

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Claire Nana

Claire Nana is a regular contributor and book reviewer for Psych Central.

APA Reference
Nana, C. (2018). Book Review: The Only Way Out Is Through. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 26, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 18 Jun 2018
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 18 Jun 2018
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