29th June 2023
“There is no curse worse than the death of your child” – a psychologist on the death of his son
Renowned psychologist David Cohen has written a book about the death of his son Reuben, and the experience of parental grief.
“The loss of a child is the loss of promise, potential. A cruel violation of the natural order. I was there when my son was born and when he died. I loved him, despaired of him, tried to help him. But not enough.”
Author David Cohen lost his son, 38-year-old Reuben, in 2013. Now, with the unique perspective of both father and psychologist, has written A Book Of My Son Reuben as a psychological and philosophical exploration of grief.
He writes: “I had not managed to keep him alive. There is no curse worse than the death of your child.”
Reuben was a fine writer and the book has an extract of Theo’s Ruins and also a tribute by Reuben’s brother Nick.
Cohen offers a personal and analytical study of sorrow and guilt, and of what research tells us about trauma and grief. He includes quotes and anecdotes from parents and siblings who have suffered loss. There is no closure as some experts suggest. The death is with you till you die.
Rather than a self-help guide, the book is both a tribute to his son and an exploration for anyone who wants a deeper understanding of the experience of loss.
Honest and analytical
Providing a unique perspective, The Book of My Son Reuben combines a personal account of how Cohen coped – and did not cope – with the death of his son, alongside scholarly research into the physiological and biological manifestation of grief.
Illustrated throughout with Cohen’s personal insight into how he continues to cope and fail to cope, this honest book provides a deeper understanding of loss for parents who have experienced it, as well as those who support them.
He writes: “Human beings watch and judge each other, so on top of everything else the bereaved are on display. Are you grieving the right way?
“A parent is supposed to be a competent protector, provider, nurturer. Instead, a child’s death imposes social stigma, isolation and, more often than not, loss of social support. Parents also have to find some meaning in life when they don’t have the opportunity to help their young grow up.”
The book remembers the many parents who have lost children throughout history and chapters weave personal perspectives with the latest research.
It examines the experience of sudden deaths, the failures of society in preventing children from dying, the role of social media, how the loss of a child impacts mothers, fathers, siblings and relationships, and the usefulness – or otherwise – of bereavement therapies.
“I wish I had not had to write this book because then my lovely son Reuben would still be alive,” says Cohen. “He was adorable, formidably intelligent, a loving son, a loving brother. He died far too young. He had the bad luck to have two grandparents who had addictive personalities. His efforts to resist the lure of drugs failed. And so did I.”