Coping When Life Is Threatened


117 pages
ISBN 0-919879-06-3




Reviewed by Claude A. Guldner

Claude A. Guldner is a professor of family studies at the University of


What an excellent little book this is — as an aid primarily to professionals, but to the general lay public as well. Having taught in a hospital context several years, I would have valued a book such as this highly and would have made it required reading for the clinicians I was training.

The book is divided into three parts. The first part, in three chapters, is an introduction to the whole area of stress: “Theoretical Considerations about Death,” “The Meaning of Loss,” and “The Stresses of Serious Illness,” The author has drawn upon excellent external resources, but the best resources she uses throughout the book are clinical cases from her own personal or supervisory files. This makes the reading take on the human story and gives it a personal and often touching quality. In part two, the author goes through a number of typical responses to the stress of coping with illness and death: anxiety, denial, anger, guilt feelings, depression, and grief. Again, each of these is supported with material from the research in the field as well as with actual incidents from case files. The final section of the book highlights the title: coping. Chapter titles include “Effectiveness of Various Coping Mechanisms,” “Communication Pitfalls,” “Appropriate Interventions,” and “Professional Staff Stress.” The last section is excellent; it clearly indicates that all individuals, including professional staff, suffer from stress, use various responses in coping, and must come to terms with the multitude of losses they encounter day in and day out. The chapter on communication is vital, clearly indicating the damage that can be done by ineffective communication between professional and client and/or client family. Many of the techniques for adequate intervention are suggested in the following chapter. The author’s simple style almost belies the profound wisdom she has amassed in this small volume.



Buchanan, Karin M., “Coping When Life Is Threatened,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed June 23, 2024,