Awakened to the death of his son in a car crash, reeling in the desolate place that no parent ever expects to be, Ken Brack sets out to find how people rebuild their lives after catastrophic loss. A journalist and former high school teacher, Brack gathers the wrenching and ultimately uplifting stories of grieving families who grow through extraordinary trials by finding a new purpose.
Especially For You casts fresh light on our responses to horrific ordeals, including healing oneself by lifting others up. Driven by an arresting emotional intimacy in the author’s narrative voice, the book speaks passionately to readers trying to make sense of calamity and to our shared capacity to transform pain into something good.
Proceeds from this book will support Hope Floats Healing and Wellness Center, a nonprofit bereavement center founded by Denise and Ken Brack in Kingston, MA.
What is Especially For You about?
It tells the stories of people who grow in positive ways following catastrophic loss and trauma, how they ultimately move forward through wrenching ordeals. It’s about the transformation that is possible despite many setbacks. By finding a new purpose such as lifting up others who are in need, or confronting the very forces that took a loved one’s life, many of these people heal themselves.
My goal is to offer readers hope and handholds of inspiration, especially for those of you struggling to cope with a sudden loss.
Why did you write this book?
It’s not a book I would have ever chosen to write. After losing our oldest son in a car crash in 2002, I set out to find how other people rebuild their lives and discover a new purpose. Weaving their stories together became a vital part of making meaning of our own loss.
What kind of book is it?
This is a hybrid of narrative nonfiction, reportorial and creative nonfiction. All of which is driven by my voice as a grieving dad who interacts with other parents and young adults. This is not a self-help book in the usual sense; it does not offer prescriptive advice. Some of the stories move through very dark places, punctuated by entries of memoir and my accompanying these families—yet the principals find compelling ways to move forward. Ultimately I hope it offers inspiration and solace.
What does the title mean, and why is the book so long?
The title speaks to the reader who, perhaps like my wife and I, feels cut off from the world after a sudden tragedy. We found ourselves in a wretched club that has no name. Many survivors—whether of a violent crime, natural disaster, or chronic illness—crave the affirmation, if not accompaniment, of others who understand. Those of us walking a similar road. Our voices and stories are woven together here for you.
The work is long (575 pages before the endnotes) mostly because of the arc and magnitude of its three main sections. Some readers may choose to skim parts of those. The story of my family’s response to sudden loss threads through the whole, and is punctuated at the close.
How is this book different than others focused on how to cope with loss?
The book is anchored in my family’s experience losing our son. It is also driven by a father’s questions—including wrestling with guilt and attempts to reconcile my son’s death. It stands out with an arresting emotional intimacy: readers see and hear the families up close, and feel how my interactions with them inform my own healing. It also offers a unique breadth, based on interviews and exchanges with more than three hundred people, many on numerous occasions spanning several years.
Praise for Especially For You
This book will lighten your heart and rekindle your faith in human resilience.”
“Especially For You took my breath away. Read this book if you wonder how people survive unimaginable loss, and how they change the world for the better as a result. Ken shows us those suffering in their full humanity, and reminds us that great change-makers are not perfect. This book grabs you in the heart and doesn’t let go, even as parents become activists and policies become laws. Most of all, this is for anyone who has lost someone dear and is struggling to honor their beloved one with vision and purpose.”
— Lynn Rosenthal, former White House Advisor on Violence Against Women
“In addition to sharing this intimate tale of his devastating loss, Ken also interviews other families and writes a compelling narrative of everyday people who overcome unimaginable pain and experience posttraumatic growth. This book will lighten your heart and rekindle your faith in human resilience.”
— Maureen F. Walsh, NP, CT, author of The Grief Weavers
“Inspiring and beautifully written, this book offers support and insight for readers who have experienced significant loss, and are searching for answers to some of life’s most challenging questions.”
— Dr. Susan A. Berger, Ed.D., L.I.C.S.W., author of The Five Ways We Grieve