Broken Hallelujahs: Learning to Grieve the Big and Small Losses of Life
by Beth Allen Slevcove
Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books, 2016
Reviewed by Greg Richardson
Broken Hallelujahs by Beth Allen Slevcove is a powerful and personal reflection about loss in our life. In it, she describes the life journey that took her from singing Hallelujah while riding a bus to summer camp to singing Leonard Cohen’s “cold and broken hallelujah” with her brother a few weeks before brain cancer took his life.
A spiritual director, Slevcove lives with her family in San Diego, California, USA. She comes from a Christian background, though her understanding of grief and loss transcends a Christian perspective. Her life is full of many of the same joys and challenges that fill our own lives. She takes the time to reflect, which, along with her insight and discerning wisdom, helps her translate large and small experienced losses into lessons she shares with us.
Broken Hallelujahs is divided into three sections. The first explores what has been lost. The second addresses listening to our losses. The third proposes inviting hope. Each section contains chapters illustrating specific aspects of loss and grief, and each chapter includes a prayer practice reflecting its lessons. “The concept of seasons, I’m learning, can help us understand that at different times in life, different reactions and behaviors are appropriate” (112). One of the chapters I appreciate the most is Chapter 14, “Grieve as We Can, Not as We Can’t.” It flows out of the rhythm of life, and I am practicing the recommended evening prayer practice.
Broken Hallelujahs is deep and readable. Slevcove writes with sensitivity and practicality, shining light into areas we often prefer to leave in the dark. It is a valuable tool for people in spiritual direction and for spiritual directors. It is filled with accessible experiences, deep truths, and tangible ways to put these truths into everyday practice.
Slevcove helps each of us recognize and find the value of our own losses, our own grief, and translate them into hallelujahs.
Greg Richardson is a spiritual director and leadership coach in Pasadena, California, USA. He is also a lay oblate with New Camaldoli Monastery near Big Sur, California.