'Learning to Laugh When You Feel Like Crying' offers sound advice 

Like many a good self-help book, “Learning to Laugh When You Feel Like Crying” contains a lot of common sense and universal truths.

Subtitled “Embracing Life After Loss,” the compact book by Allen Klein, a San Francisco-based motivational speaker and former director of the Life-Death Transitions Institute in San Francisco, is filled with aphorisms, anecdotes and advice about dealing with the difficulties of going on with life after a loved one has died.

While there’s nothing terribly groundbreaking about the book’s main theme, pegged to the power of positive thinking — both it and a 2011 Pocket Pal calendar contain inspirational quotes from Winston Churchill, Bill Cosby, Mahatma Ghandi and Charles Schulz — it nonetheless offers wisdom and comforting thoughts in an easy-to-read format for those facing dramatic changes in their lives.

The book is divided into five sections that deal with steps in the grieving process: “Losing,” “Learning,” “Letting Go,” “Living” and “Laughing.”

Each part has a series of short entries, with a title, quote and commentary, sometimes personal, elaborating on the quote’s concept.

Klein gently repeats simple but powerful things to remember for those confronting pain and seemingly impossible obstacles: people are individuals who have different needs and ways to grieve, time will mitigate overwhelming despair, change is inevitable, even small steps help in overcoming feelings of emptiness, indulging in simple pleasures like a cup of tea is therapeutic, helping others and accepting help from others lead to positive results, and that smiling and laughter are as good as what the doctor prescribes.

Klein, now in his 70s, wrote the book from personal as well as professional experience. His wife died at 34, leaving him with their 10-year-old daughter and at a crossroads in life. He left a silk-screening business he co-owned and went on to get a master’s degree along with a career as a public speaker and author of many books on the topic of the healing power of laughter.

While Klein’s book isn’t particularly funny and might benefit from a few jokes to evoke those laughs he advocates so much (perhaps he is wise in assuming that his audience’s sense of humor is different from his own), it nonetheless is packed with insight and compassion.

Meant to be read in short sessions to provide a boost of energy, the book won’t take away the pain of its readers’ losses, nor will all of its insights appeal to all readers. As Allen suggests in the forward, readers ought to use what they need and ignore the rest. Like much of the material in the book, it’s good advice not just for those experiencing profound loss, but for everyone.

BOOK REVIEW

Learning to Laugh When You Feel Like Crying

By Allen Klein

Published by: Goodman Beck Publishing
Price: $14.95
Pages: 198

lkatz@sfexaminer.com

About The Author

Leslie Katz

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