Cover image for After the darkest hour : how suffering begins the journey to wisdom
After the darkest hour : how suffering begins the journey to wisdom
Brehony, Kathleen A.
Personal Author:
First Owl Books edition.
Publication Information:
New York : H. Holt and Co., 2001.

Physical Description:
x, 274 pages : illustrations ; 22 cm
General Note:
"An Owl book"
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
BF789.S8 B74 2000C Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



Most people understand that suffering and sorrow--whether illness, the death of a loved one, or the loss of a job--are inevitable parts of every life. They are truly universal experiences, and yet few of us comprehend the ways in which suffering can give rise to growth. In this thoughtful, compassionate book, Kathleen Brehony reveals the transformative power of suffering and shows how to turn grief into an emotionally and psychologically strengthening experience.

In relating the stories of people who have endured trials and consequently found deeper spiritual and psychological meaning in their lives, After the Darkest Hour illustrates the universal nature of suffering and the opportunity it creates for connecting with others. Drawing on a rich selection of mythological and religious stories from many faiths, Brehony provides a historical and cultural context that enriches the meaning of those deeply personal tales and explores the qualities-psychological, behavioral and spiritual-of those who have turned periods of pain and suffering into opportunities for growth and renewal.

After the Darkest Hour offers practical advice, strategies, and exercises that will help approach the difficult situations you face in a more conscious, enlightened way, as well as specific suggestions for creating personal healing rituals. With Kathleen Brehony showing the way, you can find the blessing and challenges in suffering, and meet even the darkest moments of your life with courage and wisdom.

Author Notes

Kathleen Brehony, Ph.D., is a Jungian-oriented psychotherapist, personal coach, & public speaker who has delivered hundreds of keynote addresses, workshops, & training sessions. She is the author of "Awakening at Midlife" & "Ordinary Grace." She divides her time between Virginia & California.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Suffering is an uncomfortable reality and an unfortunate part of the human condition. Even more unfortunately, it is inevitable, despite our best efforts. Loss and death, envy and ennui are accepted as the facts of life, but After the Darkest Hour shows that such suffering can lead to enlightenment and growth. Brehony provides stories and anecdotes throughout the book of people both known and unknown who have gotten through traumatic situations and have learned something from them. With chapters bearing titles such as "Beyond Resilience" and "Lead into Gold, or the Alchemical Process of Making the Best from the Worst," and peppered throughout with inspirational quotations, this book teeters on the brink of self-help sentiment, but it succeeds where others might fail in its practicality. --Michael Spinella

Publisher's Weekly Review

Psychotherapist Brehony (Awakening at Midlife; Ordinary Grace) believes that psychology and self-help have focused almost exclusively on dysfunction, rather than on healing and "resilience." Revealing her lack of familiarity with the recovery and inspiration genre, this dubious notion propels her into a lecture on how "suffering builds character." Part One offers a theoretical take on the subject, with many religious and philosophical references. To explain why some people withstand emotional losses better than others, Brehony draws a parallel with the tale of the little pigs, with houses made of straw and brick: a traumatic or abusive childhood builds a house of straw, easily toppled by the vicissitudes of adult life. Unfortunately, Brehony offers little help to those who are "less equal than others," and implies that because some people with bad childhoods become healthy, competent adults, there's no excuse for others who still feel overwhelmed. In the context of her own idyllic childhood, followed by the death of her mother (from cancer) and a car accident involving her father and stepmother (they survived), she encourages those whose houses are already made of brick to roll with life's punches and grow from suffering. Part Two provides a compendium of excellent "strategies" for turning suffering into wisdom and personal growth. However, Brehony's counsel to "count your blessings," "express your feelings," "help others," "pray and meditate," "find courageous role models" and "keep a sense of humor" have all been offered by many others, often with greater clarity and compassion. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Psychotherapist Brehony has written a thoughtful, upbeat book that stresses that we will all suffer, that we can't avoid it, and that to do so well will ultimately enrich our lives. With many anecdotes from her practice, family, and friends, she weaves together touching stories of suffering and redemption. The first half of the book describes the nature of suffering, its transformative power, how different people react to suffering, and choices to be made. The second section deals with 12 concrete ways to encounter suffering and grow through it. Making references to Judeo-Christian, Eastern, and Native American religions as well as philosophers and psychologists (footnotes are included), she underscores the universality of suffering throughout recorded time. This empowering book will allow readers to affirm their own strength in the face of suffering that will surely present itself. Highly recommended for public libraries' self-help collections.DMargaret Cardwell, Georgia Perimeter Coll., Clarkston (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Part 1 Reflections on Suffering
Introductionp. 5
1 The Truth about Life--Everyone Lives a Dramap. 29
2 Lead into Gold, or the Alchemical Process of Making the Best from the Worstp. 67
3 Brick Houses and Straw Houses: How Prepared Are We for Hard Times?p. 89
4 Beyond Resiliencep. 117
5 Rowing versus Flowing: Luck, Destiny, and Free Willp. 141
Part 2 A Dozen Strategies for Growing Through the Pain
Introductionp. 163
1 Discover a Larger Perspectivep. 166
2 Turn Toward Compassion and Help Othersp. 172
3 Recognize and Stop Self-Imposed Sufferingp. 178
4 Practice Mindfulnessp. 188
5 Grievep. 199
6 Build Good Containersp. 207
7 Count Your Blessings and Discover the Power of Optimismp. 213
8 Find Courageous Role Models and the Hero Withinp. 219
9 Keep a Sense of Humorp. 225
10 Express Your Feelingsp. 233
11 Silence, Prayer, and Meditationp. 238
12 Come to Your Life like a Warriorp. 245
Conclusion: "Living in the Guest House"p. 255
Notesp. 263
Acknowledgmentsp. 271