If you’re looking for the right book to help support you through the loss of a remarkable loved one, look no further. We’ve compiled the most comprehensive list of books all written to help people, just like you, understand and process grief, find meaning in loss, and honor the lives of those that came before us.
The Impact of the Right Book at the Right Time
“Most of what makes a book ‘good” is that we are reading it at the right moment for us.”
Alain de Botton
When I was 5 year old, our family lost my two year old baby cousin to cancer. Many tears and sobs later, I can attribute this defining early childhood experience as a monumental meaning maker in my life.
Almost three decades later and here I am, fortunate enough to be writing for Eterneva, using my words to help honor and celebrate the legacy of remarkable lives of those who left this world before us. I have no doubt that my cousin’s life and how my family responded to the loss has helped shape me into the curious and compassionate writer I am today.
The thing is, no one really prepares us for death and accompanying grief. Just like no one really prepared my mom for how she’d explain to three young children that their baby cousin had just passed away and wouldn’t be around for us to play with at the next holiday, or ever again.
Luckily for our family and for some unknown divine reason, my 5-year-old self was drawn towards a book titled Beyond the Ridge at the school library the day of my cousin’s death. I brought the book home for my mom to read to me and my siblings.
My mom, struggling to know the right way to break the news, was handed a children’s book that would do all of the explaining for her. Yes… young me, who didn’t even know how to read or that her cousin had just died, intuitively grabbed the perfect book that would make a deep impact on all of us kids for the rest of our lives. I still get shivers thinking about this.
The book was about a dying woman who was being called by her long-dead mother to go “beyond the ridge.” The story went on and explained how the woman’s spirit lives on in everything around us, the wind, the sunshine, the birds, etc.
While wiping away tears and reading the book, my mom knew how to share the awful news. She explained that our cousin wouldn’t be able to play with us anymore, but that he is no longer sick and hurting in his body. Instead, he’s been set free of his body, up in the sky, free of pain and with our pop-pop. She told us that when we heard thunder, he was up in the sky bowling a strike.
Now almost 30 years later I can see how much this book impacted the way my family got through such an unimaginable loss. We believed in something bigger than us, but we also felt a connection with our cousin through the natural world around us, and now through experiences with each other.
Each of us cousins have a connection with our baby cousin. We talk about him often and get unexplainable signs that his spirit lives on within each and every one of us.
The moral of the story here is this… it’s near impossible to be prepared for loss and subsequent grief, but there are always written words in books from those who’ve gone through it before that can help us make sense of it all. We’re not alone on this journey through grief, and we have countless lessons to learn about what our loved ones taught us.
Comprehensive List of Books on Grief & Loss
At Eterneva, we know that everyone handles grief differently, as they should. Everyone is different and will likely have a different taste in books to read (or not read) as they go through a journey with grief.
If you’re looking for the right book to help you or someone you know get through loss and grief, we’ve compiled a list of options for you to consider. As you go through the list, notice any books that call your attention. Maybe it’s something the author describes in the description or simply the cover of the book that catches your eye.
Sometimes there’s a sentence or passage that strikes us down to our core. As you go through your journey with these books, you may consider a journal to keep notes, make comments, and write memories with your loved one that may come up as you read. Remember, there’s no right or wrong way to do this.
While compiling this comprehensive list of books to help people through loss and grief, we’ve separated the books into a few sections, and you can skip to each of the sections in case one resonates with you right now.
Understand Grief, Loss & Bereavement – to help you become aware of the different facets of grief, what it’s like to lose someone, and how the following days, weeks and years may unfold for you and your loved ones.
The Science Behind Grief & Loss – to help those who are curious about what happens when we lose someone.
Stories to Keep it Light-hearted – to help lighten the mood and maybe feel a little less alone when going through grief and loss.
Stories Leading Up to the Death of a Loved One – to help those taking care of a loved one who’s experiencing severe illness at the end of their life.
Working Through Grief & Loss – to support those who wish to confront and process their grief associated with loss.
Supporting & Teaching Children Through Grief & Loss – to help support parents going through grief and loss with their kids.
Getting Inspired, Finding Meaning & Honoring Your Loved One – to encourage those who are ready, to start celebrating remarkable lives who have passed and finding meaning from their loss.
Understand Grief, Loss & Bereavement
These books are great places to start to grasp what it means to grieve, how bereavement can look, and what thought leaders in the grief wellness space are pushing towards. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to grief, and these books will help you see that whatever you’re feeling is okay.
It’s Okay That You’re Not Okay
Written by Megan Divine
Book description: When a painful loss or life-shattering event upends your world, here is the first thing to know: there is nothing wrong with grief. “Grief is simply love in its most wild and painful form,” says Megan Devine. “It is a natural and sane response to loss.” So, why does our culture treat grief like a disease to be cured as quickly as possible?
In It’s OK That You’re Not OK, Megan Devine offers a profound new approach to both the experience of grief and the way we try to help others who have endured tragedy. Having experienced grief from both sides—as both a therapist and as a woman who witnessed the accidental drowning of her beloved partner—Megan writes with deep insight about the unspoken truths of loss, love, and healing. She debunks the culturally prescribed goal of returning to a normal, “happy” life, replacing it with a far healthier middle path, one that invites us to build a life alongside grief rather than seeking to overcome it.
The Beauty Of What Remains
Written by Steve Leder
Book description: From the author of the bestselling More Beautiful Than Before comes an inspiring book about loss based on his most popular sermon. This inspiring and comforting book takes us on a journey through the experience of loss that is fundamental to everyone. Yet even after having sat beside thousands of deathbeds, Steve Leder the rabbi was not fully prepared for the loss of his own father. It was only then that Steve Leder the son truly learned how loss makes life beautiful by giving it meaning and touching us with love that we had not felt before.
Enriched by Rabbi Leder’s irreverence, vulnerability, and wicked sense of humor, this heartfelt narrative is filled with laughter and tears, the wisdom of millennia and modernity, and, most of all, an unfolding of the profound and simple truth that in loss we gain more than we ever imagined.
Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience and Finding Joy
Written by Cheryl Sandberg & Adam Grant
Book description: After the sudden death of her husband, Sheryl Sandberg felt certain that she and her children would never feel pure joy again. “I was in ‘the void,’” she writes, “a vast emptiness that fills your heart and lungs and restricts your ability to think or even breathe.” Her friend Adam Grant, a psychologist at Wharton, told her there are concrete steps people can take to recover and rebound from life-shattering experiences. We are not born with a fixed amount of resilience. It is a muscle that everyone can build.
Option B combines Sheryl’s personal insights with Adam’s eye-opening research on finding strength in the face of adversity. Beginning with the gut-wrenching moment when she finds her husband, Dave Goldberg, collapsed on a gym floor, Sheryl opens up her heart—and her journal—to describe the acute grief and isolation she felt in the wake of his death. But Option B goes beyond Sheryl’s loss to explore how a broad range of people have overcome hardships including illness, job loss, sexual assault, natural disasters, and the violence of war. Their stories reveal the capacity of the human spirit to persevere . . . and to rediscover joy.
Resilience comes from deep within us and from support outside us. Even after the most devastating events, it is possible to grow by finding deeper meaning and gaining greater appreciation in our lives. Option B illuminates how to help others in crisis, develop compassion for ourselves, raise strong children, and create resilient families, communities, and workplaces. Many of these lessons can be applied to everyday struggles, allowing us to brave whatever lies ahead. Two weeks after losing her husband, Sheryl was preparing for a father-child activity. “I want Dave,” she cried. Her friend replied, “Option A is not available,” and then promised to help her make the most of Option B. We all live some form of Option B. This book will help us all make the most of it.
On Grief and Grieving: Finding the Meaning of Grief Through the Five Stages of Loss
Written by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross
Book description: Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’s On Death and Dying changed the way we talk about the end of life. Before her own death in 2004, she and David Kessler completed On Grief and Grieving, which looks at the way we experience the process of grief. Just as On Death and Dying taught us the five stages of death—denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance—On Grief and Grieving applies these stages to the grieving process and weaves together theory, inspiration, and practical advice, including sections on sadness, hauntings, dreams, isolation, and healing. This is “a fitting finale and tribute to the acknowledged expert on end-of-life matters” (Good Housekeeping).
From Here to Eternity: Traveling the World to Find the Good Death
Written by Caitlin Doughty
Book description: As a practising mortician, Caitlin Doughty has long been fascinated by our pervasive terror of dead bodies. In From Here to Eternity she sets out in search of cultures unburdened by such fears. With curiosity and morbid humour, Doughty introduces us to inspiring death-care innovators, participates in powerful death practices almost entirely unknown in the West and explores new spaces for mourning – including a futuristic glowing-Buddha columbarium in Japan, a candlelit Mexican cemetery, and America’s only open-air pyre. In doing so she expands our sense of what it means to treat the dead with ‘dignity’ and reveals unexpected possibilities for our own death rituals.
Please Be Patient, I’m Grieving: How to Care For and Support the Grieving Heart
Written by Gary Roe
The Sisterhood of Widows: Sixteen True Stories of Grief, Anger and Healing
Written by Mary Francis
Book description: When author and life coach Mary Francis found herself widowed at fifty, she turned to other widows for support, understanding, and answers. Now she shares some of the stories that helped her find a new beginning for herself in The Sisterhood of Widows.
This powerful book of healing contains sixteen true stories from women who reflect on their lives after the death of their husbands. These women, whose husbands died from accidents, cancer, heart attacks, and even suicide, share their stories openly and honestly. Every widow handles loss differently, yet there is a common bond they share that makes them part of a sisterhood. And each widow’s story provides guidance and insight into the journey of perseverance through grief.
Between Death and Life – Conversations with a Spirit
Written by Dolores Cannon
Book description: An internationally acclaimed hypnotherapist’s guide to past lives, guardian angels and the death experience. Offering both comfort to the fearful and confirmation to the curious, Between Death and Life – Conversations with a Spirit examines different levels of existence in the spirit realms through hundreds of real people’s past life testimonies as revealed to widely published and internationally acclaimed past-life regressionist and hypnotherapist Dolores Cannon.
What happens at the point of death? Where do we go afterwards? Does one’s personality survive after death? How are the good and the bad experiences of life accounted for? What is the purpose of life? These are questions everybody asks. And no one is better qualified to provide reasonable answers than Dolores Cannon.
During forty years of detailed research, this widely experienced and well-respected American past-life regression therapist has accumulated a mass of credible information about the death experience and what lies beyond. While reliving their dying experiences, hundreds of subjects reported the same memories. The similarity and sincerity of their recollections are too convincing to be ignored. This eye-opening book explores the world beyond ours, giving us an insight into the death experience and reincarnation, guides and guardian angels, ghosts and walk-ins. It examines different levels of existence in the spirit realms; the ‘Healing Chambers’ for the damaged; the schools where you integrate lessons learned on Earth and where you discover the laws of the Universe; how you plan your next incarnation, the lessons to be learned and future karmic relationships before birth.
The Science Behind Grief & Loss
Sometimes the emotions of grief are a lot to handle. In this section, we recommend a couple of books to help you understand more of the research that’s out there for grief and loss. If you want the scientific details of what’s going on in your brain and body when you’ve lost someone remarkable, these are the books for you.
The Grieving Brain
Written by Mary-France O’Connor
Book description: A renowned grief expert and neuroscientist shares groundbreaking discoveries about what happens in our brain when we grieve, providing a new paradigm for understanding love, loss, and learning. For as long as humans have existed, we have struggled when a loved one dies. Poets and playwrights have written about the dark cloak of grief, the deep yearning, how devastating heartache feels. But until now, we have had little scientific perspective on this universal experience. In The Grieving Brain, neuroscientist and psychologist Mary-Frances O’Connor, PhD, gives us a fascinating new window into one of the hallmark experiences of being human. O’Connor has devoted decades to researching the effects of grief on the brain, and in this book, she makes cutting-edge neuroscience accessible through her contagious enthusiasm, and guides us through how we encode love and grief. With love, our neurons help us form attachments to others; but, with loss, our brain must come to terms with where our loved ones went, or how to imagine a future that encompasses their absence. Based on O’Connor’s own trailblazing neuroimaging work, research in the field, and her real-life stories, The Grieving Brain does what the best popular science books do, combining storytelling, accessible science, and practical knowledge that will help us better understand what happens when we grieve and how to navigate loss with more ease and grace.
All That Remains: A Life in Death
Written by Sue Black
Book description: Bue Black confronts death every day. As a Professor of Anatomy and Forensic Anthropology, she focuses on mortal remains in her lab, at burial sites, at scenes of violence, murder and criminal dismemberment, and when investigating mass fatalities due to war, accident or natural disaster. In All That Remains she reveals the many faces of death she has come to know, using key cases to explore how forensic science has developed, and examining what her life and work has taught her. Do we expect a book about death to be sad? Macabre? Sue’s book is neither. There is tragedy, but there is also humour in stories as gripping as the best crime novel. Part memoir, part science, part meditation on death, her book is compassionate, surprisingly funny, and it will make you think about death in a new light.
Stories to Keep it Light-hearted
We’d be lying if we said going through grief is easy. It’s not. It’s exhausting and can make us feel isolated and alone. These books are for when you’re looking for something to lighten the mood and maybe find some humor amongst the heavy emotions that cycle through grief.
Solutions and Other Problems
Written by Allie Brosh
Book description: For the first time in seven years, Allie Brosh—beloved author and artist of the extraordinary #1 New York Times bestseller Hyperbole and a Half—returns with a new collection of comedic, autobiographical, and illustrated essays. Solutions and Other Problems includes humorous stories from Allie Brosh’s childhood; the adventures of her very bad animals; merciless dissection of her own character flaws; incisive essays on grief, loneliness, and powerlessness; as well as reflections on the absurdity of modern life. This full-color, beautifully illustrated edition features all-new material with more than 1,600 pieces of art. Solutions and Other Problems marks the return of a beloved American humorist who has “the observational skills of a scientist, the creativity of an artist, and the wit of a comedian” (Bill Gates).
Confessions Of A Griever: Turning a Hot Mess into an Haute Message (Laughable Lessons for When Life Just Sucks)
Written by Crystal Webster
Book description: Grief sucks, but you don’t have to. Part memoir, part self-help, part choose your own grief guide; this cheeky and honest book takes a good, hard look at society’s view of grief and flips it the bird. Just like life after loss, YOU decide how to move forward . The choice is yourself you’ve experienced a traumatic loss (of any kind) and you want to use your experiences to make yourself better (and less bitter), then the sugar-coated platitudes everyone gives you just won’t cut it.
This book will help you realize that grief is grief–whatever it is and however you experience it. Everyone experiences it differently and everyone feels crazy while living through it. You’re NOT crazy and your feelings ARE normal. You just need to embrace the ride and ‘Remember. You’re not alone.’ Come on in, get comfy – let’s sit in the suck together.
Stories Leading up to the Death of a Loved One
Sometimes we start our grief journey before our remarkable person leaves us. When a loved one is nearing the end of their life, anticipatory grief describes what we go through leading up to their death. The books in this section are stories of those who were there with their loved ones before they passed.
Tuesdays With Morrie: An old man, a young man, and life’s greatest lesson
Written by Mitch Albom
Book description: Maybe it was a grandparent, or a teacher or a colleague? Someone older, patient and wise, who understood you when you were young and searching, and gave you sound advice to help you make your way through it? For Mitch Albom, that person was Morrie Schwartz, his college professor from nearly twenty years ago. Maybe, like Mitch, you lost track of this mentor as you made your way, and the insights faded. Wouldn’t you like to see that person again, ask the bigger questions that still haunt you?
Mitch Albom had that second chance. He rediscovered Morrie in the last months of the older man’s life. Knowing he was dying of ALS – or motor neurone disease – Mitch visited Morrie in his study every Tuesday, just as they used to back in college. Their rekindled relationship turned into one final ‘class’: lessons in how to live. Tuesdays with Morrie is a magical chronicle of their time together, through which Mitch shares Morrie’s lasting gift with the world.
In Love: A Memoir of Love and Loss
Written by Amy Bloom
Book description: Amy Bloom began to notice changes in her husband, Brian: He retired early from a new job he loved; he withdrew from close friendships; he talked mostly about the past. Suddenly, it seemed there was a glass wall between them, and their long walks and talks stopped. Their world was altered forever when an MRI confirmed what they could no longer ignore: Brian had Alzheimer’s disease.
Forced to confront the truth of the diagnosis and its impact on the future he had envisioned, Brian was determined to die on his feet, not live on his knees. Supporting each other in their last journey together, Brian and Amy made the unimaginably difficult and painful decision to go to Dignitas, an organization based in Switzerland that empowers a person to end their own life with dignity and peace.
In this heartbreaking and surprising memoir, Bloom sheds light on a part of life we so often shy away from discussing—its ending. Written in Bloom’s captivating, insightful voice and with her trademark wit and candor, In Love is an unforgettable portrait of a beautiful marriage, and a boundary-defying love.
Crying in H Mart: A Memoir
Written by Michelle Zauner
Book description: In this exquisite story of family, food, grief, and endurance, Michelle Zauner proves herself far more than a dazzling singer, songwriter, and guitarist. With humor and heart, she tells of growing up one of the few Asian-American kids at her school in Eugene, Oregon; of struggling with her mother’s particular high expectations of her; of a painful adolescence; of treasured months spent in her grandmother’s tiny apartment in Seoul, where she and her mother would bond, late at night, over heaping plates of food. As she grew up, moving to the East Coast for college, finding work in the restaurant industry, and performing gigs with her fledgling band – and meeting the man who would become her husband – her Korean-ness began to feel ever more distant, even as she found the life she wanted to live. It was her mother’s diagnosis of terminal cancer, when Michelle was 25, that forced a reckoning with her identity and brought her to reclaim the gifts of taste, language, and history her mother had given her.
Vivacious and plainspoken, lyrical and honest, Zauner’s voice is as radiantly alive on the page as it is onstage. Rich with intimate anecdotes that will resonate widely, Crying in H Mart is a book to cherish, share, and enjoy many times.
The Year of Magical Thinking
Written by Joan Didion
Book description: From one of America’s iconic writers, a portrait of a marriage and a life – in good times and bad – that will speak to anyone who has ever loved a husband or wife or child. A stunning book of electric honesty and passion.
Several days before Christmas 2003, John Gregory Dunne and Joan Didion saw their only daughter, Quintana, fall ill. At first they thought it was flu, then pneumonia, then complete sceptic shock. She was put into an induced coma and placed on life support. Days later – the night before New Year’s Eve – the Dunnes were just sitting down to dinner after visiting the hospital when John suffered a massive and fatal coronary. In a second, this close, symbiotic partnership of 40 years was over. Four weeks later, their daughter pulled through. Two months after that, arriving at LA airport, she collapsed and underwent six hours of brain surgery at UCLA Medical Centre to relieve a massive hematoma.
This powerful book is Didion’s ‘attempt to make sense of the weeks and then months that cut loose any fixed idea I ever had about death, about illness … about marriage and children and memory … about the shallowness of sanity, about life itself’. The result is an exploration of an intensely personal yet universal experience: a portrait of a marriage, and a life, in good times and bad.
A Grief Observed
Written by C.S. Lewis.
Book description: A Grief Observed is Lewis’ brutally honest reflection on the death of his wife, Joy Gresham, which exposes readers to the fact that man is vulnerable and fragile when attempting to understand the goodness of God in the midst of extreme pain. Lewis’ four-part reflection brings readers face to face with the cruel reality of the damage that sin has done to our world. His writing demonstrates utter despair as a result of acknowledging that death is a natural and unavoidable destiny for all. He writes expressing the sentiment that his wife was so beautiful and beloved that her death, though natural, was undeserved. Lewis compares the feeling of grief to fear stating that it gives him the same restlessness, yawning and fluttering of the stomach. It is not hard for the reader to recognize that Lewis feels that damage has been done to his world. While Lewis paints a vivid picture of why he loved his wife Joy, throughout his reflection she remains a faint figure in the background while the author focuses on grief itself. A Grief Observed leaves readers with a real sense of the frailty of the human experience.
When Breath Becomes Air
Written by Paul Kalanithi
Book description: At the age of thirty-six, on the verge of completing a decade’s worth of training as a neurosurgeon, Paul Kalanithi was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. One day he was a doctor treating the dying, and the next he was a patient struggling to live. And just like that, the future he and his wife had imagined evaporated. When Breath Becomes Air chronicles Kalanithi’s transformation from a naïve medical student “possessed,” as he wrote, “by the question of what, given that all organisms die, makes a virtuous and meaningful life” into a neurosurgeon at Stanford working in the brain, the most critical place for human identity, and finally into a patient and new father confronting his own mortality.
What makes life worth living in the face of death? What do you do when the future, no longer a ladder toward your goals in life, flattens out into a perpetual present? What does it mean to have a child, to nurture a new life as another fades away? These are some of the questions Kalanithi wrestles with in this profoundly moving, exquisitely observed memoir. Paul Kalanithi died in March 2015, while working on this book, yet his words live on as a guide and a gift to us all. “I began to realize that coming face to face with my own mortality, in a sense, had changed nothing and everything,” he wrote. “Seven words from Samuel Beckett began to repeat in my head: ‘I can’t go on. I’ll go on.’” When Breath Becomes Air is an unforgettable, life-affirming reflection on the challenge of facing death and on the relationship between doctor and patient, from a brilliant writer who became both.
The Bright Hour: A Memoir of Living and Dying
Written by Nina Riggs
Book description: In 2015 poet and writer Nina Riggs was diagnosed with breast cancer, and it metastasised later that year. She was thirty-eight years old, married to the love of her life and the mother of two small boys; her mother had died only a few months earlier from multiple myeloma.
The Bright Hour: A Memoir of Living and Dying is Nina’s intimate, unflinching account of ‘living with death in the room’. She tells her story in a series of absurd, poignant and often hilarious vignettes drawn from a life that has ‘no real future or arc left to it, yet still goes on as if it does’.
This unforgettable memoir leads the reader into the innermost chambers of the writer’s life: into the mind and heart, the work and home and family, of a young woman alternately seeking to make peace with and raging against the reality of her approaching death.
When Bad Things Happen to Good People
Written by Harold Kushner
Book description: When Harold Kushner’s three-year-old son was diagnosed with a degenerative disease that meant the boy would only live until his early teens, he was faced with one of life’s most difficult questions: Why, God? Years later, Rabbi Kushner wrote this straightforward, elegant contemplation of the doubts and fears that arise when tragedy strikes. In these pages, Kushner shares his wisdom as a rabbi, a parent, a reader, and a human being. Often imitated but never superseded, When Bad Things Happen to Good People is a classic that offers clear thinking and consolation in times of sorrow.
Working Through Grief & Loss
While most of us would prefer not to have to go through grief and loss, it’s inevitable and part of what makes us human. These books give us tools and the strength to face our emotions and physical effects of grief so that we can continue to live a meaningful life.
Resilient Grieving: Finding Strength and Embracing Life After a Loss that Changes Everything
Written by Lucy Hone
Book description: The death of someone we hold dear may be inevitable; being paralyzed by our grief is not. A growing body of research has revealed our capacity for resilient grieving, our innate ability to respond to traumatic loss by finding ways to grow—by becoming more engaged with our lives, and discovering new, profound meaning.
Author and resilience/well-being expert Lucy Hone, a pioneer in fusing positive psychology and bereavement research, was faced with her own inescapable sorrow when, in 2014, her 12-year-old daughter was killed in a car accident. By following the strategies of resilient grieving, she found a proactive way to move through her grief, and, over time, embrace life again. Resilient Grieving offers an empowering alternative to the five-stage Kübler-Ross model of grief—and makes clear our inherent capacity for growth following the trauma of a loss that changes everything.
The Orphaned Adult: Understanding And Coping With Grief And Change After The Death Of Our Parents
Written by Alexander Levy
Book description: Losing our parents when we ourselves are adults is in the natural order of things, a rite of passage into true adulthood. But whether we lose them suddenly or after a prolonged illness, and whether we were close to or estranged from them, this passage proves inevitably more difficult than we thought it would be. From the recognition of our own mortality and sudden child-like sorrow to a sometimes-subtle change in identity or shift of roles in the surviving family, The Orphaned Adult guides readers through the storm of change this passage brings and anchors them with its compassionate and reassuring wisdom.
I Wasn’t Ready to Say Goodbye: Surviving, Coping and Healing After the Sudden Death of a Loved One (A Compassionate Grief Recovery Book)
Written by Brook Noel
Book description: The grief book that just “gets it.” Whether you’re grieving the sudden loss of a loved one or helping someone else through their grief, I Wasn’t Ready to Say Goodbye offers a comforting hand to help guide you through the grieving process, from the first few weeks to the longer-term emotional and physical effects. It then reveals some of the myths of the grieving process and what really happens as you navigate through the pain.
Written by two authors who have experienced it firsthand, this book has offered solace to over one-hundred fifty-thousand people, ranging from seniors to teenagers and from the newly bereaved to those who lost a loved one years ago. An exploration of unexpected death and its role in the cycle of life, I Wasn’t Ready to Say Goodbye provides those people coping with grief with a rock-steady anchor from which to weather the storm of pain and begin to rebuild their lives. For further step-by-step support, the I Wasn’t Ready to Say Goodbye Companion Workbook offers a combination of self-exploration questions, visualization activities, and journaling to help readers through the grieving process.
Healing the Adult Sibling’s Grieving Heart: 100 Practical Ideas After Your Brother or Sister Dies
Written by Alan D Wolfelt PhD
Book description: Compassionate and heartfelt, this collection offers 100 practical ideas to help understand and accept the passing of a sibling in order to practice self-healing. The principles of grief and mourning are clearly defined, accompanied by action-oriented tips for embracing bereavement. Whether a sibling has died as a young or older adult or the death was sudden or anticipated, this resource provides a healthy approach to dealing with the aftermath.
Bearing the Unbearable: Love, Loss, and the Heartbreaking Path of Grief
Written by Joanne Cacciatore
Book description: When a loved one dies, the pain of loss can feel unbearable—especially in the case of a traumatizing death that leaves us shouting, “NO!” with every fiber of our body. The process of grieving can feel wild and nonlinear—and often lasts for much longer than other people, the non bereaved, tell us it should.
Change & Transition Workbook & Journal: A guide to support you during major life events
Written by Sara Amalia Wong
Book description: This journal you can use daily or whenever you feel called.. This workbook includes a variety of ways to connect with your soul for guidance, healing, and overall growth. You will find a variety of exercises themed for the mind, body, and soul. All exercises include 4 journal pages. 1 to review the exercise, a page to draw or take notes which includes a supportive affirmation, a journal prompt with 2 pages to write and a section for key highlights. These exercises are not meant to be done in any order. Simply pick which one feels the most aligned for that day.
Healing After Loss Daily Meditations for Working Through Grief
Written by Martha Hickman
Book description: The classic guide for dealing with grief and loss. For those who have suffered the loss of a loved one, here are thoughtful words to strengthen, inspire and comfort.
The Wild Edge of Sorrow: Rituals of Renewal and the Sacred Work of Grief
Written by Francis Weller
Book description: The work of the mature person is to carry grief in one hand and gratitude in the other and be stretched large by them. Noted psychotherapist Francis Weller provides an essential guide for navigating the deep waters of sorrow and loss in this lyrical yet practical handbook for mastering the art of grieving. Describing how Western patterns of amnesia and anesthesia affect our capacity to cope with personal and collective sorrows, Weller reveals the new vitality we may encounter when we welcome, rather than fear, the pain of loss.
Through moving personal stories, poetry, and insightful reflections he leads us into the central energy of sorrow, and to the profound healing and heightened communion with each other and our planet that reside alongside it. The Wild Edge of Sorrow explains that grief has always been communal and illustrates how we need the healing touch of others, an atmosphere of compassion, and the comfort of ritual in order to fully metabolize our grief. Weller describes how we often hide our pain from the world, wrapping it in a secret mantle of shame. This causes sorrow to linger unexpressed in our bodies, weighing us down and pulling us into the territory of depression and death. We have come to fear grief and feel too alone to face an encounter with the powerful energies of sorrow.
Those who work with people in grief, who have experienced the loss of a loved one, who mourn the ongoing destruction of our planet, or who suffer the accumulated traumas of a lifetime will appreciate the discussion of obstacles to successful grief work such as privatized pain, lack of communal rituals, a pervasive feeling of fear, and a culturally restrictive range of emotion. Weller highlights the intimate bond between grief and gratitude, sorrow and intimacy. In addition to showing us that the greatest gifts are often hidden in the things we avoid, he offers powerful tools and rituals and a list of resources to help us transform grief into a force that allows us to live and love more fully.
Breaking Sad: What to Say After Loss, What Not to Say, and When to Just Show Up
Written by Shelly Fisher
Book description: Real stories and real feedback on what should be said, what should be kept to yourself, and what can be done when trying to support someone you care about as they navigate loss. Breaking Sad helps us start conversations through its pages of personal stories and suggestions from everyday survivors―bringing us all to a place where we can more comfortably offer support and caring to people when they need it most.
When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times
Written by Pema Chödrön
Book description: How can we live our lives when everything seems to fall apart—when we are continually overcome by fear, anxiety, and pain? The answer, Pema Chödrön suggests, might be just the opposite of what you expect. Here, in her most beloved and acclaimed work, Pema shows that moving toward painful situations and becoming intimate with them can open up our hearts in ways we never before imagined. Drawing from traditional Buddhist wisdom, she offers life-changing tools for transforming suffering and negative patterns into habitual ease and boundless joy.
The Art of Losing It: A Memoir of Grief and Addiction
Written by Rosemary Keevil
Book description: When her brother dies of AIDS and her husband dies of cancer in the same year, Rosemary is left on her own with two young daughters and antsy addiction demons dancing in her head. This is the nucleus of The Art of Losing It a young mother jerking from emergency to emergency as the men in her life drop dead around her; a high-functioning radio show host waging war with her addictions while trying to raise her two little girls who just lost their daddy; and finally, a stint in rehab and sobriety that ushers in a fresh brand of chaos instead of the tranquility her family so desperately needs.
Heartrending but ultimately hopeful, The Art of Losing It is the story of a struggling mother who finds her way—slowly, painfully—from one side of grief and addiction to the other.
Supporting & Teaching Children Through Loss
As much as we wish we could shield children from grief and loss, it’s near impossible. Luckily, there are books like the ones mentioned below that help do the explaining. These books are meant to help children and parents get through the tough conversations about loss.
Beyond the Ridge
Written by Paul Goble
Book description: There is no death; only a change of worlds–Goble delivers these reassurances to readers in his latest book, once more based on the customs of the Plains Indian people. The book reads like a prayer, expressing specific beliefs about dying as well as the story of a woman who is called by her long-dead mother to go “beyond the ridge.”
The world she discovers–after a steep climb–is abundantly beautiful, and there she finds the familiar faces of people who have passed that way before her. Meanwhile, in her tepee, her loved ones recognize that she is dead, and give her a ceremonial burial. Graceful illustrations, displaying colorful beadwork on clothing and bountiful flora and fauna in each scene, further illuminate the words. The characters move elegantly through the rites, while the text whispers the meaning of symbols. A generous, encompassing view of death and dying, Goble’s work is one of resonant tranquility. All ages.
Will My Cats Eat My Eyeballs?
Written by Caitlin Doughty
Book description: Can we give Grandma a Viking funeral?
Why don’t animals dig up all the graves?
Will my hair keep growing in my coffin after I’m buried?
Every day, funeral director Caitlin Doughty receives dozens of questions about death. Here she offers her factual, hilarious and candid answers to thirty-five of the most interesting, sharing the lore and science of what happens to, and inside, our bodies after we die. Why do corpses groan? What causes bodies to turn strange colours during decomposition? and why do hair and nails appear longer after death? The answers are all within…
Slumber Kins Children’s Books – Sprite Offers Comfort
Written by Kelly Oriard with Callie Christensen
Book description: Coping with grief and loss can be overwhelming, and finding the right words to talk to our children about it can feel impossible. Sprite helps you find a place to start as you help a child navigate loss. Children experience grief and loss differently as they get older. Sprite Kin helps provide comfort and opens the door to healthy conversations about loss. Sprite can help you start these conversations with children while encouraging them to remember that those who are no longer by our side continue to live within our hearts.
A Parent’s Guide to Raising Grieving Children: Rebuilding Your Family after the Death of a Loved One
Written by Phyllis R. Silverman
Book description: When children lose someone they love, they lose part of their very identity. Life, as they knew it, will never be quite the same. The world that once felt dependable and safe may suddenly seem a frightening, uncertain place, where nobody understands what they’re feeling.
In this deeply sympathetic book, Phyllis R. Silverman and Madelyn Kelly offer wise guidance on virtually every aspect of childhood loss, from living with someone who’s dying to preparing the funeral; from explaining death to a two year old to managing the moods of a grieving teenager; from dealing with people who don’t understand to learning how and where to get help from friends, therapists, and bereavement groups; from developing a new sense of self to continuing a relationship with the person who died. Throughout, the authors advocate an open, honest approach, suggesting that our instinctive desire to “protect” children from the reality of death may be more harmful than helpful. “Children want you to acknowledge what is happening, to help them understand it,” the authors suggest. “In this way, they learn to trust their own ability to make sense out of what they see.”
Drawing on groundbreaking research into what bereaved children are really experiencing, and quoting real conversations with parents and children who have walked that road, the book allows readers to see what others have learned from mourning and surviving the death of a loved one. In a culture where grief is so often invisible and misunderstood, the wisdom derived from such first-hand experience is invaluable.
Modern Loss: Candid Conversation About Grief. Beginners Welcome.
Written by Rebecca Soffer
Book description: At a time when we mourn public figures and national tragedies with hashtags, where intimate posts about loss go viral and we receive automated birthday reminders for dead friends, it’s clear we are navigating new terrain without a road map.
Let’s face it: most of us have always had a difficult time talking about death and sharing our grief. We’re awkward and uncertain; we avoid, ignore, or even deny feelings of sadness; we offer platitudes; we send sympathy bouquets whittled out of fruit.
Enter Rebecca Soffer and Gabrielle Birkner, who can help us do better. Each having lost parents as young adults, they co-founded Modern Loss, responding to a need to change the dialogue around the messy experience of grief. Now, in this wise and often funny book, they offer the insights of the Modern Loss community to help us cry, laugh, grieve, identify, and—above all—empathize.
Soffer and Birkner, along with forty guest contributors including Lucy Kalanithi, singer Amanda Palmer, and CNN’s Brian Stelter, reveal their own stories on a wide range of topics including triggers, sex, secrets, and inheritance. Accompanied by beautiful hand-drawn illustrations and witty “how to” cartoons, each contribution provides a unique perspective on loss as well as a remarkable life-affirming message.
Getting Inspired, Finding Meaning & Honoring Your Loved One
Lastly, the books in this section are all about what happens after a loved one passes and you’re ready to move from grieving to making meaning. While we know inspiration is hard to come by when emotions run deep, these books are a great place to start making steps towards honoring a loved one.
Sixth Optional Stage of Grief: Meaning Making
Written by David Kessler
“I recommend it to friends usually about 6+ months out of experiencing loss, because basically what he says is that you need to go through the other 5 stages of grief first (which are inevitable) and only then is there an optional sixth stage of grief on offer for you which is making meaning of what that loss meant.”
Adelle Archer, Co-founder of Eterneva
Book description: David Kessler – the world’s foremost expert on grief and the coauthor with Elisabeth Kübler-Ross of the iconic On Grief and Grieving – journeys beyond the classic five stages to discover a sixth stage: meaning. David has spent decades teaching about end of life, trauma and grief. And yet his life was upended by the sudden death of his twenty-one-year-old son. How does the grief expert handle such a devastating loss? In Finding Meaning, Kessler shares his hard-earned wisdom and offers a roadmap to remembering those who have died with more love than pain, how to move forward in a way that honours our loved ones and ultimately transform grief into a more peaceful and hopeful experience. An inspiring must-read for anyone struggling to figure out how to live after loss.
The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself
Written by Michael A. Singer, Peter Berkrot, et al.
Book description: Spiritual teacher Michael A. Singer explores the question of human identity and shows how the development of consciousness can enable us all to dwell in the present moment and achieve happiness and self-realization.
God Wink Series
Written by SQuire Rushnell
Read the incredible “Godwinks” experienced by everyday people and celebrities including Barbra Streisand, Charles Schulz, Oprah Winfrey, Kevin Costner, Mark Twain, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson. After reading When God Winks, you’ll learn to recognize coincidences in your life for what they truly are: an act of God’s enduring love.
A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose
Written by Eckhart Tolle
Book description: In “A New Earth,” Tolle expands on these powerful ideas to show how transcending our ego-based state of consciousness is not only essential to personal happiness, but also the key to ending conflict and suffering throughout the world. Tolle describes how our attachment to the ego creates the dysfunction that leads to anger, jealousy, and unhappiness, and shows readers how to awaken to a new state of consciousness and follow the path to a truly fulfilling existence.
“A New Earth” has been written as a traditional narrative, offering anecdotes and philosophies in a way that is accessible to all. Illuminating, enlightening, and uplifting, “A New Earth” is a profoundly spiritual manifesto for a better way of life and for building a better world.
The Last Lecture
Written by Randy Pausch
Book description: A lot of professors give talks titled ‘The Last Lecture’. Professors are asked to consider their demise and to ruminate on what matters most to them: What wisdom would we impart to the world if we knew it was our last chance? If we had to vanish tomorrow, what would we want as our legacy?
When Randy Pausch, a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon, was asked to give such a lecture, he didn’t have to imagine it as his last, since he had recently been diagnosed with terminal cancer. But the lecture he gave, ‘Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams’ wasn’t about dying. It was about the importance of overcoming obstacles, of enabling the dreams of others, of seizing every moment (because time is all you have and you may find one day that you have less than you think). It was a summation of everything Randy had come to believe. It was about living.
Time to Start Reading
While this list does not include every single book that’s helped someone through their grief, it does offer a variety of options for you to get started based on where you are in your grief journey.
Some of these books (if not all) will likely bring up different emotions as you thumb through the pages. So, as you pick up a book, take a moment to think about your loved one and make a note that you’re reading the book to honor their remarkable life. Go as slow or as fast as you need to, enjoy some tea, and be gentle with yourself.
We hope you enjoy your journey with these books. We’re proud of you for remembering your remarkable loved one in such a meaningful way. 💞