Be The Expert/Ask the Expert/Become the Expert (hosted by Katie at Doing Dewey): Three ways to join in this week! You can either share 3 or more books on a single topic that you have read and can recommend (be the expert), you can put the call out for good nonfiction on a specific topic that you have been dying to read (ask the expert), or you can create your own list of books on a topic that you’d like to read (become the expert).
Six years ago, I lost my mama to ovarian cancer. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about her and miss her. I have sought solace through books that talk about grief. Sometimes I feel utterly alone and books help me navigate my thoughts and feelings surrounding my loss.
I thought it might be nice to offer a resource of some of the best grief books I’ve found. I know there are a plethora of books out there, so if you have some I need to add to my list, please drop a comment below so I can make note of them!
Also, if you find yourself part of this club no one wants to be a member of, please know that your are not alone. Find someone who will kindly offer you a listening ear because I’ve found that talking about it and keeping it in the open really helps.
BE THE EXPERT
Motherless Daughters: The Legacy of Loss by: Hope Edelman – This was the very first book I read after I lost my mama. While I can’t say it was a favorite of mine, I know it is the number one recommended resource for mother loss. It handles early loss well (for those who lose their mom when they’re younger in life), and that’s one of the reasons it wasn’t that great for me (I was thirty-four when I lost my mom). Also, minor detail, but I absolutely HATE the term Motherless Daughter…I still have a mother and I don’t like the disassociation I feel when I hear that.
Fatherless Daughters: Turning the Pain of Loss into the Power of Forgiveness by: Pamela Thomas – I have not read this one as my father is still alive, but I understand that not a lot of books are written with the father/daughter loss in mind and that this book kind of stands alone in that regard.
Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy by: Sheryl Sandberg – If I had read this immediately after my mama had passed, I don’t think I would have found it as helpful. I personally needed some distance from her death to be able to appreciate what Sandberg was trying to say. There were many takeaways from this book that I still think about off and on – mostly about building resiliency because this life can be tough and the only way to survive well is to be tougher than the circumstances you’re dealt.
Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End by: Atul Gawande – One of the most important books I’ve ever read, I only wish I had read it before my mama had gotten sick and passed away. It tackles the uncomfortable – but absolutely vital – conversations regarding quality of life and what your personal wishes may be if and when the time comes to make major medical decisions. Instead of shying away from these conversations (as our culture tends to do), I appreciate Gawande opening up the dialog so that we can honor the choices of our loved ones.
After This: When Life is Over, Where Do We Go? by: Claire Bidwell Smith – Bidwell Smith is somewhat of an expert in the grief recovery department, so if you’re seeking more resources, definitely check out her website. This was my first introduction to her and while I have my own personal set of beliefs, I still found this a fascinating journey through other cultures and belief systems that attempts to answer the question of what happens to us once we die.
Anxiety: The Missing Stage of Grief: A Revolutionary Approach to Understanding and Healing the Impact of Loss by: Claire Bidwell Smith – It wasn’t until several years after I lost my mama that I began to experience anxiety and panic issues, so I was so incredibly grateful to find this book. It gave me an enormous sense of relief to know that my feelings were common and it allowed myself to work towards healing this aspect of my grief journey.
The Bright Hour: A Memoir of Living and Dying by: Nina Riggs – At just thirty-seven years old, Riggs was diagnosed with terminal breast cancer. She writes this memoir as a tribute to her young boys, but also as a gift to the rest of us. Reminiscent of When Breath Becomes Air, she attempts to answer what makes a life well lived when your time on Earth is suddenly limited. It’s a good reminder for those of us who haven’t had to face our deaths yet to live life while we have it.
The Goldfinch by: Donna Tartt – I just reread this gem of a book, and what struck me the most this time was the way Tartt wrote about grief. From the pervasiveness of it to the roller coaster of emotions that accompany it, Tartt portrays grief with such an accurate lens. I felt like I was continually nodding my head and I respect the honesty and rawness with which Tartt handles the topic.
After the Flood by: Kassandra Montag – At first thought a dystopian themed book doesn’t immediately seem to fit into the grief category. However, years ago when Earth first flooded, Myra’s oldest daughter, Row, was kidnapped and taken away from her. From that day forward, Myra and her younger daughter, Pearl, are on a mission to find Row again, no matter the cost. Perhaps I felt the grief tug even more because there was a strong theme of motherhood and the connection a mother has with her children, regardless of the distance and circumstances that may separate them.
The Unlikely Adventures of the Shergill Sisters by: Balli Kaur Jaswal – When their mother dies, she leaves wishes for her three daughters to take a pilgrimage back to India to spread her ashes. The girls don’t have a strong relationship as the years and misunderstandings and distance has pulled them apart. But as they journey across India to their mother’s final destination, they will also find their way back to each other. As the girls journey through India, their mom’s little “scavenger hunt” teaches them the lessons she wishes to for them to carry on – specifically, the lessons of love, family, and forgiveness.
A Monster Calls by: Patrick Ness – I just finished this one last month and I loved it so much. I was literally brought to tears as I finished it up. I had all the feelings during this one and it will be a book I continue to return to over and over. (My 12-year-old daughter also read this and loves and endorses it as well!)
Harry Potter Series by: J.K. Rowling – One of the main themes of this entire series is grief. From the beginning, Harry Potter’s parents are dead and Harry is raised between his evil aunt and uncle’s house and the magical world of Hogwarts. As the books progress, Rowling finds her stride as a writer and these books end up being so nuanced that you can pull many different themes out each time you read it. It’s my favorite series of all times, and my 12-year-old adores it as much as I do!
How To Make Friends With the Dark by: Kathleen Glasgow – Glasgow is a such a gifted writer and it’s a wonderful thing to have a book that handles the grief process so well available for young adults.
BECOME THE EXPERT
A Grief Observed by: C.S. Lewis
Grief is the Thing With Feathers by: Max Porter
The Astonishing Color of After by: Emily X.R. Pan
The Garden of Small Beginnings by: Abbi Waxman
No Happy Endings by: Nora McInerny Purmort
How It Feels To Float by: Helena Fox
The Unwinding of a Miracle: A Memoir of Life, Death, and Everything That Comes After by: Julie Yip-Williams
The Year of Magical Thinking by: Joan Didion
When Death Takes Something From You Give It Back: Carl’s Book by: Naja Marie Aidt & Denise Newman (Translator)
Modern Loss: Candid Conversations About Grief. Beginners Welcome. by: Rebecca Soffer, Gabrielle Birkner, & Nikki Reimer
Once More We Saw Stars by: Jayson Greene
I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by: Erika L. Sánchez
H is for Hawk by: Helen Macdonald
Grief Works: Stories of Life, Death, and Surviving by: Julia Samuel
ASK THE EXPERT
I hope this list helps…and please send me any recommendations you have for grief-related books (fiction/nonfiction/ya/graphic novels/ANYTHING!). I would love to keep updating my list!
14 thoughts on “Grief: Be the Expert, Ask the Expert, Become the Expert”
This is such a wonderfully thoughtful post. And I’m glad that you added in some fiction titles—A Monster Calls is one of my favorites. I’ve only been able to read it once, and I’m not sure if I’ll ever be in the right place to read it again, but it’s beyond powerful.
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Final Gifts: Understanding the Special Awareness, Needs, and Communications of the Dying – written by hospice nurses, very insightful
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Thank you so much, Wendy!
Thank you for the great list! I would add two: When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi and The Last Lecture by Pandy Pausch and Jeffrey Zaslow (both look at components of a meaningful life and limited time/living with terminal illness).
This is such a tough topic and I really appreciate you sharing how reading these books has made a difference in your own live. Really lovely post!
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Thank you so much, Katie!