4 Must-Read Books While Grieving (This Summer)

One of the ways we mourn our losses in life is through community and connection with others. We gather for viewings, funerals, and memorials, and we honor our loved ones with shared family traditions.

Sometimes, though—particularly in a peri-pandemic world—that connection and community can be a little bit harder to realize. We can feel alone, lost, and “othered” in our grief.

This can hit harder in the summer when there’s so much pressure to have fun and it seems like everyone else in the world is having the time of their lives while we sit out.

Yet even as we feel disconnected, we don’t have to be disconnected. Whether you stay home in the A/C, hit the beach, or set up camp, you can bring along some portable community in a good book.

There is peace between the pages of a book that can ground you and help you feel seen and understood. So grab a book and consider making reading a part of your path forward through your grief. Here are some recommendations: 

Notes on Grief by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

If you’re interested in a personal, non-fiction story, Adichie delivers with her memoir on life, loss, and language, Notes on Grief.

“Notes on Grief is an exquisite work of meditation, remembrance, and hope, written in the wake of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s beloved father’s death in the summer of 2020. As the COVID-19 pandemic raged around the world and kept Adichie and her family members separated from one another, her father succumbed unexpectedly to complications of kidney failure.”

Adichie’s incredible command of language brings understanding to the incomprehensible and offers up words for all of the messy, confusing, and difficult-to-articulate intricacies of loss.

To be understood and to be given the tools to make yourself more understood to others is invaluable during a season of grief, which is why this book is an excellent choice.

Wish You Were Here by Jodi Picoult

If you’re more interested in fiction and want more of a ‘story’ read, check out Jodi Picoult’s Wish You Were Here.

“In the Galápagos Islands, where Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection was formed, Diana finds herself examining her relationships, her choices, and herself—and wondering if when she goes home, she too will have evolved into someone completely different.”

Picoult explores some of the major players in the grieving process—change and isolation. As her protagonist navigates this path against the backdrop of the Galápagos, she guides you along, too, from wherever you may be.

The Grieving Brain by Mary Francis O’Connor

Perhaps you’re looking for something a little more straightforward and educational. If so, pick up The Grieving Brain: The Surprising Science of How We Learn from Love and Loss.

“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.”

There is power in knowledge; there is also a great deal of comfort in that power. This is a book for those of us who like to understand the ‘hows and ‘whys’ of the world, including our own inner worlds.

The Grieving Brain also acts as a sort of map through the process of grief, which is similarly empowering and comforting in a chaotic and confusing time.

A Matter of Death and Life by Irvin D. Yalom and Marilyn Yalom

There are two sides to every story. That includes the story of death and grief. A Matter of Death and Life gives us both sides of the story as a wife learns to cope with her cancer diagnosis and her husband begins to move through his grief after her death.

“In alternating accounts of their last months together and Irv’s first months alone, they offer us a rare window into facing mortality and coping with the loss of one’s beloved.”

Written by two incredible people—an acclaimed psychiatrist and an esteemed feminist—this story of love and loss unfolds beautifully and offers readers support and solace between its pages. 

Every person has a unique perspective on this universal human experience. You can gain so much from exploring your grief through a well-written book and perhaps you’ll find along the way that there are some things about your experience with loss that you want to express through writing.

What books have helped you in your grieving process?

Photo credit: StockSnap, via Pixabay