If you’ve recently lost a loved one, you might be struggling with the sense that you’re all alone—many young people I work with are the first in their peer group to experience a major loss. In the midst of intense grief, or even in the months and years that follow, it can be helpful to read others’ stories and see that you aren’t alone—and that there is a path forward.
It’s the time of year to stay inside with a good book or two, so if you’re looking for some books that will help make sense of your grief, here are some recommendations. I’ve focused this list on non-fiction books, both of the memoir and self-help variety; I’ll leave a discussion of grief in fiction for a future post.
Dream New Dreams – by Jai Pausch
You might have heard of Randy Pausch’s book, The Last Lecture, or seen his actual lecture Carnegie Mellon on YouTube. Pausch, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer and gave a lecture about realizing one’s dreams. The video of the lecture went viral, and the book he wrote afterward became a bestseller. His widow, Jai Pausch, wrote about both her experience as a caregiver and letting go of the dreams she and Randy had together in order to make room for a new future, with new dreams.
How to Go on Living When Someone you Love Dies – by Therese Rando
Therese Rando is a bereavement specialist who takes readers through both the practical and emotional steps necessary to recover from a major loss, whether that loss was expected or sudden. How to Go on Living when Someone You Love Die helps readers make sense of their grief process and work towards recovery, as well as gives readers practical advice about managing things like a funeral, accepting help from family and friends and talking to children about death.
The Other Side of Sadness – by George Bonanno
George Bonanno is a professor of clinical psychology at Columbia University and wrote The Other Side of Sadness based on interviews with hundreds of people who’d lost a loved one. His overall message: The death of a loved one is survivable, and most people are more resilient than they think—or than our culture, in general, thinks they will be. If you’re interested in a scientific look at bereavement and what Bonanno does and does not think our culture gets right, this is a good choice.
Healing after Loss, Daily Meditations for Working Through Grief – Martha Whitmore Hickman
Healing after Loss gives readers meditations on loss, healing and joy, organized with one per calendar day. Martha Whitmore Hickman’s daughter died at the age of 16, so she understands both the unending grief of losing a loved one as well as the importance of finding joy after loss. The mediations are eclectic and accompanied by Hickman’s commentary. They are also wise and help maintain a sense of peace even in the face of tremendous loss.
Want to keep working on the lessons in these books or explore some of the ideas further, with a professional? I can help you apply the ideas you’ll read about in these books to your own life and your own grief process.