If you’ve lost a loved one, it can feel like the world is collapsing around you.
Navigating through this turbulent time may seem like too much to bear.
Fortunately, there is support available.
And while it won’t magically remove your pain, knowing that others have experienced a similar process of healing is heartening.
Therefore, in this article, we explore 5 books that might help.
The Best Books on Grief
1. A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis
As I finished reading C.S. Lewis’ “A Grief Observed,” I couldn’t help but feel like I had been given a window into the author’s soul.
The book chronicles Lewis’ own journey through grief after losing his wife, and it is a raw and honest portrayal of the grieving process.
One of the main takeaways from the book is the way in which grief can completely upend one’s understanding of the world.
Lewis writes about feeling like he had been plunged into a completely different universe, one in which everything he thought he knew had been turned on its head.
This feeling of disorientation and confusion is something that many people who have experienced grief can relate to, and it is both comforting and illuminating to read about Lewis’ experiences.
Another theme that emerges throughout the book is the role of faith in the face of grief.
💬 “Her absence is like the sky, spread over everything.” ― C.S. Lewis
Lewis was a devout Christian, and he grapples with his faith throughout the book.
He writes about feeling angry at God and struggling to reconcile his belief in a loving God with the pain and suffering he is experiencing.
However, he also writes about moments of clarity and transcendence, when he is able to see glimpses of God’s love and grace even in the midst of his pain.
Perhaps the most striking thing about “A Grief Observed” is the way in which Lewis is able to capture the complexities of grief in such a short book.
He writes with honesty and vulnerability about his own experiences, but he also manages to touch on universal truths about grief that resonate with readers of all backgrounds.
It’s a powerful and moving book that I would highly recommend to anyone who is grappling with grief or simply interested in exploring the human experience.
2. On Grief and Grieving by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross and David Kessler
On Grief and Grieving is a heartfelt exploration of the five stages of grief, as well as the personal experiences of the authors and those they have worked with.
Kübler-Ross and Kessler delve into the five stages of grief – denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance – and provide insights on how to navigate through them.
One of the main takeaways from the book is that grief is a natural and necessary process.
The authors emphasize that it’s important to allow ourselves to feel and experience the emotions associated with grief, rather than suppressing them.
They also point out that everyone’s experience of grief is unique and that there is no right or wrong way to grieve.
Another key takeaway is that grief can be transformative.
💬 “You have entered an abnormal, lonely, and unwelcome new world where you are nothing but an island of sadness.” ― Elisabeth Kübler-Ross
Kübler-Ross and Kessler note that while grief is a painful experience, it can also be an opportunity for growth and transformation.
They discuss how grief can lead to a deeper appreciation for life, a greater sense of empathy for others, and a renewed sense of purpose.
The book also touches on the importance of self-care during the grieving process.
The authors stress the importance of taking care of oneself physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
They suggest practices such as meditation, exercise, and spending time in nature to help cope with grief.
Overall, On Grief and Grieving is a compassionate and insightful exploration of the human experience of grief.
It offers comfort and guidance for those who are grieving and provides valuable insights for anyone looking to better understand and support those who are grieving.
3. It’s OK That You’re Not OK by Megan Devine
This is a powerful book about grief and how we can support those who are grieving.
Devine, a therapist and grief expert, shares her personal experiences on the subject and provides insights and guidance for those who are struggling to navigate their own grief or support others who are grieving.
One of my main takeaways from the book is that there is no “right” way to grieve.
Devine emphasizes that grief is a natural and normal response to loss, and that everyone grieves in their own way and at their own pace.
She encourages readers to allow themselves and others to feel their emotions, even if those emotions are messy, uncomfortable, or “unacceptable” by societal standards.
Another key message in the book is the importance of empathy and compassion in supporting those who are grieving.
💬 “Grief is visceral, not reasonable: the howling at the center of grief is raw and real. It is love in its most wild form.” ― Megan Devine
Devine urges readers to listen without judgment, to acknowledge the pain of the person who is grieving, and to resist the urge to offer platitudes or try to “fix” the situation.
She emphasizes that the best way to support someone who is grieving is to simply be there, to hold space for them, and to let them know that their pain is valid and real.
One aspect of the book that I found particularly helpful was Devine’s discussion of the “second loss” – the loss of support and connection that often comes after the initial shock of a death or other significant loss.
She writes about how friends and family members often disappear after the initial period of mourning, leaving the grieving person feeling isolated and alone.
Devine offers practical advice for those who want to support someone who is grieving in the long term, emphasizing the importance of checking in regularly, being patient and persistent, and acknowledging that grief is a lifelong process.
Overall, it’s a powerful and compassionate book – Devine’s personal stories and practical advice make the book both relatable and actionable, and her message of empathy and compassion is one that we can all benefit from.
4. Finding Meaning by David Kessler
Finding Meaning by David Kessler is a powerful and moving exploration of the human experience of grief and how it can lead to a profound sense of meaning and purpose in life.
As a grief expert and co-author of On Grief and Grieving with Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, this book adds a critical sixth stage to the grieving process outlined in the authors’ previous work.
The book begins by acknowledging the pain and confusion that often accompany grief, and Kessler emphasizes that there is no “right” way to grieve.
He urges readers to be patient with themselves and to allow themselves to inhabit their emotions fully, even if they’re uncomfortable or difficult to express.
He also highlights the importance of community and support in the grieving process, encouraging readers to seek out connections with others who can provide comfort and understanding.
💬 “When someone dies, the relationship doesn’t die with them.”
― David Kessler
Throughout the book, Kessler shares stories from his own life and from the lives of others who have experienced profound loss, and he draws on insights from psychology, spirituality, and philosophy to explore the ways in which grief can lead to personal growth and transformation.
He notes that grief can be a catalyst for a deeper sense of purpose and meaning in life, and that by facing our pain and finding ways to move through it, we can emerge with a greater sense of empathy, compassion, and connection to others.
One of my key takeaways from this book is the idea that grief is not something that we “get over” or “move on from,” but rather something that becomes a part of our ongoing journey through life.
Kessler encourages readers to view their grief as a teacher, a source of wisdom and insight that can help them navigate the challenges and uncertainties of life with greater resilience and clarity.
Overall, I found Finding Meaning to be a powerful and insightful book, which builds on the previous stages of grief and provides a compassionate and nuanced perspective on the topic.
5. Bearing the Unbearable by Joanne Cacciatore
This is a powerful and heartfelt book that explores the experience of grief and loss in all its complexity.
The author, a professor of social work and grief counselor, draws on her own personal experience of losing her daughter and the stories of her clients to offer guidance and support for those navigating the difficult journey of grief.
The book is structured around the author’s framework of the “Seven Sacred Attitudes”:
These, she believes, are essential for coping with loss and finding meaning in the midst of pain. Cacciatore delves deeply into each of these attitudes, offering insights and practical strategies for cultivating them in daily life.
What I appreciated most about this book is the author’s willingness to engage with the messy, complicated emotions of grief, and her insistence that the grieving process is not something that can be “fixed” or “cured,” but rather a lifelong journey of learning to live with the pain.
One of the key messages of the book is that grief is a normal and natural response to loss.
💬 “When we love deeply, we mourn deeply; extraordinary grief is an expression of extraordinary love. Grief and love mirror each other; one is not possible without the other.” ― Joanne Cacciatore
Cacciatore challenges the notion that loss is something to be overcome or conquered, instead, she encourages readers to lean into their pain and feel it fully.
At the same time, she also acknowledges the transformative power of the process, and the potential for growth and healing that can come from facing our pain and learning to live with it.
While the book is primarily focused on individual grief, Cacciatore also touches on the broader cultural and societal issues surrounding death and mourning, including the medicalization of grief and the lack of support for those who are grieving.
She advocates for a more compassionate and holistic approach to grief, one that honours the individuality of each person’s experience and provides support and resources for navigating the challenges of loss.
Overall, I found Bearing the Unbearable to be a deeply moving and insightful book, full of wisdom and compassion.
I highly recommend this book for its powerful message of hope, healing, and resilience in the face of even the most difficult losses.
- Grief is a natural and necessary process
- Therefore, do not supress your emotions
- There is no right way to grieve
- Be aware of the stages of grief
- Do not try to fix someone who is grieving
- Be there for them and keep checking in over the long term
- While incredibly painful, it is a part of life and one that can lead to growth and transformation
- Click here for my other best book recommendations.