Grief is a complicated process and often unpredictable. Whether it’s been a few weeks or several years, the loss of a loved one can feel as painful as if it happened just yesterday. According to the five stages of grief, the pain associated with a loss still lingers within us even after we’ve accepted the tragedy.
On top of that, expressing our feelings about loss can be just as difficult. While there is no right or wrong way to grieve, there are many ways you can cope with that lingering “why.”
Sometimes, reading about loss resonates with our own personal experiences, serving as a powerful source for hope and healing. Other times, we read to remind ourselves we aren’t alone and other people have made it through similar experiences.
To help you cope with the loss of a loved one, we’ve rounded up some of the best books on grief.
1.“Grief Is the Thing with Feathers”
By Max Porter
In Grief Is the Thing with Feathers, Max Porter tells the story of a recently widowed father, his two young sons, and ‘Crow’, who is the embodiment of their grief. This self-described "sentimental bird" finds humans dull except in grief— it threatens to stay with the wounded family until they no longer need him.
This book on grief concisely captures many of the difficult and painful emotions felt while grieving.
Grief Is the Thing with Feathers: $12.59
2.“The Iceberg: A Memoir”
By Marion Coutts
In her memoir, Marion Coutts details an 18-month period with her art critic husband, Tom Lubbock, as he’s diagnosed with a brain tumor and eventually passes away.
This book on grief is honest and brave—Coutts doesn’t shy away from the difficulty and pain of watching a loved one slip away from her.
Independent on Sunday even wrote, “The most heartbreaking memoir of the year.”
The Iceberg: A Memoir: $13.72
3.“The Year of Magical Thinking”
By Joan Didion
One of America’s most iconic writers, Joan Didion, suffered two tragedies in 2003: First her daughter fell into a coma, then her husband suffered a fatal heart attack just a few days later.
The chapters of this book on grief follow the year after her husband’s sudden death as Joan attempts to reconcile her ‘magical thinking’ with what has actually happened.
This national bestseller explores an intensely personal yet universal experience: marriage and life—in good times and bad—that will speak to anyone who has ever loved a husband, wife, partner or child.
The Year of Magical Thinking: $9.95
4. "Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy"
By Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant
After the shocking loss of her husband, Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer, Sheryl Sandberg, tells the story of how she was forced to face her children and job, while dealing with crippling grief.
“We all live some form of Option B,” Sheryl writes. This version of her life—without the love of her life by her side—became Sheryl’s Option B.
Co-written by psychologist Adam Grant, PhD, this book shows how the human spirit can help you persevere and rediscover joy even after facing loss and pain.
5. "When Bad Things Happen to Good People"
By Harold S. Kushner
Harold Kushner was a young rabbi when he learned that his three-year-old son was facing a fatal illness. This diagnosis sent Harold on a lifelong quest to examine how God could let good people suffer.
In When Bad Things Happen to Good People, Kushner explains how he merged his religious faith with his fear, questions and doubts at a time of overwhelming grief.
6. "On Grief and Grieving: Finding the Meaning of Grief Through the Five States of Loss"
By Elizabeth Kluber Ross and David Kessler
Influential psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’s book, On Death and Dying, turned into a national discussion about the five stages of grief.
Before her death in 2004, she and David Kessler wrote On Grief and Giving, which examines how the grieving process helps us live with loss and includes the author’s own experiences, wisdom and case studies.
>>> Related Post: The 5 Stages of Grief: What's Normal and How to Cope
7. "When Breath Becomes Air"
By Paul Kalanithi
Thirty-six-year-old neurosurgeon Paul Kalanithi was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. He was a doctor treating the terminally ill, then suddenly became a patient struggling to live himself. When Breath Becomes Air tells the story of Kalanithi’s personal transformation as he was forced to cope with confronting his own mortality.
When Breath Becomes Air: $12.99
8. "Bearing the Unbearable"
By Dr. Joanne Cacciatore
Dr. Joanne Cacciatore, a bereavement educator and researcher, reveals moving stories of her encounters with grief after decades of supporting individuals, families and communities.
Bearing the Unbearable explains how life’s trials and tribulations have the power to reveal how grief can open our hearts to connection, compassion and the very essence of our shared humanity.
Bearing the Unbearable: $10.84
9. "It’s OK That You’re Not OK"
By Megan Devine
In It’s OK That You’re Not OK, Megan Devine offers a 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 a woman experiencing her own grief―Megan writes with deep insight about the unspoken truths of loss, love and healing.
It’s OK That You’re Not OK: $11.52
10. "Grief Day by Day: Simple Practices and Daily Guidance for Living with Loss"
By Jan Warner
In Grief Day by Day, Jan Warner draws on her own experience with grief in hopes to help others. Instead of offering a solution to grief, this book offers guidance to help you create a life in which peace and gratitude can coexist with your grief.
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There are many other ways to cope with loss aside from reading. For more support and information to help you through the stages of grief as well as the memorialization process, subscribe to our monthly newsletter, The Turning Stone.