Losing a loved one, whether you knew it was coming or were completely blindsided by it, is never easy. Grief can feel huge, overwhelming, and very lonely. But you’re not alone. Grief is a very human experience, and many have taken their pain to paper. When you’re ready, here are a few books on grief that may provide comfort during a difficult time.
Books About Grieving After a Death
1. Surviving the Death of a Sibling: Living Through Grief When an Adult Brother or Sister Dies
T.J. Wray wasn’t prepared to lose her 43-year-old brother, but she really wasn’t prepared for how unacknowledged her feelings as a sibling were. The grief of a spouse, a child, or a parent is a more socially recognized loss, after all. Inspired to share her story, she wrote this book to give practical advice on grieving lost siblings and dealing with insensitive comments from others.
2. It’s OK That You’re Not OK: Meeting Grief and Loss in a Culture That Doesn’t Understand
“Grief is simply love in its most wild and painful form,” says Megan Devine. “It is a natural and sane response to loss.”
Too often, the journey of grief can focus too much on overcoming it, but that’s not why Devine wrote this book. She debunks the idea of returning to a “normal life” and instead encourages a life alongside grief. Through essays, personal anecdotes, and practical advice, this book is about shifting grief away from a problem to be solved to a natural response to be experienced.
3. Surviving the Holidays Without You: Navigating Grief During Special Seasons
The holidays are meant for family, and for those who have recently lost a loved one, it can be excruciating. Best-selling author and grief specialist Gary Roe uses his experience to address the very specific issues grievers face at the holidays; the memories of family, feeling misunderstood, lonely, and isolated, dealing with powerful expectations from others, and more.
Surviving the Holidays Without You is a guide to dealing with powerful and difficult emotions, processing those emotions, and navigating the holiday season without a loved one.
4. How To Go On Living When Someone You Love Dies
Losing someone is inevitable, but that doesn’t make it easy. This comprehensive guide gives advice and steps to dealing with the grief of losing someone, whether it was sudden or expected.
How to Go On Living teaches practical skills to those who have lost someone, like how to take care of themselves, address their grief, and plan funeral arrangements. There is no easy way around loss, but Dr. Rando hopes this book will help guide you through it.
5. Bearing the Unbearable: Love, Loss, and the Heartbreaking Path of Grief
Grief is overwhelming—even the thought of it can feel unbearable. Dr. Cacciatore, bereavement educator, researcher, Zen priest, and leading counselor in the field, isn’t trying to minimize grief; she wants you to honor it, to let it course through the way it needs to. Grieving is nonlinear, and often lasts much longer than people realize. A Foreword INDIES Award-Winner, Bearing the Unbearable’s short chapters are good for quick reads or read aloud for group sessions.
Books for Grieving Spouses
6. Heartbroken: Healing from the Loss of a Spouse
Another from grief specialist Gary Roe, Heartbroken is for those suffering the loss of a spouse. In Roe’s deeply personal and easy-to-read book, he takes widowers through the process of grieving a spouse, from managing the roller coaster of emotions, navigating current relationships in the light of loss, and finding necessary support.
Heartbroken is here to remind those who have lost a spouse that while you may feel lonely, you are not alone.
7. Traveling with Ghosts: A Memoir
Shannon Leone Fowler was backpacking with her fiance, Sean, in Thailand when a box jellyfish, one of the most deadly animals in the world, stung and killed Sean in minutes. The aftermath left Fowler shattered, and she sought to seek solace by traveling the world the way she had hoped to travel with her fiance.
Traveling with Ghosts is one woman’s journey of reflection, recovery, and solace after painful, sudden, loss.
8. Splitting the Difference: A Heart-Shaped Memoir
A series of events, including giving up her daughter for adoption at 18, losing her sibling to a car crash at 19, losing her husband at 34 to a sudden heart heart attack, and at 36, finding her now-teenaged daughter through Facebook, forced author and grief blogger Tre Miller Rodriguez to consider all the ways her life had lead her to this moment. Splitting the Difference is a portrait of loss, grief, and everything in between.
Memoirs & Stories About Grief & Loss
9. Reasons to Stay Alive
Matt Haig’s memoir on surviving his suicidal depression is an ode to grief’s most cliche catchphrase: Time heals. As he strove towards healing, inch by inch, he shares the lessons that got him through one of the darkest times in his life.
Reasons to Stay Alive is a quiet companion to those who feel decimated by their grief. If you’re unsure if you’ll ever stop feeling this awful, this book is for you.
10. The Beauty of What Remains: How Our Greatest Fear Becomes Our Greatest Gift
Based on one of his most beloved sermons, Rabbi Steve Leder faced grief head-on every day consoling members of his congregation. Still, he wasn’t prepared for the loss of his own father. Finding joy in life again, and realizing how unfathomable loss still makes room for incredible love.
The Beauty of What Remains is a hopeful and heartfelt look at what grief makes us realize: the beauty of life that still exists in the darkest of times.
11. The Comfort Book
Matt Haig offers a collection of stories from several years of his life that were initially created as reminders to his future self. “It will not be awful forever,” he writes. Even in the face of grief, remembering the little things that give us comfort is often how we survive. The result is a hopeful book that does not promise life to be without strife, but rather, is optimistic in spite of it.
Books on the Science of Grieving
12. The Other Side of Sadness: What the New Science of Bereavement Tells Us About Life After Loss
We talk about grieving in five stages; denial, anger, bargaining, the depression stage, and acceptance. We’re often just told to accept and endure, that this is the way grief works. Using research on bereavement across history, psychologist George Bonanno argues that recognizing how other emotions, including joy and relief, can help us process our grief. They may even help us form deeper connections with those around us.
13. The Truth About Grief: The Myth of Its Five Stages and the New Science of Loss
The myth of the five stages of grief is exactly that—a myth. Konigsberg explains that current research doesn’t support this theory at all. Humans, she argues, are surprisingly good at overcoming grief, and there’s no manual for grieving. If you have grief, you are grieving.
In The Truth About Grief, Konigsberg looks at how this myth shaped our cultural identity around grief, as well as how other cultures deal with the pain of losing a loved one. Throughout, one liberating message prevails: there is no wrong way to grieve.
14. The Other Side of Sadness: What the New Science of Bereavement Tells Us About Life After Loss
Psychologist and emotions expert George Bonanno’s book on the science of grief goes beyond just the five stages. It creates space for all emotions that come with grieving, including the ones we expect from those who have experienced loss. Research, anecdotes, and compassion come together in this book that argues all emotions are part of the grief process.
Books on Grieving a Sudden Loss
15. I Wasn’t Ready to Say Goodbye: Surviving, Coping and Healing After the Sudden Death of a Loved One
An exploration on sudden death and the devastating effects it can have, Noel and Blair’s book provides an anchor for those looking to recover and rebuild their lives after losing a loved one unexpectedly.
Having experienced sudden grief first hand, these authors debunk common myths around grief and offer advice on not only dealing with difficult situations that arise from losing someone, but also how to understand and comprehend your own pain.
16. When a Friend Dies: A Book for Teens About Grieving & Healing
No one is prepared to lose a friend, and for teenagers, the experience can be particularly devastating. This book answers questions teenagers might have about their grief, like how long will it last and what are they supposed to feel. It also addresses losing close friends versus acquaintances, as well as losing friends to violence or school shootings.
17. The Year of Magical Thinking
One of America’s most iconic writers tackles two close and sudden moments of tragedy in her life: her husband died of a sudden and fatal coronary. Three months later, her daughter, who previously was on life support after facing septic shock related to pneumonia, underwent a six hour surgery to relieve a massive hematoma.
The Year of Magical Thinking was Didion’s attempt to process the “weeks and then months that cut loose any fixed idea I ever had about death, about illness . . . about marriage and children and memory . . . about the shallowness of sanity, about life itself.”
Books on Grieving the Loss of a Child
18. Grieving Dads: To the Brink and Back
Author Kelly Farley wrote this book after his two children passed away. The fathers in this collection of stories are all part of “this terrible, terrible club,” that is universal as much as it is devastating. Some fathers fought their demons and found healing; others are still in the process. Discussing thoughts of suicide, homelessness, and self medication, its not for the faint of heart, but it may be worthwhile for those in similar positions.
Grieving Dads is at times gut-wrenching and despairing, but it’s also about surviving one of the most painful losses someone can experience.
19. Beyond Tears: Living After Losing a Child
Nine mothers share their stories of loss and grief after losing a child. They share what to expect in the first year and beyond, including how devastating trying to answer “How many children do you have” can be. Other stories tackle the difference between mothers and fathers grieving, how it affects surviving children, and how there is no simple answer to “why?”
20. A Thousand Pounds: Finding the Strength to Live and Love under the Weight of Unbearable Loss
Brianne Edwards shares how she lost her infant son, and the grief and difficult emotions that followed. Edward shares both her own story and research into the grief experience, including the physical symptoms of grief, the value of not ignoring difficult emotions, and understanding the long-term grief that will be with someone forever.
“When I was new in my grief,” Edwards explains, “I longed for the people who wouldn’t dance around the hardest stuff. I needed people who could meet me where I was, and I needed the light of others in those darkest places.”
“This book isn’t just for bereaved parents— it walks through the depths of grief and helps you to better understand the experience you or others have walked through. It is emotional, raw, and honest. It provides a glimpse into perspectives you may have never looked at before and offers tools to navigate the unthinkable losses you or those you know and love have experienced.” – Amazon review
21. Hope Springs from a Mother’s Broken Heart: 11 Mothers Share How They Survived the Loss of a Child
After Theresa Anthony lost her twenty-five-year-old son to suicide in 2013, she became a member of a club no woman would ever willingly join—she was now a grieving mother.
The devastating experience of losing a child, regardless of their age or cause of death, is one that can only be understood by another grieving mother. With the aid of her strong faith, Ms. Anthony has weathered this treacherous path and now hopes to use what she has learned to help other women. If you are a friend or family member of the grieving mother, this book will help you to better understand what she is going through.
22. The Unspeakable Loss: How Do You Live After a Child Dies?
Nisha Zenoff lost her son in a tragic accident when he was just seventeen years old. Now, with decades of experience as a grief counselor and psychotherapist, she offers support and guidance from her own journey and from others who have experienced the death of a child. The Unspeakable Loss helps those who mourn to face the urgent questions that accompany loss: “Will my tears ever stop?” “Who am I now without my child?” “How can I help my other children cope?” “I lost my only child, how do I live?” “Will my marriage survive?” “Will life ever feel worth living again?”
“The loss of a child provokes a grief unique in its depth and devastation. All that felt normal in a person’s life is destroyed. In the aftermath of this event, it’s almost impossible to think that one can ever experience happiness or joy again. Zenoff assures readers that they can embody the sweeter emotions again and even more. Toward the end of the book, she writes, “When grief breaks your heart open, it’s as if a powerful earthquake has rearranged the landscape around you. You cannot see the world in the same way again. Yet the grief journey through this altered, upturned world can eventually transform pain into a deeper appreciation of the mysteries of life and death, a sense of awe, a sense of purpose and of peace.” – Amazon Review
Children’s Books About Grief
23. The Sad Dragon: A Dragon Book About Grief and Loss
There’s a sad dragon who’s upset, angry, and heartbroken over the loss of a loved one. What do you do? How do you help him cope? This book teaches children about death, grieving, and how to comfort a friend dealing with emotions they may not have words for.
24. Caterpillars Can’t Talk: A Children’s Story About Love, Loss and Transformation
While walking in the woods, thinking about his recently deceased dad, a young boy named Andy meets a talking caterpillar named Clyde, who listens as Andy talks about how much he loved his dad and how much he misses him. This book is a tender, gentle way to teach children about loss, grief, and how our friends can make us feel better if we let them.
25. When Someone You Love Has Died: Talking to Young Children About Death
Written in rhyme, and using real language to describe real events, When Someone You Love Has Died is a picture book that gently walks children through a traditional experience they may encounter after the death of a loved one.
When Someone You Love Has Died validates your child’s observations and feelings, while also providing strategies to support their ability to cope and to grieve. At the end of the book is a special “Note to Parents” section that helps guide caregivers through these difficult conversations and experiences they may face with their child after a loved one has died.
26. Why Do I Feel So Sad? A Grief Book for Children
Why Do I Feel So Sad? is an inclusive, age-appropriate, illustrated kid’s book designed to help young children understand their own grief. The examples and beautiful illustrations are rooted in real life, exploring the truth of loss and change, while remaining comforting and hopeful.
Broad enough to encompass many forms of grief, this book reassures kids that they are not alone in their feelings and even suggests simple things they can do to feel better, like drawing, dancing, and talking to friends and family.
Finding a Therapist Who Can Help You With Grief
Grief is natural, like any other emotion. Still, you may want to speak with a therapist or mental health professional who can help you process and understand your grief. Finding a therapist may seem challenging, but an online directory can be a great place to start to find a therapist near you.
For Further Reading
- Listen to the best podcasts that talk about grieving
- Read our favorite Christian books on grief
- Books for Those Grieving a Parent
- Bible Verses for the Loss of a Parent
- See whether BetterHelp or Talkspace is the best place for you to start online therapy
- Look inward using the mindfulness and meditation apps Headspace and Calm
- Best Grief Books for Children