Universally experienced — and perhaps just as equally misunderstood — grief remains one of modern life’s greatest challenges. Thankfully, the movement towards sharing rather than privatizing sorrow has brought forward a wave of meaningful books on how to move through grief. Whether grieving yourself or looking to support a loved one, here are a few of our favorite books that offer support, resources and wisdom to readers navigating loss and grief.
The Wild Edge of Sorrow: Rituals of Renewal and the Sacred Work of Grief by Francis Weller
In this extraordinary guide to grief work, Weller challenges the ways in which our current culture fails those who are grieving, and reminds us that grief is communal — as well as a natural process that happens when we welcome, rather than avoid, the pain of loss. This essential book offers powerful tools, rituals and resources for transmuting grief into emotional maturity and a determination to live fully. Through intimate storytelling, lyrical poetry and insightful reflections, Weller skillfully navigates the connection between the depths of sorrow and the profound healing and gratitude on the other side.
Prayers of Honoring Grief by Pixie Lighthorse
In Pixie Lighthorse’s third installation to the Prayers of Honoring series, Lighthorse advocates for the power of acknowledging and honoring your feelings. In 28 beautifully written prayers, alongside thoughtful writing prompts and space to journal, she invites readers to face and express their grief fully, so that grief might be integrated and moved through the body. Her book can serve as a lifeline for people struggling with grief, compassionately guiding readers to accept death and loss as a natural, normal part of life and moving them towards the innate and embodied wisdom that grief can reveal.
It’s OK That You’re Not OK by Megan Devine
Through storytelling, research, practical tips and creative and mindfulness-based practices, Devine debunks the culturally prescribed goal of “returning to normal,” and instead invites readers to build a life alongside grief. Using gentle but direct guidance, along with her own experiences as a therapist and a woman who has experienced great loss, Devine writes with loving candor on the truths of loss and healing. Devine’s companion text, How to Carry What Can’t Be Fixed grief journal, provides space and tools for grieving people to tell their stories on their own terms and learn to live with what can’t be fixed.
The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
In The Year of Magical Thinking, Joan Didion takes readers through the year immediately following the loss of both her husband and daughter with visceral honesty and incredible vulnerability. Widely considered a great act of literary bravery, The Year of Magical Thinking chronicles Didion’s intensely personal yet universal experience of love, loss and the aftermath of great tragedy. In 2007, Didion adapted the book into a one-woman play performed by Vanessa Redgrave that is now available on Audible.
Grieving While Black by Breeshia Wade
Shifting the traditional narrative that grief only comes after death, Breeshia Wade presents a broader view of the widespread grief that affects all people living under systems of oppression, and points to the moral obligation of all people to tend to this grief on a larger scale. Sharing stories from her own life as a Black woman — as well as from the people she has midwifed through the end of life — she illustrates how grief work can help people find their way back to wholeness, while ultimately reimagining their relationship to power, accountability, boundaries and healing.
Crescendo by Amy Weiss
At once a poetic novel and poignant allegory, Crescendo offers readers a lyrical look at one woman’s grieving process following great loss. With musical theory, spiritual mysticism and vivid imagery sprinkled throughout her elegant prose, Weiss’ story will shift how readers look at life, love and what comes after.
Ida, Always by Caron Levis
Levis’ beautifully illustrated children’s book is a tender portrait of what happens when a loved one gets sick and doesn’t get better. It is the perfect initiation for a necessary and healing conversation with children who have experienced loss, as well as those looking to learn about death and illness. Based on a real friendship between two bears, and inspired by the ways children deal with grief and death, Ida, Always is one of the most profound books to offer a grieving child and their parents.
Momma, Can I Sleep with You Tonight? Helping Children Cope with the Impact of COVID-19 by Jenny Delacruz
Delacruz’s picture book for kids of all ages offers a compassionate and comprehensive look at how COVID-19 impacts the lives of children. Following a fictional story, Delacruz offers valuable real-world tools and resources that will help parents support their children. Her book is designed to explain difficult topics that the pandemic has surfaced without further leading children into distress.
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