7+ Best Books for Managing Grief
There's no one right way to experience grief, and understanding and working through our emotions after losing someone can be incredibly difficult.
While even reading a few pages may feel impossible immediately after losing someone you care about, many people find that, over time, reading helps them better understand their grief and their path forward.
If you're looking for resources to help you confront and work through your grief, here are 10 many others have found helpful.
1. Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience and Finding Joy by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant
Co-written by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg after losing her husband, Option B combines personal stories with psychology research, proposing that resilience (especially in the face of loss and grief) is a muscle that can be developed. She also addresses key ways that companies, and society as a whole, can help people better manage their grief. As a result, it’s also a great read for anyone trying to help a friend who has lost someone.
2. When Bad Things Happen to Good People by Harold S. Kushner
Originally published in 1981 by a Jewish rabbi, When Bad Things Happen to Good People both withstands the test of time and transcends religions to help many people trying to better understand the nature of loss. Rabbi Kushner tells the story of losing his teenage son, working through his own personal struggle with grief, and extending that to help others experiencing grief over the years. He also explains his religious journey to answer the question of why God would allow bad things to happen to good people -- and interesting read and perspective whether or not you’re Jewish and whether or not you believe in a god.
3. I Wasn't Ready to Say Goodbye: Surviving, Coping, and Healing After the Sudden Death of a Loved One by Brook Noel and Pamela D. Blair
While both authors of I Wasn’t Ready to Say Goodbye experienced the sudden loss of a loved one, the book goes well beyond their individual experiences. They speak practically about common effects of grief at various points in time, facing grief caused by varying types of loss, and how different types of individuals often experience grief (and how to help them). They also outline various ways to work through grief, including specific exercises.
4. It’s OK That You’re Not OK: Meeting Grief and Loss in a Culture that Doesn't Understand by Megan Devine
In It’s OK That You’re Not OK, Megan Devine is able to tackle the subject of managing grief from two sides: both as a woman who lost her fiance to a drowning accident and as a therapist who has helped many others face and live with their own grief. The book takes the stance that grief isn’t something to be fixed, but instead, to be lived with. It focuses on recognizing the impact that grief has on your life, accepting that impact, and continuing to live with grief as a part of your life.
5. Dream New Dreams: Reimagining my Life After Loss by Jai Pausch
Dream New Dreams shares the counter perspective to Randy Pausch’s, The Last Lecture, written by a Carnegie Mellon professor diagnosed with terminal cancer. In Dream New Dreams, Randy’s wife Jai shares her experiences coping with her husband’s illness and terminal diagnosis, trying to maintain stability for her family and facing life on her own after his death. The book is personal, honest and raw. It’s contains helpful insight on its own, but is especially powerful after reading the The Last Lecture.
6. Dead People Suck: A Guide for Survivors of the Newly Departed by Laurie Kilmartin
If you’re in need of a lighter change of pace, Dead People Suck may be for you. In the book, comedian Laurie Kilmartin puts a humorous spin on her experiences with losing her dad to cancer and her advice to others. For some, humor can be a great way to cope; for others, this book may feel too raw or flippant.
7. Staring at the Sun: Overcoming the Terror of Death by Irvin D. Yalom
While Staring at the Sun addresses grief less directly than the books mentioned above, it addresses something that many of us face after the death of a loved one: fear of our own death. Psychiatrist and author Dr. Yalom leverages real world examples from his own practice to discuss death anxiety and outline practical ways to help reduce it. Many readers say they finished the book with a greater appreciation of life.
8. The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
This heart wrenching book describes a time of unimaginable loss and grief as Joan attempts to deal with her daughter, Quintana, suffering from a serious illness. Joan's daughter is placed on life support after a medically induced coma. Not a week later, her husband of forty years, John Gregory Dunne, suffers a fatal heart attack while they're out at dinner. Joan writes about her attempt to navigate her loss, the difficulty that comes with caring for their daughter alone, her marriage, her children, and her attempt to remain sane throughout.
9. How To Go On Living When Someone You Love Dies by Therese A. Rando
In this book, Therese A. Rando guides readers on surviving in their own life after suffering a loss. This book helps those who have suffered a sudden loss or one that they were "prepared" for to talk to others about death, take care of themselves, accept and embrace support from others, and navigate difficult anniversaries and holidays without their loved one present.
10. The Invisible String by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff
Talking about death is uncomfortable for most people, but knowing how to talk about it with children can be extremely difficult for some. The Invisible String helps parents connect with their children who have lost someone through the use of illustrations. It can help parents who may be struggling with talking with their kids about grief and what the connection between them and others means when it comes to death.