Grief and loss take you by surprise: One minute you are sobbing and the next you are laughing through tears when you recall a funny memory. Grief can take your breath away with gut-wrenching sorrow, and it can also make you cherish the great moments you shared with a loved one. Grief is messy and different for everyone who experiences it. The amount of time that has passed doesn’t necessarily indicate how much you’ve healed.
To help you navigate the path of loss, here are some of the best books to comfort you through your grief.
1. Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy
By Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant
Only in her mid-40s, Sheryl Sandberg faced the unimaginable. The COO of Facebook and author of the best-seller Lean In, Sheryl found her husband, Silicon Valley executive Dave Goldberg, suddenly dead during a vacation in Mexico. After the shocking loss, she would then have to face her children, her demanding job and her own seemingly bottomless 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 with psychologist and Wharton professor Adam Grant, Ph.D., Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy, shows how the capacity of the human spirit can help you to persevere and rediscover joy even after facing tremendous pain and loss.
Inspiring words: “When we realize that negative events don’t mean ‘everything is awful forever’ it makes us less depressed and more able to cope.”
2. The Year of Magical Thinking
By Joan Didion
Joan Didion and John Gregory Dunne were married and worked side-by-side as writers for 40 years. In 2003, John died from a massive heart attack at the same time the couple’s only daughter, Quintana, lay unconscious in a nearby hospital suffering from pneumonia and septic shock. Her husband’s death propelled Joan into a state she calls “magical thinking,” where she expected her husband to return and “need his shoes.” The Year of Magical Thinking is a memoir of her mourning, as she attempts to make sense of her grief, while tending to the severe illness of her daughter.
Inspiring words: “Life changes in the instant. The ordinary instant.”
After losing her 12-year-old daughter in a car accident, psychology professor Lucy Hone had to figure out a way forward with her sorrow. Resilient Grieving combines her bereavement research with positive psychology to show the human capacity for growth after traumatic loss. Calling “resilient grieving” an innate ability, her book details the ways possible to move through grief and discover how to live a more deeply engaged and meaningful life.
Inspiring words: “The death of someone we hold dear may be inevitable; being paralyzed by our grief is not.”
4. 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, Ph.D.
Called a book of solace, I Wasn’t Ready to Say Goodbye is like a companion to walk you through your grief after unimaginable loss—the kind of book you can turn to again and again. Authors Brook Noel and Pamela Blair, PhD., write about unique circumstances of loss such as suicide and homicide, as well as different grieving styles and myths and misunderstandings about grief. Discover how to get through the pain of losing someone and begin to rebuild your life.
Inspiring words: “A heartache no one can heal, love leaves a memory no one can steal.”
5. A Grief Observed
By C.S. Lewis
“The death of a beloved is an amputation,” wrote author C.S. Lewis after losing his wife, Joy Gresham, to cancer. A Grief Observed, which inspired the movie Shadowlands, is his raw account of grief so strong it caused a man of stalwart faith to question the universe. He wrote, “…[grief] feels like being mildly drunk, or concussed. There is a sort of invisible blanket between the world and me. I find it hard to take in what anyone says. Or perhaps, hard to want to take it in. It is so uninteresting. Yet I want the others to be about me. I dread the moments when the house is empty. If only they would talk to one another and not to me.”
Inspiring words: “Grief is like a long valley, a winding valley where any bend may reveal a totally new landscape.”
6. On Grief and Grieving: Finding the Meaning of Grief Through the Five Stages of Loss
By Elisabeth Kubler Ross and David Kessler
Influential psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’s groundbreaking book, On Death and Dying, turned into a national discussion about grief and its five stages. Before her death in 2004, she and David Kessler wrote On Grief and Grieving, which examines the experience of grief. On Grief and Grieving explores how the process of grieving helps us live with loss, including the authors own experiences, practical wisdom and case studies. It delves into sadness, hauntings, dreams, isolation and healing.
Inspiring words: “The reality is that you will grieve forever. You will not ‘get over’ the loss of a loved one; you will learn to live with it. You will heal, and you will rebuild yourself around the loss you have suffered. You will be whole again but you will never be the same. Nor should you be the same nor would you want to.”
A hospice chaplain and grief specialist, Gary Roe helps provide comfort to those facing the devastating loss of a loved one. His book is filled with tips on how to manage the ups and downs of grief. Learn how to navigate all the changes after a loss of a spouse or significant other, and face the future with hope again. If you want to feel understood, and like you aren’t alone, read this book. You also will find suggestions for helping people you love deal with grief.
Inspiring words: “You are far from alone, you’re not crazy, and that you will make it through this.”
8. When Bad Things Happen to Good People
By Harold S. Kushner
Harold Kushner was a young rabbi when he learned that his 3-year-old son was facing a fatal illness. This grim diagnosis sent Harold on a lifelong quest to examine how God could let good people suffer. He shares how he merged his religious faith with the fear, questions and doubts in this classic book, which has become a resource for others facing similar tragedy. It includes Harold's own experience, plus stories from people he’s helped throughout his career.
Inspiring words: “I wanted to write a book that could be given to the person who has been hurt by life—by death, by illness or injury, by rejection or disappointment—and who knows in his heart that if there is justice in the world, he deserved better.”
9. When Things Fall Apart
By Pema Chodron
When Things Fall Apart is a collection of Buddhist nun Pema Chodron’s wisdom on dealing with grief, illness, fear and more. In the beloved classic, she advises those who are suffering to move toward the pain instead of running away from it. She believes that embracing the negative situation or emotion will help readers find ways to cope and, ultimately, heal. The book weaves in Buddhist wisdom and practical advice throughout to target a variety of life situations. “The trick is to keep exploring and not bail out, even when we find out that something is not what we thought. That’s what we’re going to discover again and again and again.”
Inspiring words: “Usually we think that brave people have no fear. The truth is they are intimate with fear.”
Sandra Bilbray is a contributing editor for Live Happy, and the CEO and owner of themediaconcierge.net.