Your 2015 Summer Grief Reading List

Summertime and reading often go hand-in-hand. While it might be a good time for some escapist novel, adding to your knowledge bases, or a good old cathartic cry might be just what you’re looking for this summer. To help inspire your, we collected some of the books our Christi Center team find inspiring, helpful, or resonant.

Erin, Program Manager:

Helping Bereaved Children: A Handbook for Practitioners, edited by Nancy Boyd Webb – Even though this book is written for those working with grieving children, it’s accessible and a great all around text for those who many come into contact with those children, like parents or teachers

Why is God Laughing: The Path to Joy and Spiritual Optimism by Deepak Choprawhy is god laughing

A slightly irreverent, sarcastic and funny look at how to not only be okay with the obstacles we face in life, but how to grow from them.

Transcending Loss: Understanding the Lifelong Impact of Grief and How to Make It Meaningful by Ashley Davis Prend, ACSW – Making meaning in grief and how to grow into your “new normal”

The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion – A clear and unflinching account of the changes, sometimes minute by minute, that can happen as we journey through grief.

How to Go On Living When Someone You Love Dies by Therese A. Rando, PhD – a primer on what to expect from grief, the effects of grief and potential triggers.  While written by a clinician, the language is easily accessible and thorough.

Life After Death: The Burden of Proof by Deepak Chopra – A blend of current science and Chopra’s signature way of writing about spirituality.


Kellie, Intern:the book of lost things

Wild by Cheryl Strayed – Author’s recollections of the lengths we will go to go find ourselves after loss.

The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly – A young adult novel about mourning, not only of a loved one, but mourning the life we no longer have.


Olivia, Finance Assistant:

The Loss That Is Forever by Maxine Harris is a book containing stories from 66 interviewees conducted by the author.  The sample interviewees all were self-selected and had one thing in common; they had all lost a parent in childhood, (0 -18 years of age).  While the group of interviewees was in no way a scientific sampling, the author did an excellent job compiling and documenting pertinent information gathered from the interviews and focusing the book on the lifelong impact of losing a parent in childhood.  The idea that this is an experience that will stay with someone for a lifetime is thoroughly explored and captured in this book, through chapters about the actual event itself, the surviving parent, creating the self, adult milestones (relationships, parenting), mortality, and acts of repair.


Susan, volunteer:

Kay Redfield Jamison, Nothing was the Same: a Memoir. Non-Fiction. Read in the first two years of the loss of my husband. She is the premier authority on bi-polar disorder, herself bi-polar, and she wrote a wonderful book on suicide called Night Falls Fast: Understanding Suicide. It was interesting in the distinctions she made between grief and depression. And, she tried so hard to find comfort in literature, ritual and writing.

year of magical thinkingJoan Didion, The Year of Magical Thinking. Brutally honest at how bad this famous writer felt, all the misgivings about self-pity, and yet an understanding of how the loss of a soul mate can totally knock you down.  Read it in the 2nd year of widowhood. Non-Fiction.

Hannah Coulter by Wendell Berry. Fiction. Read in 4th year of widowhood, and found amazingly healing. The wisdom of this book cannot be underestimated. Widowed twice, Hannah goes on with such honesty and insight. I think it an extremely healing book, but I am not sure it could have been so healing for me in the beginning.

Best grief articles I have read are:

Mark Epstein, “The Trauma of Being Alive”, New York Times, August 3, 2013. Buddhist psychologist, who says that you just don’t get over it.

Ashley Davis Bush, “Grief Intelligence: A Primer”.  She has also written a book, Transcending Loss, which I have not read. States there is no timetable for grief, one is changed, but one can transcend it in touching others.


Christi, Peer Support & Kids Who Kare Coordinator:

Stitches: A Handbook on Meaning, Hope and Repair, by Anne Lamott. Anne Lamott, one of my favorite authors, writes about real stuff for real people! This book poses the question, how do we stitch back the fabric of our lives after it has been shredded by catastrophe? In her unique style of down to earth humor and witty wisdom, she explores how we find meaning in dark times, how we recapture spiritual wholeness after loss… stitch at a time.

Continuing Bonds, by Dennis Klass.  Though written by a prominent researcher  in the field of bereavement, this book is written for the lay person….for anyone who has experienced a loss and finds it unnaturally difficult to simply “let go”.  It quietly questions previously dominant models of grief, and suggests that instead of detaching from our deceased loved ones, it may be more healing to find healthy ways to continue a relationship with them, as other cultures often do.

healing into life and death coverHealing into Life and Death, by Steven Levine.  Steven Levine’s writings have long been a shining light to me in the dark nights of my soul.  He and his wife have worked closely throughout past decades with Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, as well as Ram Dass and many others who have left valuable footprints in the field of death and dying, and the field of spirituality and consciousness. This book offers original ways of bringing in loving kindness to ourselves while working with our pain.

When Children Grieve, by John James, Russell Friedman, and Leslie Landon Matthews.  This book offers adults innovative ways of helping children with experiences with loss. Leslie Landon is the late Michael Landon’s daughter.


Lara, Director of Community Engagement:

Kitchen, by Banana Yoshimoto. I read this many, many years ago, but the depiction of a relationship between 3 people brought together after a loss really stood out to me, especially the emptiness and aimlessness of the days after the lead character’s most recent loss (and final familial connection.

Naked, by David Sedaris. After spending most of this collection of short stories describing humorous anecdotes from his youth, Sedaris’s last story describes the illness and death of his mother, while never losing the humor, a lot of love and grief is presented. Sedaris also describes the aftermath of his youngest sister’s suicide in this New Yorker article: “Now We Are Five”, and comparing Sedaris’ responses to the two deaths are interesting for their similarities and differences.

after visiting friendsAfter Visiting Friends, by Michael Hainey. Full disclosure: I’m currently reading this, but I’m gripped by the way Hainey describes the secrets surrounding his father’s death when he was just 6 years old, and how healing it has been for his family to unravel those secrets. I really love how Hainey is able to articulate the feelings of a young child after loss:

After he died, silence descends. Silence and fear. My twin poles: my binary black holes. I live in fearof upsetting my mother, of even uttering my father’s name. I believe that even by saying his name, I might kill her. Or she might kill me.


Alice, volunteer:

I remember really liking A Grief Observed by C. S. Lewis because of its raw honesty.


Cathy, Crime Victim’s Advocate:

Good Grief by Granger E. Westberg is for the person who is limited in concentration, this one is a step-by-step walk-through of grief. The easiest tool for someone who is having a hard concentration block. It’s a layman’s book for grief, and this short book ends on a positive note.

We’d love to hear your suggestions—what book or books that deal with grief have resonated with you? Have you read any of these? What did you think? Please share in the comments below!

4 thoughts on “Your 2015 Summer Grief Reading List”

  1. About Grief – Insights, Setbacks, Grace Notes, Taboos, by Ron Marasco and Brian Shuff. My all-round favorite, and I’ve read a lot of them. It’s a different kind of book and hard to describe. As the authors say: “There are no doves on the cover”. Also: “Grief is weight”.

    The Beginner’s Goodbye, by Anne Tyler. A *very nice* novel.

    The Art of Losing – Poems of Grief & Healing, edited by Kevin Young. Some real gems in this one, if you’re at all into that kind of thing.

    A Grief Observed, by C.S. Lewis. A classic and justifiably so.

  2. Emily Jane Steinberg

    Rosalie Lightning, by Tom Hart. It is a graphic novel about the loss of his young daughter, and it is beautiful and heart-wrenching and healing in so many ways. And because it is so visual, it is full of things that words cannot say alone.

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