Grief, by nature, is a lonely emotion. But you don’t have to battle with it alone. Loss is a human experience and those with recent losses find comfort in kinship and community. If you or someone you know has experienced a recent loss, books on grief could be helpful in overcoming the worst of your suffering.
Below is a curated list of autobiographical memoirs which share deeply honest and truly heart-breaking accounts of loss, isolation, illness and the uncertainty following the death of a loved one. In addition to these gritty accounts of emotional trauma, there are uplifting lessons in overcoming grief, battling guilt, redirecting your life, and holding on to faith in times of hopelessness.
Barefoot to Avalon
After witnessing the horrific death of his younger brother in a car accident, David Payne’s life began a downward spiral into alcoholism, depression and isolation. His marriage, career and children suffered as his brother’s death continued to haunt him for several years after the incident. His only escape was immortalizing his relationship with his brother from childhood into adulthood in this fiercely honest fever-dream memoir that deals with familial love and loss, and the hard-won wisdom that came from facing grievous adversity.
Related: 5 Moving Books on Death
Let's Be Real
A sudden heart attack ripped 22-year-old Emily Dalton’s father from her life. With every sense of happiness gone, so too did her faith die with him. This memoir offers a gritty insight into her struggle to process emotional trauma, learn to relate to God again, and trust herself enough to let people into the chaos that became her life once more. Reframed stories offer genuine lessons on overcoming the pressure to remain positive and holding onto the brief that faith has to be real.
The Iceberg is a plain-spoken retelling of the two years leading up to the death of the Marion Coutts' husband from a brain tumor. The fierce prose cuts deeply as she grapples with the fragility of life and indiscriminateness of disease.
Coutts conveys the intolerability of her two-year-old developing language while his father’s disappears. She compellingly crafts a memoir that is an uplifting yet devastating exploration of grief. And she successfully captures the haunting experience of human existence in this exquisite and compelling work of art.
The death of her sister drove Avery’s mother to madness, and drove her father out of her life. Her friends and neighbours offered no comfort, keeping their distance for their own survival. A life of loss engrained itself into Avery’s full being, haunting her past, and dictating her future. Unfortunately, Avery’s acquired family consisting of her partner, Davis, his daughter and grandparents isn’t impervious to her childhood grief. When Avery loses her and Davis’ newborn, that deep but familiar sense of loss is triggered, leading to the creation of this powerful meditation on grief and loss.
In a world where there are no easy answers, the question of death can seem unbearable. When newlywed Olivia’s husband is killed by a drunk driver, she is completely lost. Their plans to move to start a family and live their happy lives together are abruptly cut off. One day, Olivia encounters a pregnant teenager looking for a safe-haven for herself and her baby. Desperate to assuage her grief through human connection, Olivia takes the girl in. Through this unexpected friendship, Olivia once more begins to find direction, and even finds a way to help a troubled teen and start her family all at once.
Say Her Name
A promising marriage between two successful writers is cut short by the death of Aura Estrada. Desperate to keep Aura alive, her widower, Francisco Goldman, pours his heart and unspeakable grief out within the pages of this tragic novel. Through examining the writings his love left behind, Goldman paints a vivid and multifaceted portrait of Aura’s life, and the brief time they spent together. He offers a tribute to who Aura Estrada was, and who she would have been in an intimate autobiography which reveals the joy and heartbreak of love and loss with an aching vibrancy.
Related: 7 Books to Help You Deal with Trauma
Do Not Go Gentle
Ann Hood was prepared to work a miracle if that’s what was necessary to save her father from lung cancer. Her quest to save his life and make sense of his illness results in a reawakening of her self. She connects with her Italian Catholic heritage, and, through trial and desperation, recollects her family's story.
Ann’s spiritual journey is told in a strong, yet exceptionally graceful voice and breathtakingly explores the link between faith and family ties as she is reminded of who she truly is: her father’s daughter.
The Year of Magical Thinking
This powerful book is Didion's attempt to make sense of 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."
First, her only daughter falls into complete septic shock and must be placed on life support in an induced coma. Days later, after visiting her at the hospital, Didion’s husband dies from a massive coronary. A month later, her daughter wakes up, only to collapse two months later due to a brain hematoma. Anyone who has ever loved a spouse or child will find electric honesty in this intensely personal account Didion shares as her mind becomes clouded with grief.
Keep Reading: The Best Self Help Books That Will Change Your Life
This post is sponsored by Open Road Media. Thank you for supporting our partners, who make it possible for Early Bird Books to celebrate the ebooks you love.
Featured photo: Jude Beck / Unsplash