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6 Books for a Grieving Friend

Joao Silas_UpSplash_Grief Books

When supporting our loved ones through grief and loss, we very much want to give them something to take the pain away. Our cultural norms for sympathy gifts for are flowers, food, and cards. We are usually scared to offend the bereaved by giving the “wrong” thing or upsetting them more, so often times we don’t give more than the food and flower regimen.

 This post gives you permission to step out of our cultural grief comfort zone and give something that may support your loved one’s healing process. Validation, understanding, and grief science can be really comforting in a time of uncertainty and change, and oftentimes a well written book can make a big difference.

There is something profoundly comforting about understanding your own grief. When I was in the very first months after my mother’s death, I questioned everything I did and felt:

 What is “normal”? Is something wrong with me? How long should I feel like this?

One day I was browsing in a book store and stumbled upon a small little book called First Steps Through Bereavement. I cried with relief right there in the store as I read through the chapters about what to expect, physical symptoms, and validation for everything I’d been feeling.Over time I found more literature and helpful videos about grief that gave me peace in my own healing process.

Reading during grief can be tricky, though. Most of the time the bereaved are exhausted, disconnected, and have a hard time focusing. I would recommend giving short, easy to read books in the early stages of grief, and save the longer reads for later on in the grief process. 

This list is split between “early grief” and “later in grief” so that you may give a friend reading material that better supports where they are in their grief journey. Remember that everyone’s healing process is different, and these books and timelines are suggestions, not rules.  

Early Grief:

First Steps Through Bereavement

First Steps Through Bereavement: 

This little book from a UK author has quick chapters, comforting antidotes, and easy to read explanations of symptoms and things to expect. It also leaves a lot of space to understand and find peace in the griever’s unique experience.   

Healing Grief Card Deck

Healing Grief Card Deck: 

Sometimes a book might even feel like too much in the beginning. This card deck is split into three parts: Your Response to Loss, Understanding Grief, and Healing which all have short thoughts or mantras for the day. This doesn’t require much time or focus, but gives grief the attention and understanding it very much needs in the early days. 

Healing The Adult Child's Heart

Healing The Adult Child’s Grieving Heart: 

A series by Dr. Alan Wolfelt that is broken down into easy-to-read, short chapters with different ideas and instructions for a grieving person. The other books in Wolfelt’s series include “Healing a Spouse’s Grieving Heart”, “Healing Your Grieving Heart for Teens” and “Healing The Adult Sibling’s Grieving Heart.”                               

Later Grief     

                                                                        It's Ok To Laugh It’s Ok to Laugh and Crying is Cool Too: 


Nora McInerny’s book will have you laughing and crying all in the same chapter. Her poignant and humorous look at her own grief allows the reader freedom to see their grief from in a different light. Uplifting, heartbreaking, and incredibly validating, this is a powerful read for anyone who has experienced loss.                                                 

When Things Fall Apart

When Things Fall Apart: 

Pema Chodron uses her experience as a Buddhist monk to help the reader process, heal, and accept what has happened in their life. She uses tools of mindfulness and meditation to bring attention to our most intense and shared human emotions, helping the reader feel both validated and supported in their experience.       

                                                               It's Ok That You're Not Ok                                                             

 It’s Ok That You’re Not Ok: 

This is great support for a friend who has been hard on themselves about when they “should” feel better or worried they have been in grief “too long.” Author Megan Devine gives honest validation about our culture’s speedy grief expectations and how to come to peace with those around you who may not understand your experience.

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