On Grief and Grieving

By Skokie Staff Advisory Services

Grief at losing a loved one is an emotion that we all experience at some point or another. Grief is never easy and can be overwhelming. Here are some books that explore how people have navigated death, as well as titles to help people find their own path and make sense of the extreme emotions that accompany loss.

  • In Love: A Memoir of Love and Loss

    2022 by Bloom, Amy

    After being diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, Brian and his wife Amy come to the difficult decision to go to Dignitas, an organization that supports physician-assisted suicide. I was surprised by how sweet and gentle this memoir was. Bloom's insights on love, death, and grief were honest and thoughtful. Suggested by Elise.

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  • The Light of the World: A Memoir

    2015 by Alexander, Elizabeth

    Upon the unexpected and sudden death of her 49-year-old husband, poet Elizabeth Alexander wrote this memoir of their 15 years together. Infused with the beautiful poetic writing she is known for, this is an aching personal story of love and loss that will help others experiencing their own loss. Suggested by Lynnanne.

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  • Finding Meaning: The Sixth Stage of Grief

    2019 by Kessler, David

    Kessler cowrote On Grief and Grieving about the five stages of grief with Kübler-Ross, and this is a continuation of that work. He has experienced profound grief and speaks from experience as well as lifelong study. I found this book very helpful in dealing with my own grief. Suggested by Becca.

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  • Wave

    2013 by Deraniyagala, Sonali

    Written in the aftermath of the 2004 Sri Lankan tsunami that claimed her husband, sons, and parents, this brief memoir was a work of painstaking catharsis for Sonali Deraniyagala. It is a work trying to make sense of the unfathomable, and of ultimately finding a way to give love and attention to the memory of her family. Suggested by Chris.

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  • Grief Is Love: Living with Loss

    2022 by Lee, Marisa Renee

    The author reflects on her mother’s illness and death, and its painful impact. Writing from deep experience and with compassion, she suggests making room for your grief, honoring your loss, and embracing the love you felt for the person while they were alive. “A humanizing exploration of coping with the life-changing tides of loss”--Kirkus Reviews. Suggested by Sharon.

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  • H Is for Hawk

    2014 by Macdonald, Helen

    Macdonald details the process of unpacking the grief of losing her father in this thoughtful and incredibly moving memoir. She is very honest about the nonlinear nature of healing, and her determination to start her journey through raising a goshawk is inspirational. Suggested by Amber.

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  • Crying in H Mart: A Memoir

    2021 by Zauner, Michelle

    Tender and, at many times, heart-wrenching, this book is about dealing with grief and exploring or discovering culture. Michelle Zauner's writing is raw but lyrical, and through her story, we are reminded of how our relationships with loved ones can change over time. Suggested by Paul.

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  • Notes on Grief

    2021 by Adichie, Chimamanda Ngozi

    The author reflects on her father’s remarkable life and her own grieving process to deal with her loss. Kirkus Reviews raves, "An elegant, moving contribution to the literature of death and dying." Suggested by Rummanah.

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  • Grief Works: Stories of Life, Death, and Surviving

    2018 by Samuel, Julia

    This book shares optimism, advice, and compassion for those who are grieving by a psychotherapist with a 25-year practice as a grief counselor to those who have experienced the process and have found healing. Suggested by Becca.

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  • The Year of Magical Thinking

    2005 by Didion, Joan

    Joan Didion processes her grief and trauma surrounding her husband's sudden death and her daughter's life-threatening illness in this unflinching memoir. It is honest and vulnerable, yet caters to the analytical mind. Suggested by Elise.

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  • The Long Goodbye

    2011 by O'Rourke, Meghan

    After her mother died after living with and being treated for colorectal cancer, poet and journalist Meghan O'Rourke details her grief, anguish, and loss. I read this book not long after my own mother died and found comfort and tears (so many tears) as the author's journey echoed my own. Suggested by Lynnanne

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  • Grief Is the Thing with Feathers

    2016 by Porter, Max

    An experimental book of prose, a work of poetry, an acute meditation on grief, a work of magical realism with a talking black crow. All that, and yet a book fully present to how the living must endure loss and reshape themselves in the process. An elegant, uncanny book I return to in awe and with gratitude. Suggested by Chris.

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  • When Breath Becomes Air

    2016 by Kalanithi, Paul

    As Kirkus stated, "A neurosurgeon with a passion for literature tragically finds his perfect subject after his diagnosis of terminal lung cancer. Writing isn't brain surgery, but it's rare when someone adept at the latter is also so accomplished at the former." This title was on many of the best/most notable book lists when it came out, and people still turn to it today. Suggested by Becca.

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  • The Bright Hour: A Memoir of Living and Dying

    2017 by Riggs, Nina

    If you are looking for a book in the spirit of When Breath Becomes Air, this is your next read. Nina Riggs is a descendant of Emerson, so she focuses on finding meaning in the life you have. Kirkus calls this memoir "A luminous, heartbreaking symphony of wit, wisdom, pain, parenting, and perseverance against insurmountable odds." Suggested by Becca.

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  • A Matter of Death and Life

    2021 by Yalom, Irvin D.

    A memoir coauthored by a couple who were married for 65 years as they reflect on love, companionship, mortality, loyalty, and loss. The writing itself is an exploration of grief and coping, as it was started when Marilyn Yalom was diagnosed with cancer, and completed after her death. It is hopeful, reflective, and tender. Suggested by Elise.

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  • A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius

    2001 by Eggers, Dave

    Dave Eggers won the Pulitzer Prize for this memoir of the death of both parents and his guardianship of his eight-year-old brother after their death. Funny and, yes, heartbreaking, his unique voice is captivating and so very honest in detailing how he went on in the aftermath of staggering loss. Suggested by Lynnanne.

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  • The Grieving Brain: The Surprising Science of How We Learn From Love and Loss

    2022 by O'Connor, Mary-Frances

    A different look at grieving - this time focusing on the impact of grief on our brains through storytelling, accessible science, and practical knowledge to help readers understand what happens in our brains when we are grieving and how to navigate the loss we've experienced. Suggested by Becca.

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