For anyone experiencing grief, books can provide a helpful way to work through difficult thoughts, feelings and emotions. Whether you are looking to learn more about your grief and learn practical tools to support you, want to escape in a novel, or hear about other people’s experiences of loss, books can help to remind you that you are not alone.
In our latest blog we’ve presented some of the best books on grief, including memoirs, self-help guides, novels, children’s books and poetry. This is by no means an extensive list, but provides a good starting point for anyone wanting to explore their grief through literature.
1. The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
The Year of Magical Thinking is a personal account of death and grief by acclaimed American writer Joan Didion. It explores the unexpected death of her husband, along with the hospitalisation of her daughter, and Didion’s attempts to make sense of what happened. It is a personal account of her thoughts, feelings and experiences, and is beautifully written, powerful and honest depiction of loss.
2. Grief is the Thing with Feathers by Max Porter
This book has received global critical acclaim for its portrayal of a widower and his two young boys as they come to terms with the loss of a wife and mother. It’s part novel, part fable, part poetry, in which grief is represented as a crow that joins the family and won’t leave. This short book is a deeply affecting story about the gaping hole left behind when someone dies.
3. It’s OK That You’re Not OK: Meeting Grief and Loss in a Culture That Doesn’t Understand by Megan Devine
Written by a therapist who lost her husband in a tragic accident, the premise of this book is to find meaningful ways to live with your grief. She debunks the idea that grief is something to be fixed, and instead encourages readers to build a life alongside grief. This is an insightful book that will also help anyone looking to support a grieving loved one or friend.
4. The Madness of Grief by Reverend: A Memoir of Love and Loss by Reverend Richard Coles
This book is a memoir from Reverend Richard Coles, following the death of his partner, David, in 2019. In this book Coles discusses the more unexpected parts of grief, and covers everything from navigating all the ‘sadmin’ to the bigger questions on life, death, illness and loss. It’s a book that will resonate with many (no matter your faith or beliefs).
5. Languages of Loss and A Grief Companion by Sasha Bates
Sasha Bates is a psychotherapist who has written several books on grief. Her first book, Languages of Loss, follows a conversation between her grieving self and her therapist self, following the loss of her husband. Her second book, A Grief Companion, follows on from that by presenting practical and supportive suggestions for anyone experiencing a loss.
6. A Grief Observed by C S Lewis
This has become a timeless classic and one of the best-known books covering the subject of grief. Best known for The Chronicles of Narnia, this time C S Lewis has presented a transcript of his journal following the death of his wife. The book follows his experiences through the different stages of grief – shock, denial, anger, despair, and eventually acceptance as he comes to terms with what has happened.
7. Loss by Donna Ashworth
Many people find that reading (and writing) poetry is an effective way to cope with grief, and poetry has the ability to evoke a powerful feeling or emotion in the moment. This book is written by Sunday Times best-seller, Donna Ashworth, and provides a comforting series of poems on life, loss and love. Ultimately this book reminds you that you aren’t alone, and aims to provide a glimpse of light following the death of a loved one.
Books for children and teenagers (and adults too)
8. Badger’s Parting Gifts by Susan Varley
Written in 1984, Badger’s Parting Gifts follows the story of a badger who is going to die and does his best to prepare his friends. When he dies, his friends remember special memories and things he taught them through life. It’s a sensitively written and beautiful story that has supported countless families over the years, and remains one of the most popular books for helping younger bereaved children.
9. Sad Book by Michael Rosen
This book chronicles Rosen’s grief following the death of his son, and follows the ways he tries to piece together a meaningful existence day-by-day. It is both desperately sad and uplifting at the same time, and Quentin Blake’s illustrations reflect this. Just as suitable for adults as it is for children, this book covers some difficult topics and may spark questions and conversations with your child.
10. You Will Be OK: Find Strength, Stay Hopeful and Get to Grips with Grief by Julie Stokes
Written by the founder of the childhood bereavement charity, Winston’s Wish, You Will Be Ok is a guide for bereaved older children and teenagers. Stokes is a clinical psychologist and the book combines stories about how others have coped with grief, alongside helpful suggestions and ideas to aid a young person on their grief journey. It’s an honest, comforting and strength-building guide that may also prove helpful for parents.