Grief is not only the deep sorrow we feel when a loved one dies, it’s our reaction to all our losses, big and small on an every day basis. A rejected submission, leaving a city you lived in, things not turning out the way you expected them to, heartbreak, sadness in the face of the climate crisis, losing your favorite tupperware (don’t laugh! that tupperware and I went way back and had travelled the world together!).
In a culture where life goes ever faster, grief is also not a linear process that peaks and then winds down and disappears forever. We’d like it to be over and done with, but it often comes back at unexpected moments, when hearing a song, traveling somewhere, finding yourself wanting to turn to that person who is no longer there for advice…
Over the years I’ve read some great books about grief that helped me feel less alone, in very dark times after losing close family members I loved, and also in more banal moments when feeling sadness about the way things were going, and the struggle with burnout. The books mentionned below are like a light shining on a path that many before me have wandered and helped give me tools to make my way by reducing the struggle and allowing the emotions.
Broken Open – Elisabeth Lesser
Subtitled ‘How Difficult Times Can Help Us Grow’, I turn to this book often as it is truly comforting, a sort of map through the dark forest of tough times to the other side. I love learning from other people’s stories and this book is full of all sorts of anecdotes and wisdom. I highly recommend it, whatever is going on in your life.
On Grief and Grieving – Elisabeth Kubler-Ross & David Kessler
This book is written by two doctors who worked alongside of people who were dying. With many short examples it runs through the different stages of grief around death and giving examples of things that may be felt and the way others
The Year of Magical Thinking – Joan Didion
I read this book many years ago, and I will never forget it’s amazingly beautiful title. It’s based on Joan Didion’s own experience. I don’t remember the details but rather the atmosphere, the brutal honesty of life after loss, of the absurdity and necessity of going on, the magical daily moments that make up life.
Glad No Matter What – SARK
SARK’s books are not necessarily for everyone, but I really enjoy her colourful handwritten style. I am inspired by how she challenges the reader to reframe things and I love the serendipitous stories she shares about people she encounters. At the same time, she is real about how she feels and the need to allow ourselves to pass through layers of grief. She also shares many resources at the end of each chapter, so there is much more to dive into.
And if you are more into podcasts, in this amazing interview Elizabeth Gilbert talks about grief after her partner passed away. The whole recording is fascinating, but skip to 44mn for her beautiful description of grief.