While everyone’s grief journey is unique, I’ve discovered that educating myself about grief has helped me better understand my own process. Learning about the psychology of grief and trauma, reading other people’s stories of loss, healing and growth, and exploring various coping strategies has helped me begin to moveTHRU my own loss. Below are some of my favorite books that have helped me. Drop any of your favorites in the comments!
PICK #1: The Choice
This is my number one book recommendation for anyone facing a tragic loss — and it’s not even a specific “grief” book. What Dr. Edith Eger’s story did was give me was hope! She taught me how to shift from a victim mindset of why me? — to a survivor mindset of what now? In her memoir she accounts the horrors of Auschwitz, how she survived and overcame severe trauma for years following, and the went on to help and heal others. Her story made a profound impact on how I coped with my personal loss and taught me the valuable lesson that struggle is universal, but victimhood is not. Despite how devastating and dire our external circumstances might be, we can seek freedom in our minds. As long as we have choices, we have power and are never trapped by circumstance!
PICK #2: On Grief & Grieving
I read this book one year after my husband died, and wish I had read it sooner. This book walks you through the five stages of loss, which have been misinterpreted and misused over the years since Elisabeth Kübler-Ross first introduced them in 1969. However, her colleague David Kessler explains that the five stages were never intended to be linear, to put grief into “pretty boxes,” or to over generalize people’s grief. He admits that grief is messy and that people experience the stages at different times. What learning about the stages did for me, however, was validate the intense emotions and feelings that I had experienced over the course of a year. By normalizing my grief, I was able to understand my emotions, stop judging myself for feeling certain ways, and ultimately seek meaning from my loss.
PICK #3: Option B
This book is not just for widows, but for anyone facing loss or hardship! Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook and author of Lean In, lost her husband about 10 years ago to a sudden cardiac arrhythmia during vacation. She teams up with psychologist Adam Grant, to provided data-driven evidence and practical tips on how to build resiliency and find joy in the face of adversity. Sheryl also created optionb.org — a website rich with resources on overcoming adversity including support groups and articles, videos and stories on building resiliency. Check it out and learn how we can help those suffering in silence.
This book has been instrumental in finding peace in the permanence of loss. It helped me understanding that most events in life are ultimately meaningless, but we as humans give them meaning. It taught me that I can choose a meaning that adds to my suffering, or one that empowers me to move forward. I would highly recommend this book for anyone on their grief journey, as it brought me tremendous peace and comfort knowing that I could still connect with Ian by keeping his memory alive and finding ways to honor his legacy — and give meaning to his loss.
PICK #5: Hot Young Widows Club
Nora McInerny lost her husband, father and unborn baby all in the same year. Can you imagine? Probably not. I watched her Ted Talk shortly after Ian died and it gave me the reassurance that I can still move forward with my life and keep Ian very much a part of it. She is a witty writer, moving speaker and reluctant founder of the Hot Young Widows Club — an online support group for anyone who has lost a significant other. I joined and while I don’t participate in the conversation very often, it’s been helpful to read about other people’s grief journeys — finding comfort in our similarities and appreciating our differences. While the online support group is closed to widows and widowers, you can read some of the stories on their public Instagram Page. They are heartbreaking, beautiful and truly inspirational.
PICK #6: No Happy Endings
Another resource from Nora McInerny! No Happy Endings is Nora’s personal memoir documenting her grief journey. She writes about navigating the trauma of death, single parenting, filling the void, feminism, dating and eventually falling in love, re-marrying and having another child. She is raw, funny and relatable. This book helped me because it validated a lot the feelings and thoughts that I was too afraid to share with friends or family. Nora’s personal experience with grief gave me the permission to feel and do exactly what I needed to do (and still do to this day!).
PICK #7: Healthy Healing
Michelle Steinke-Baumgard (aka One Fit Widow) explains how she hit rock bottom after her husband died in a tragic plane crash and how exercise saved her. Not only does she share her personal story of using fitness as her main coping mechanism, but also provide scientific explanation for why exercise is so effective in helping us handle grief, nutritional tips, and common misconceptions about grief. The second part of her book provides a 12-week healthy healing program to help grievers incorporate exercise and healthy eating into their grief journey. I honestly only read the first half of this book because exercise is already such a huge part of my life (teaching spin and barre, and attending yoga and yoga sculpt classes daily). However, I really enjoyed learning about the science behind exercise and healing.
PICK #8: The Invisible String
Of all of the children’s books I’ve read on grief and loss, The Invisible String has been my favorite! We started reading this to my three-year-old, Izzy, when Ian started getting really sick, just to introduce the idea of loss. The story explains how even though we might not be able to physically be with a loved one — whether they be deceased or just at the grocery store — we are always connected by an invisible string of love. Izzy and I would draw the invisible string with our hands and send kisses to daddy when he was in the hospital — or even now that he is gone. This book provides a very tangible tool and storyline to help children feel connected to their loved ones, even after death.
Check back for more of my favorite grief books as my list continues to grow!