This month I answer a request for books about parental loss. Plus, my list of books for all types of grief
I really recommend ‘the wild edge of sorrow’ by Frances weller whose a psychotherapist who provides grief work. There is a lot about the loss of community and shared practices around grieving. It also covers eco grief, unexpressed grief and so much more!
I really recommend With The End in Mind by Kathryn Mannix. I found it incredibly helpful to read after my Granny died. Kathryn worked as a palliative care nurse for 30 years, and this book is incredibly moving and helpful if you’re currently, or have ever, dealt with the loss of a loved one from terminal illness or old age. It encourages us to look at death without taboo or fear, and gives the reader advice on having open conversations with loved ones about inevitabilities that we’ll all at some stage face. A beautiful book.
I think The Reactor: A Book about Grief and Repair by Nick Blackburn is a great one. It’s - memoir about the loss of his dad but it’s written in this unusual, fractured way. It has a beautiful and a bit weird and talks a lot about bigger scale human connection in relation to grief and death. I think it’s a good read for someone who’s had a bit of time since their loss. I read it a year ago and still think about it so often!
May I also recommend Option B by Sheryl Sandberg and Second Half by Kelsey Chittick. Both deal with loss of a spouse but I think they are also a real insight into coping and living with the sudden death of someone you love which can be a complex element of grief.
THANK YOU everyone for your reccs, both in comments and on email.
I wanted to add to books on child loss:
Ask Me His Name by Elle Wright.
I’ll be updating this post soon to include your comments, so ppl can use it as a resource.
for loss of a child, blue nights by joan didion is about her relationship with her daughter and that loss, right after that of her husband. not as well known as the year of magical thinking but still written with her deft touch
I'd love to recommend Leigh Sales' Any Ordinary Day. Leigh is a highly-respected Australian journalist and her book examines people whose lives changed in an instant and how they coped. There are some amazing - and surprising - lessons for how people can support friends and family members going through really difficult and tragic times. It also looks at how the brain copes with trauma and grief, and how to handle unexpected blows in life.
One of the most moving parts of the book for me was the chapter about Walter Mikak. He lost his wife, Nanette and two daughters, Alannah and Madeline in the 1996 Port Arthur shooting. He tells Leigh, “There’s nothing anyone could say, no matter how badly it came out, that could be as bad as what’s already happened to you. So it’s much better for people to just let you know that they’re there to help, if you need it. For people to show that they’re still there is the most important thing.”
this is unrelated but i know you mentioned margaret atwood on the new episode of bookchat (listening rn, love it as always) and i've been meaning to read her for a while but don't know where to start with her canon (embarassing as a canadian). any recs? thanks in advance :))
Late to this conversation but I really recommend H is for Hawk by Helen McDonald for parental loss, especially fathers. And The Friend by Sigurd Nunez (loss of a friend).
Very late to this but just wanted to recommend Time Lived, Without Its Flow by Denise Riley. A very short and extraordinary book/essay on grief, written after her son’s death. I know two (separately) bereaved people who have kept it near at all times in the first few years.
The Year of Magical Thinking meant so much to me after my father died. I felt seen in a way that I wasn’t experiencing anywhere else in my life. Thanks for this list, Pandora!
Also, I have thought of another- Max Porter, Grief is the Thing With Feathers. Totally beautiful.
There are so many books on divorce and breakups (most of which I avoided) but I’d like to recommend Heartbreak - A Personal and Scientific Journey by Florence Williams. It was one of the only books I could stomach when the time was right and the scientific breakdowns intertwined with personal narrative were refreshing.
Thank you for this. I discovered The High Low in 2021 and have been making my way through the catalogue. I remember that episode!
I have lost both my parents and even though I've "experienced it", sometimes grief is difficult to navigate.
Adding to the list: Modern Loss: Candid Conversations about Grief. Beginners Welcome. By Rebecca Soffer and Gabrielle Birkner
And: How to Fix a Broken Heart by Guy Winch. This one is short and very digestible. Talks about more disenfranchised grief such as pet loss and breakups.