Books On Death, Grief, and Mourning That Helped Me Heal

It may seem strange that I’m writing about this now, when spring is on its way, but I’m not actually writing about this from a sad place in my heart. It’s a poignant place, sure, but I’m not depressed – in large part thanks to these three books. Grief is a difficult and confusing journey, but these three books have helped me more than words can say. (I’ll try to say some words anyway.)

First and foremost, I’d like to thank Things I’m Seeing Without You by Peter Bognanni. In turns heartwarming, gut-wrenching, and hilarious, the path of a young woman’s grief is mapped through journeys both internal and external. When main character Tess’ long-distance boyfriend commits suicide, she wrestles with a lot of emotions I recognized. Her father’s alternative funeral business opened my eyes to non-traditional funeral options, and I found healing talking to a friend who is in the Order of the Good Death. I found this was the first book I connected with in the past few years that I thought really GOT IT – it’s understanding, understated, and underestimated. (And it really is funny. It seems unlikely, but trust me. It really is)

The second book on the list is The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X. R. Pan. I actually loved this book so much because I felt like my entire soul connected with it – not just the parts about loss and grieving, but the parts about being a young artist as well. Memories, mystery, and magic collide. I don’t want to say too much about the plot because I don’t want to give it away, but… just trust me on this one. Read it.

The third book was the most recent, and definitely the most challenging to read. Not because of the cast of 166 characters – although that in itself was a feat – but because it opened a lot of me up. There was one line in particular that made me cry: “He was not perfect; he was, remember, a little boy. Could be wild, naughty, overwrought. He was a boy. However–it must be said–he was quite a good boy.” The book is, of course, Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders. Based on conjecture that Lincoln returned to his recently-deceased son’s crypt a number of times, Saunders’ novel takes place over the course of a single night, told from points of view of ghosts and the living alike.

Of course, there is no ‘perfect book’ for grief. There’s no ‘perfect book’ for any given situation. But these books helped me deal with a great tragedy in my life, and I hope they’d help you too.

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