Good (Grief) Reads

It's no secret that I love to read.  Here's a list of websites I frequented and books I read in the early (and later) months of my grief that made things a little bit easier.  I would love for you to comment and share what websites/blogs/books helped you.


Faces of Loss, Faces of Hope
I'm proud to be on the team posting for this website. It's a collection of stories from parents who have endured pregnancy or infant loss. We encourage bereaved parents to submit their stories and make comments on posts in order to share their experience and to connect with others on a similar timeline or who have gone through similar circumstances. The website is searchable so you can see out stories that match your own, or people in your state, or who had a loss in the same year.

Glow in the Woods
This website was the first online community I found after Eliza died and it's no exaggeration to say that it saved my life. The kindness and companionship I found there were true lifelines in the darkest hours of my grief. There are beautiful posts put up on a regular basis, but the discussion posts were also very helpful, even in the very beginning when I could only lurk. I remember finally posting a question, "When will I stop crying every single day?" and getting such compassionate and honest responses. (It's different for everyone--but I cried every single day for a year.)

Still Standing
This online magazine is a wonderful resource for bereaved parents and covers a variety of topics related to babyloss and infertility.

Pregnancy After Loss Support
The title of this is pretty self-explanatory, and PALS offers guidance for the kind of emotional roller coaster that is grief + fear + hope.

Healing After Loss: Daily Meditations for Working Through Grief by Martha Whitmore Hickman
This book's author lost her sixteen-year-old daughter to a horseback riding accident. The book she has compiled is a year's worth of thoughts and reflections that are broad enough to address the loss of a child, a spouse, a parent, or another loved one. Some are spiritual (without being overtly or specifically religious) and some are just focused on getting through the day. Although the book is organized from January 1 to December 31, there's no linear order, which I really appreciated, since grief itself is far from linear. This book is one I give to almost everyone who asks for a recommendation--even if the person isn't a reader, the short entries offer comfort and understanding in difficult times.

When Bad Things Happen to Good People by Harold Kushner
My therapist recommended this book to be--I had heard of it before but wasn't sure if it would be cheesy or lame. It's wonderful. The author is a Jewish rabbi and a bereaved father whose son struggled with illness before he died young. The book offers a religious and educated theory on why terrible things happen (hint: it's NOT because you deserve it!). I found it enormously helpful and comforting.

Unexpected Goodbye: When Your Baby Dies by Angela Rodman
This lovely e-book was written by a friend who was just ahead of me on the baby-loss timeline. Her letter to parents was one of the first things I read that gave me hope. She's just a real person and mama who happens to be a talented writer and who offers her perspective on getting through the horrible reality of losing your baby.

Empty Cradle, Broken Heart: Surviving the Death of Your Baby by Deborah L. Davis
I was given many books with heartbreaking titles like this. I remember one friend gave me a memoir and was like, "I couldn't bring myself to read this, but I wanted you to have it." She meant well, but it was like a slap in the face. You couldn't bring yourself to READ about the reality that I have to freaking wake up and live with every day? Anyway, the truth is that there were some books I dreaded reading, and for some reason this was one of them. I didn't WANT to learn how to survive the death of my baby. But I did read this book, and it's one that I reread several months later. It is full of wise and practical counsel. I can't remember who gave it to us (I think one of David's co-workers) but I am grateful.

The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin
This is not a book for the early days (because the premise is that a privileged white woman realizes she's not appreciative or happy enough given everything she has, so she challenges herself to be happier). I actually read it about eight months out, though, because I was desperate to be happier, and Rubin offers really specific and pragmatic things to do: Make your bed. Organize your closet. Exercise. I skipped the chapter on parenting (obviously) but used the book as a kind of literal guide for just trying to squeeze a little bit of enjoyment out of some really bleak days, and I did find it useful.

An Exact Replica of a Figment of My Imagination by Elizabeth McCracken
Oh, this book. Yes. I've purchased multiple copies of this book. I gave one to two of my best friends in the very early days because McCracken seemed to say everything I wanted them to know but couldn't say out loud myself. I read it three times in the first year. I gave my copy to another bereaved mama whose baby was stillborn a year and a half after Eliza. I think Elizabeth McCracken is a gifted writer, and her story of loving and losing her baby is still the quintessential book on stillbirth as far as I'm concerned.

Resilience by Elizabeth Edwards
The story of the death of her son in a car accident, her battle with breast cancer, and her husband's infidelity. Elizabeth Edwards handles the trifecta of shittiness with grace, wisdom, and humor. I wish I could have met her--I think she's remarkable. I will say that her book made me wonder if I was doing enough to honor Eliza (I certainly don't have a technology wing in a high school named after her) but I really appreciated the way she writes about the online community of bereaved parents whose friendship helped sustain her after Wade died. I can totally relate. I liked Saving Graces, too.

The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
This is the memoir of losing her husband. Obviously not the same thing, but same song different verse, you know? Her description of being in a kind of stunned stupor, of thinking and believing (even just momentarily) irrational things that she desperately wanted to be true, I could connect to all of it. It helped me to read about her experience, and I actually felt more of a connection with this book than with her book Blue Nights which recounts the death of her daughter. It's beautifully written.

A Grief Observed by C. S. Lewis
This book is brief but full of everything. I kept a grief journal of quotations and I was constantly writing down sentences from this book as I read it. C. S. Lewis is a Christian, but his writing here is raw and full of the same kind of doubt and desperation that I feel/felt when it comes to life and death and theology.

Comfort: A Journey Through Grief by Ann Hood
This book describes how her family coped with the sudden and unexpected death of her daughter Grace, and also her journey to adopt another child (a baby girl from China). I remember especially how she recalls the very different ways she and her husband handled their grief (he was more extroverted, she because more of an introvert).

The Long Goodbye: A Memoir by Meghan O'Rourke
O'Rourke divides this book into two sections. One is the story of her mother's battle with cancer, and the other is a reflection on grief itself. I read both with great interest, though of course it was with the more general thoughts about grief that I really connected. It's weird the way that reading about someone else coming to terms with their grief helps you understand your own process a bit more. Also I e-mailed O'Rourke to tell her how much I appreciated her book and she wrote me back!

Rare Bird: A Memoir of Loss and Love by Anna Whiston-Donaldson
Anna Whiston-Donaldson is also a blogger, and but I found her book before I found her blog. She writes about the death of her son Jack (a tragic drowning accident). Her book is uplifting and honest and my favorite thing about it is that she manages to explain how her religious faith brought her genuine comfort without proselytizing or making it seem like a solution for everyone. She also acknowledges that no matter how much faith she has (and she's honest about her own doubts, too), it doesn't actually diminish or lessen her grief. She's just a mom desperately missing her boy, and trying to make sense of a world without him in it. It's just a wonderful book.

Three Minus One: Stories of Parents' Love and Loss edited by Brooke Warner and Sean Hanish
This book is a compilation of different kinds of writing--mostly essays and poems. This is one that could be helpful in the very early days because the writings are short so you can just read a bit at a time and you get so many different perspectives, so there should be something that almost everyone can relate to. And yes, my own essay (a revised and polished version of this blog post) is included, and I'm proud of that.

Anne's House of Dreams by L. M. Montgomery
My beloved Anne of Green Gables has a baby who dies in this book. I wrote about it here, and that blog entry is how my friend Sonja found me. Obviously we are kindred spirits.

Harry Potter by J. K. Rowling (especially books 4-7)
I was a huge Harry Potter fan anyway, but young adult novels are great to read when you're grieving because they are often about kids who are dealing with the really big issues of life with very little preparation. Harry Potter is all about life and death, and while it's a fantasy escape from reality, it's also a meditation on how the people we love are not so far away from us, even in death.

Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear
Maisie Dobbs is a private investigator in post-WWI London, but she is so much more than that. She worked as an ambulance driver in the war, so she's carrying her own burdens of trauma and pain. The book series doesn't flinch away from the issues of PTSD, but each one is also an intriguing mystery. It's a whole series (read them in order because they progress chronologically). I love the historical aspects, too. And the books are also interested in the way social systems of class sort of start to fall apart after the war, which is both exciting and unsettling for England. Really good reads.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
The book's huge popularity kind of speaks for itself, but it's also awesome to read when life is so terrible. Because life is also not so great when all kids ages 12-18 have to participate in a "reaping" lottery and then go battle to the death on reality TV. After ending up on the slim slide of statistics, I also appreciate the irony of "May the odds be ever in your favor"--something I'd often mutter to myself when a health care provider would comment on how unlikely it was for something to go wrong in my second pregnancy. Of course you have to read all three books in the trilogy--and it's the end of the very last book that I found especially resonated with me, since it addresses specifically how you begin to move forward with life when it has been traumatic and disappointing.

Tear Soup (a children's book) by Pat Schweibert
I recently read this book to Zuzu and appreciated it all over again. It's about a woman named Grandy who has a loss that means she has to make tear soup, and about what that process is like, and who shows up for it, and who doesn't. She talks to her grandson at one point about tear soup, and reminds him about his baby brother who died and how much soup his mom had to make when that happened. It's really about the long process of making soup, the fact that many friends don't want to eat it with you, and that you still have to take it out of the freezer every now and then. The metaphor gets a little extended, but I really like the message the recipe for healing after loss takes a very long time, and that real friends let you take as long as you need to (like forever).

I haven't yet read the poetry collection To Linger On Hot Coals by Stephanie Paige Cole and Catherine Bayly, but I have it on my wish list. Are there other books you would add to this list?