Andi Cumbo - Writer, Editor, Online Writing Courses, Classes & Lessons

Books on Loss and Grief – My Top Ten

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I’ve learned a lot about grief over the past few years – about the way it can bowl you over like a boulder and shimmy up trees of activity only to land on your shoulder in the middle of a silly movie about college admissions.  I’ve learned it comes with lost relationships and damaging ones and most of all when people we love travel on without us.   So today, I give you my top ten books that deal with grief. la-ca-jc-emily-rapp-20130317-001

1.The Long Goodbye by Meghan O’Rourke – More than any book I’ve read, this one helped me face the truth of my mom’s death. You can read more of my thoughts about the book here.

2. The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion – The book taught me the term “magical thinking,” and I realized just how much I’ve done it over every major loss in my life – and I’m okay with that. Also, this book helped me understand my father’s grief more as I watched Didion grieve her spouse.

3. A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis – C.S. Lewis has long been my go-to writer to help me understand and to remind myself that I am not the only one in this place. This book does that as Lewis grieves his wife, Joy.

4. Crazy Aunt Purl’s Drunk, Divorced, and Covered in Cat Hair: The True-Life Misadventures of a 30-Something Who Learned to Knit After He Split by Laurie Perry – Grief is not one of those things many people talk about when it comes to divorce, but it is something almost all people who survived divorce feel. This book gave me laughter and camaraderie at a time when I most needed it.

5. Crazy Aunt Purl’s Drunk, Divorced, and Covered in Cat Hair: The True-Life Misadventures of a 30-Something Who Learned to Knit After He Split by Laurie Perry – I’ve been drawn to Hope’s book for over ten years, ever since I studied with her in grad school. But I didn’t want to read it then – I had lived my whole adult life with the fear I would be motherless. Since I am now, maybe it’s time I pick this one up.

6. Let’s Take the Long Way Home: A Memoir of Friendship by Gail Caldwell – I started reading this book just before Mom was diagnosed. I stopped when a friend told me that “now isn’t the time.” I loved her for that, and I loved this book almost as much for its depiction of friendships and the way they hold us together and break us apart.

7. The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein – The story here – of the protagonist and his dog, of illness and aging, of growth and moving forward if not on – all from the perspective of a pup, well, I loved it. Truth told with love from a new perspective is always welcome.

8. The Still Point of the Turning World by Emily Rapp – When a woman I’ve met and who is dearly loved by many of the people I dearly love found out her only son would die long before he even reached school-age, I could not imagine the pain of his life or his death for her. But I also didn’t imagine her joy. This book captures both.

9. Bodies in Motion and at Rest: On Metaphor and Mortality by Thomas Lynch – I read this book as a collection of essays, and so I loved it before I had much real grief to live with. But then, when grief tumbled in, I remembered the book and lines like “The dead don’t care.” one of Lynch’s central insights from the book, gave me comfort and freedom in the smallest but most important of ways.

10. This last book I don’t know the name of. I read it when I was about 11, and it was one of those children’s chapter books with the colored border around a painting on the cover.  Know the ones I’m talking about? The book told the story of a young girl whose mother was dying of cancer.  I’ve never been able to find the title or author, but that book, more than an any other, spoke my story then and now – a girl-woman who just misses her mom.

Today would have been my mother’s 66th birthday.

What books that deal with loss and grief would you recommend?

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Author: Andi

I am a writer, editor, and writing teacher whose most recent book, The Slaves Have Names, tells the story of the people who were enslaved on the plantation where I was raised. When I'm not working, my husband and I are working to make our small farm - God's Whisper Farm - a retreat here at the edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains.