These are some books we’ve read so far. No book is going to solve the problem, but they do help a person to realize that he/she is not going crazy. Many of our feelings and pain have been validated by reading about the grief of other parents in our horrible situation.
The Adventures of Caterpillar Jones.
By JJ Brothers
This a great book for pre-teens. There are no pictures so young children will lose interest but for pre-teens who are dealing with a grief issue this book will give them comfort and hope. It is a story of a young caterpillar CJ and his life long friend Sammy. There story touches on all stages of the life process including facing the death of a loved one, one’s own mortality and the possibility of something beyond the body. It is well written, easy to read and has enough tales to let the imagination make it’s own pictures. It can be enjoyed and discussed as a family.
After Death, How People Around the World Map the Journey After Life
by Sukie Miller, PhD with Suzanne Lipsett
This is an easy-to-read book that has incorporated many beliefs, religions, philosophies and ideas from around the world on what happens when we die.
From her research she gleans four major stages that most cultures beliefs fit into, although with a wide variety of differences in each stage. The four stages are labeled
Stage I: Waiting: Which includes a range of experiences in which the recently deceased adjusts (or doesn’t adjust) to not having a body.
Stage II: Judgment: Which incorporates many beliefs and ideas about how one’s life on earth is accounted for after their life on earth is over.
Stage III: Possibilities: Explores what kind of existence varying cultures believe we experience in spirit form.
Stage IV: Return: Explores the belief in re-incarnation and the many forms it
Takes in different cultures through out the world and the history of humankind. She gives many examples of how she has used the exploration of the afterlife to
help those she has worked through who are facing death. She also explores what she calls “vital imagination” which is a experiential experience of an altered reality
which may be our closest connection to the spirit world. Although interesting this book does not touch the grieving heart. It may be useful for those exploring the philosophy of death and dying. The idea of vital imagination and its hope to connect us to those no longer living in their bodies was promising, and that seemed worthwhile to explore.
Against the Dying of the Light. A Father’s Journey through Loss.
By Leonard Fein
In this exploration of heartbreak and healing this author tries to answer some hard questions and continue life after the death of his 30 year old daughter. This is one of the most moving accounts we’ve read on this topic. This was originally a borrowed book but was so engrossing each page was underlined. The author is able to put into words what is in many bereaved parents heart. The dismay, disbelief, how life changes and continues to change over time, the desire to honor and stay connected are all touched on very eloquently. The author writes from a Jewish perspective, but does not believe in an after life. Yet he aches to keep his daughter alive and finds ways in the traditions of family. I found it very interesting to learn about all the traditions in the Jewish faith that help families stay connected to their loved ones.
Andy’s Mountain, A journey through grief.
By Dwight L Patton
A father’s brief account of his 17-year-old’s illness and death from cancer. This author focuses much of the book on his inability to face the seriousness of his son’s condition and of the grief process. He did not allow himself to grieve much until 10 years after the event when he found Compassionate Friends. He talks a lot about the lonely path many men take in this situation and especially reaches out to those who believe they don’t need support. Each chapter is short but full of experiences most grieving parents can relate to. In addition, he outlines many of the tools available to help in grief including counseling, group support, books and the internet. It is easy reading and is good, especially good for those who feel they have to go it alone.
Awakening From Grief: Finding the Road Back to Joy
By John E, Welshons
In this book author John Welshons speaks from his personal experience and work with those who are dying. He touches on all types of loss. His ideas give permission to grief and to being present with those who are dying. It is a generalist approach ,so if you need to hear only about your situation you may not be satisfied. I think it is good to read after you have been along the “yoga of loss” journey for a while and can appreciate his advise. It is a great book for professionals who want a better insight into working with grieving and dying people. “The gifts we give ourselves” chapter is full of ways to be in grief that allow for expression and reawakening to life. It is sensitively written with many stories that warm the heart.
The Bereaved Parent
By Harriet Sarnoff Schiff
This is a good book for understanding the impact of the death of a child on the family. It can help those outside to understand the complex experience of this type of loss.
Book of Meditations
By Sister Wendy
The book is a beautiful collection of photos and simple thoughtful meditation on life. It is not a leaded meditation but personal and visual journey into your own soul. .It is warm, inspirational and deeply moving in a very subtle way.
A Broken Heart Still Beats, After Your Child Dies
By Anne McCracken & Mary Semel
This is a collection of personal stories from famous people and literature (movies and books) that deal with varying aspects of the death of a child or children. Both authors lost a child. Neither believes in a spiritual afterlife or the presence of God. Their research of this literature offers a different perspective than most that take a spiritual or religious view. A social worker and a journalist, the authors are very sensitive, compassionate and articulate in their descriptions of impact of this type of loss.
Finding Hope When a Child Dies: What Other Cultures Can Teach Us
By Sukie Miller, PhD
This book offers no personal experience (the author has not lost a child) but it offers a wealth of information for those seeking to be able to view their circumstance from other perspectives outside the mainstream American culture. She starts out by talking about the thing those who have lost children know, we have no language with which to describe our experience. She then offers an overview of other cultures’ take on the death of child. You may not agree with these new views, but having them opens up your own ability to know there is no one way to what it is. You can then feel free to believe in what brings you the most comfort and solace. She also talks about the bereaved parent as ” initiates” in the ancient use of the word. She describes the eight themes of initiation and likens them to the journey of the bereaved parent.
A Grief Observed
By C.S. Lewis
An account of a grieving husband, the descriptions used to chronology his experience are brilliant and real. Even though he did not lose a child (the love of his life, as he had no children) the loss hit him very hard. He is able to chronicle his experience in away only an artist can, with depth and breath. He kept a journal from the early days of his loss, so his emotions are raw and unfiltered.
A Grief Unveiled
By Gregory Floyd
This is a father’s account of the sudden death of his 61/2 year old son and the
family’s first two years of grief. He has a strong Catholic faith, which he leans on, and talks about intensively throughout the book. His faith does not offset his pain, but acts as a backdrop to his experience. This book reveals how the family survived together and was able to continue the memory of their son, John Paul, so that he stayed an important part of their lives. He talks about how his marriage was affected and how it was also a source of comfort and strength. This is a great account of the strength of family in times of crisis.
The Grieving Time :A Year’s Account of Recovery from Grief
By Anne M Brooks
This is an account of the deeply grieving widow over the 12 months of her loss. She writes it from month to month as a diary of her thoughts, feelings and experiences. Her description of grief is real and timeless for anyone who has lost someone very near. She talks about things rarely expressed in any “how to” book on grief. For example, how the paradox of knowing that you have the option of suicide, helps you one to live through the darkest times of grief. It is a raw account of grief and of how we heal in time weather we want to or not.
Hannah’s Gift: Lessons from a Life Fully Lived
By Maria Housden
A mother’s account of life with her daughter and family, during her
daughter’s illness and last year of life. Housden’s ability to capture the
thoughts and feelings of grief are powerful. After a year she wonders if her daughter could come back. “It would only be fair since we have suffered all this time without her”. It is a good book for anyone whose child was ill prior to passing. It is told in story form, in short bursts, so it is easier to take for the newly bereaved whose attention span is short due to the trauma.
Healing After Loss
By Martha Whitmore Hickman
A Daily Meditation Guide for Working Through Grief. This book can be used on a daily basis to focus on some aspect of grief. It can be used year after year. It offers quotes and reflections along with an affirmation that can be used throughout the day.
Inside Grief: Death, Loss and Bereavement- An Anthology
Published by Line Wise
A Book of Poetry on death, dying and grief. It is a very personal look written by those affected. It is divided into sections to reflect writings on a variety of topics that describe the questions of life “Who I Am?”, “What is life all about?” ” Why am I here in this world?” . Anyone who has faced a serious loss or life issue will appreciate the poems in this book.
The Lessons Of Love
By Melodie Beattie
This book is written out of her own experience of the loss of her (only) son in a ski accident when he was 13 years old. It is the story of the healing of her life and that of her daughters, who had taken him skiing. She focuses on her healing journey after the death
and her eventual ability to reclaim a life she had fought hard to establish for herself and her children as a single parent. She confronts her beliefs, God and ultimately herself to be able to rejoin life, even when crushed by it.
The Lord is My Shepherd: Healing Wisdom of the Twenty Third Psalm
By Harold S. Kushner
The book takes a classic bible verse and attempts to that is a old favorite for many in their time of need. It is used at many services to honor those who have passed but is for the comfort of the bereaved. It has been a comfort and support to those who are grieving. This book takes each line in the verse and talks about it’s practical and religious application. He gives perspective from various religions. The psalm in discussed in the context of both it’s historical perspective and the modern day practical application. He illuminates the life’s lessons that are contained within the grace of the psalm. The book is very interesting, but unlike the famous writings “When bad things happen” this book feels more religious. Although he apologizes for using the male reference to God, the use of “he” gives a distinctly humanlike quality to God. a God with a will for us, doing things to us or for us, or being on our side. For those with strong convictions this book will probably give a lot of insight into an age old psalm. For those just wanting comfort I found it fell short of earlier works.
by Alice Seabold
Written as a fictional book about a murdered 14 year old girl, from her perspective after her death, this book gives some hope even in it’s heaviness of what “heaven” may be like and the chance that we really do stay connected. In the book Susie Salmon shares with us her attempts and successes at reaching her family, trying to help them solve her murder and how family members, friends even the detective are touched by her life and haunted by her death. The depictions of grief are real and the traumatic effect on the family is believable. You also feel the sadness of this young spirit who continues to long for her life on earth and how she tries to keep on living through others. It is the type of book that is hard to put down. Very well written and almost poetic.
Many Lives, Many Masters
by Brian Weiss
This book describes the author’s journey while counseling a client. He attempts to hypnotize her in order to regress her to early childhood, to find out why she has so many fears and phobias. She easily goes back even beyond childhood into many of her previous incarnations. Brian Weiss apparently didn’t believe in any of this reincarnation stuff before he got together with “”. By the second or third chapter, however, he’s convinced. There are just too many details for this client to have made it all up.
There is some kind of comfort believing we have seen and will see our loved ones many times. And then, it doesn’t mean all is okay. Most of our grief seems to stem from losing our loved one in this incarnation. It is interesting to study what we can learn about where our loved one has gone, though, and it does help for those of us who lose or never had much faith to begin with, to know they are still around.
The Spiritual Lives of Bereaved Parents
by Dennis Klass (recommended after two years)
Although not written by a bereaved parent, Dennis Klass has spent decades immersing himself in the extremely sad world of those who have lost a child. He admits that he cannot and as a parent does not want, to fully understand the feelings of parent’s who have lost children. He has however had the openness of heart and the courage to sit with bereaved parents and hold a space for them. He does not define spirituality in it’s typical religious manner but opens the meaning to embrace the journey of pain, redefining life and the quest to stay connected to our children who are no longer in their bodies. He has had the courage to really look at the experience of bereaved parents and put words and concepts to that experience. Reading the book helped us make sense of why we do so much to keep Jamie alive. It validated our efforts. It also gives direction to those who have thus far suffered in silence. Although everyone grieves differently, the words of this book inspire all bereaved parents (and people) to honor their process and their loved one. It describes for the reader what is happening on a spiritual level much as other books describe what is happening on a psychological level. I would not recommend the book to those less than 2 years “out” from the loss of their child. I would also recommend it to all clergy and helping professionals so they can not only fully understand the depth of the journey but also help those they work with to understand their process in grief.
A Time To Grieve: Meditations for Healing After the Death of a Loved One
by Carol Staudacher
A reflective reading and message for varying aspects of grief. She has an index in the back that allows the reader to find the specific topic to reflect on. She describes it this way. (paraphrased) Thinking you way through grief doesn’t work. Grief is a release process, a discovery process, a healing process. We cannot use our minds alone. The brain must follow the heart at a respectful distance. It is our hearts that ache when a loved one dies. The heart will blaze the trail through the thickest of grief.
When Bad Things Happen to Good People
By Harold S. Kushner
This book presents an overview of commonly held beliefs about tragic events, and an argument against most of these ideas. A Rabbi, Kushner gives a faith-filled and sensitive account of the role God plays in life’s tragedies. Many of us ask the question, “How could God let this happen to me?” Kushner offers help in answering this question and others, opens new views and helpful ways to approach those facing crisis. The author lost his young son to the rare disease “progeria” (rapid aging).
When the Bough Breaks
By Judith R. Berstein
Confronted with the most ugliest of life’s experiences, the death of her 25 year old son after a 16 month battle with illness, the author the doctor and her doctor husband did what they knew, they began a research project. They set out to find how parents survive the wrath of such a great grief. They wanted to know how parents faired over time. How did they or did they get through the years living with loss, having loss as a back drop. They interviewed dozens of parents from Compassionate friends who were at least 5 years away from the tragedy. She identifies the ways in which the persons life is altered and values changed forever. She also talks about what is helpful (and not) from friends, family, clergy making this a good “how to” book for those who love or want to help someone in deep grief.
The Worst Loss, How Families Heal from the Death of a Child
By Barbara Rosof
A practical guide to understanding how the loss of a child affects the family. She reviews various ways children die and gives specific information on how families would feel and to deal with those circumstances. She also reviews a history of losing children over time and how our expectations have changed about the likelihood of experiencing this type of loss. The author has not lost a child but interviews dozens of families who have. We gave copies to some very close family members early on and it really helped them to understand more about what we were going through.