Books on Grief

I’m a voracious reader, as many of you already know. So naturally when I began my journey of grief I looked into books on Bereavement. Luckily, the Oxford library has a good selection and I popped in while my family was in town to pick out a few or myself with the help of my sister. I’d never given any thoughts to bereavement books before and was surprised at the variety of them: books for those who’ve lost their parents, for parents who’ve lost children, for loss by suicide, by car crash and, most appropriately, for those mourning the loss of their spouse. I chose four books and headed home.

They sat on my nightstand for awhile before I could stand the thought of picking them up, but eventually I was able to open the cover, and then to turn one page at a time. I started with Living With Loss: A Guide for the Recently Widowed. I chose this book because although I found the title depressing, it was the most appropriate to my needs. Ironically, I found this book the least helpful. It documents the author, Liz McNeill Taylor’s journey through widowhood, which was interesting, but offered little practical guidance for those in my situation. I know they don’t write books for those of us who moved to a new country to be with the love of our life only to find that tragedy strikes and we are alone in a foreign land, but the author’s story was so different from my own having lost her husband of over 20 years in the seventies and being left alone with three young children, that I struggled to relate.

I then moved on to Surviving Your Partner: Living with the Death of the Person Closest to you, by Sylvia Murphy. I found this book extremely helpful. It offered advice on a variety of situations that I had already considered such as dealing with financial changes and breaking the bad news to family and friends, but also discussed some changes that hadn’t even occurred to me such as adjusting to living alone. The chapter on restructuring your life discussed different ways to plan for your new life, and it encouraged me to actually visualize my life without Terry for the first time since he died. The future is by no means clear, but I found that although the thought of a future without Terry is the most horrible thing that I could ever imagine, it will happen whether I like it or not and I am not doing myself any favors by burying my head in the sand and pretending that everything will be OK. Everything is not OK, but that doesn’t mean that my life is over. It just means that my life will never be the same.

My next book was called Solace: Finding Your Way Through Grief and Learning to Live Again, by Roberta Temes. This book was about bereavement in general, as opposed to the specific loss of one’s spouse. This book was by far the most helpful to me at the moment. It may not always remain that way, but it is helping me to begin to process it all. There are loads of different theories about grieving, most popularly the 5 stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. Dr. Temes introduced me to her three stages of grief which I much prefer: initial numbness, disorganization and reorganization. This book was written by an American author, but applied itself well to my life in the UK nonetheless. I hate the thought of being angry before bargaining with God to get Terry back before I even have the chance to hit depression. No thank you. It may well happen that way, but I don’t embrace those stages so easily as I am able to accept the fact that yes I am numb at the moment, and when I regain my feelings I will be in a state of disorganized chaos, but at some point that will end and I will reorganize a new life for myself and I will create a new identity that I will carry on. If you know anyone who is mourning, I highly recommend this book.

Last night I finished the last of my bereavement books: Life After Bereavement: Beyond Tomorrow by Judy Carole Kauffman and Mary Jordan. This book encompasses some very specific situations including breaking bad news to children, people with intellectual disabilities and dementia, families in conflict after loss and guilt associated with death, none of which apply to me at the moment, thank goodness, but may be helpful if you know someone struggling with any of those. The chapters on dealing with personal effects and anniversaries were particularly helpful as I deal with the first week, then month and so one without Terry. I have my first Thanksgiving and Christmas without Terry soon and eventually his 31st birthday and our 5th wedding anniversary, all of which I am dreading. The authors advised me that the best way to deal with the pain is to plan something on those days and to perhaps begin a new tradition to help get through. No plans yet, but I like the idea of planning special things to remember Terry on special days.

So I’ve done a lot of reading that has focused my attention on dealing with my grief instead of wallowing in it and I have been presented with the opinions of hundreds of bereaved people through a variety of authors. I would love any recommendations on bereavement books that anyone else has found helpful? Feel free to leave a comment and I will be more than happy to check them out.

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