Feelings are weird. Brains are weird. Grief is weird. So when it comes to dealing with grief, it’s completely normal to feel like nothing makes sense, or that the world is turned upside down.
But in our hours of need, books are always there for us to help us cope. They might not solve our problems, but it sure does help to know you’re not the only person feeling this way. Here are some of my favorite books about grief that helped me make sense of a senseless world:
The Astonishing Color of After
By Emily X.R. Pan
After her mother dies by suicide, Leigh is buried under her grief. Leigh’s not only struggling to understand her mother’s choices, but she’s also grappling with the fact that she’ll never get any answers. The mystery of why haunts Leigh, and it haunts me too. Sometimes we feel like we can’t move on with our lives without answers. This can be, of course, impossible. So something I love that Leigh has to learn in the book is how to move forward in her healing process while coping with the unknown. Life, death, and grief don’t come to us wrapped neatly in a bow. And that’s okay <3.
I Crawl Through It
By A. S. King
Sometimes the things that make the most sense…are the things that don’t make sense at all. A. S. King’s worlds deal with trauma and grief in surreal and fantastical ways. The best part about fantastical realism is that it destroys our sense of reality, and then forces us to see the world in a completely new light. Maybe the best way to make sense of trauma and grief is to first forget everything we thought we knew about it, and then rebuild.
Dear Evan Hansen: The Novel
By Val Emmich, Steven Levenson, Benj Pasek, Justin Paul
Maybe don’t make the same choices Evan makes when it comes to grieving…but I do think that his story provides a unique lens to how communities grieve together, in healthy and unhealthy ways. Throughout the story, almost all the characters try to reach out to each other after Connor’s death. While motives and methods vary, at their core their desires are the same: when we feel we’ve lost something, we want support from others who are feeling the same way. It’s a good thing that in the end, the characters all learn…that when you’re broken on the ground…you will be found…
We Are Okay
By Nina Lacour
Sparse, intimate, and soul-crushing, We Are Okay left me feeling empty in the best way possible. Marin’s unraveling and introspection on the death of her grandfather is gutting because of how real it feels, and this book asks so many important questions. How do you move forward when you so desperately miss the past and who you used to be? How do you forgive yourself? Holy cow, I cried a lot when I read this book—but the good kind of crying.
How She Died, How I Lived
By Mary Crockett
Mary Crockett understands that when you combine grief and guilt, you have a v complicated situation. How do you let yourself grieve when you feel guilty for grieving? How can you get past your guilt when you’re too busy grieving? How do I escape this hell??? The unnamed narrator of How She Died, How I Lived is so sympathetic and empathetic it hurts. I feel her pain, and also I would just really like to give her a hug.
Instructions For a Secondhand Heart
By Tamsyn Murray
In Instructions for a Secondhand Heart, Jonny and Neve are grieving for different reasons: Jonny has finally found a heart donor match. But that means in order for Jonny to live, someone else had to die. The donor turns out to be Leo, Neve’s twin brother. Now grieving the loss of her brother, Neve has no idea what to do next. My heart aches for Jonny and Neve, because obviously this is not a simple situation to be in. But I think my main takeaway from Jonny and Neve is to give yourself a break—it’s going to hurt, but the hurt will heal you. And even when it’s terrifying, we can face the future together (<3).