Suggested reading list for those who are grieving

The Year of Magical Thinking, Didion, Joan

Random House, New York (2005)

Just weeks after her daughter lapsed into a coma, Joan Didion's husband of nearly 40 years suffered a fatal heart attack at their dining room table. This book is about their lives together and her life after his death.


A Grief Observed, C.S. Lewis

Faber & Faber, London (1961)

This is a collection of C. S. Lewis's reflections on the experience of bereavement following the death of his wife. The book talks about his grief, from the everyday difficulties of his life without his wife, to deep-set questions of faith.


Young Widow’s Guide to Home Improvement, Virginia Lloyd

University of Queensland Press, Australia(2008)

Virginia Lloyd was single at 31, married at 32, and widowed at 34. A young professional woman finally meets the man she wants to spend the rest of her life with, only to discover that he is terminally ill. After her husband's death from cancer, Virginia was faced with addressing the chronic rising damp problem in their house and, over her first year as a young widow, her house had to dry from the inside out – and so did she.


Getting Back to Life When Grief Won’t Heal, Phyllis Kosminsky

McGraw- Hill (2006)

This book provides a path through grief with real inspiration, invaluable insight and deeply felt advice. You’ll learn that there is hope and, with time, you can let go of the overwhelming sense of loss and embrace life.


How to Go On Living When Someone You Love Dies, Therese Rando

Bantam (1991)

Mourning the death of a loved one is a process all of us will go through at one time or another.  But whether the death is sudden or anticipated, few of us are prepared for it or for the grief it brings. There is no right or wrong way to grieve; each person's response to loss will be different.  This compassionate and comprehensive guide leads you gently through the painful but necessary process of grieving and helps you find the best way for yourself.


Beyond Words: Grieving when your child has died,  Andrew Thompson and Tricia Irving Hendry

Skylight, NZ

Can be purchased from Skylight Publications  The death of a child is a heartfelt experience. It is a deep grief, and it makes more demands on bereaved parents than most others ever realise. This handbook features the honest word and perspective of many bereaved parents who have ‘been there’. It also offers useful information about managing grief, support options and ideas that may be helpful on the grief journey. It is comforting, encouraging, informative and practical.


Forever Loved: A Guidebook for Widows and Widowers, Maria Carr and Aisling Pont

Miranda: Maria Carr & Aisling Pont (2012)

Offers clear and practical advice to those who have lost a partner. The authors were both widowed in 2006. Faced with the double task of dealing with their own grief and that of their children, they formed a support group ‘Ever After Widowed’ (  They have drawn on their own personal experiences of bereavement as well as the experiences of their members. This has enabled them to cover a broad spectrum of men and women going through the grieving process. The added of input of a counsellor makes their book unique.


A Widow’s Story, Joyce Carol Oates

Ecco (2011)

Joyce Carol Oates unveils a poignant, intimate memoir about the unexpected death of her husband of forty-six years and its wrenching, surprising aftermath.


Nothing was the Same, Kay Redfield Jamison

Vintage (2011)

Jamison uses her characteristic honesty, wit and eloquence to look back at her relationship with her husband, a renowned scientist, who died of cancer. This is a penetrating psychological study of grief viewed from deep inside the experience itself.


No Time for Goodbyes, Janice Harris Lord

Pathfinder Publishing USA (1997)

This book deals with such issues as sorrow, anger and injustice after a traumatic death.


My Mother, My Father – On Losing a Parent, edited Susan Wyndham

Allen & Unwin, Australia (2013)

Well known Australian writers share their personal memories of loss and grief and recovery.


When Bad Things Happen to Good People, Harold Kushner

Random House (1997)

This book is an account from a deeply religious man (a Rabbi) who is trying to deal with his son's terminal illness and death.


The Heart of Grief, Thomas Attig

Oxford University Press (2002)

Attig topples the myth that grieving those who die requires letting go, and instead explores the sustaining connections that survive physical separation. This book is an invaluable guide to all bereaved persons who strive to restore wholeness to a love strained by loss, and who seek practical and spiritual counsel on how to find hope and even growth in the wake of desolation.


Grief and Remembering, Allan Kellehear

Rivoli, Australia (2001)

This book is a combination of anecdotes from bereaved relatives of their experience of grief. It is easy to read - you may find yourself identifying with some of their experience.


Coping with Grief, Mal McKissock,

ABC, Australia (1985)

This is an easy to understand book, which gives an outline of what you may expect on your journey of grief, including common reactions.


The Grief of our Children, Diane McKissock

ABC, Australia (1998)

This unique, practical book explores the grief of children of all ages and highlights specific aspects of grief at each stage of psychosocial development. It provides useful suggestions which empower grieving children and provides hope, understanding and support for those who care for them.


Now that the Funeral is Over: Understanding the Effects of our Grief, Doris Zagdanski

Hill of Content (1997)

This book is well written with beautiful quotes. It gives insight into the issues associated with grief.


Healing Grief - A Guide to Loss and Recovery, Barbara Ward Vermillion (1993)

"You can't stop the birds of sorrow from landing on your shoulder, but you can prevent them from nesting in your hair"- Chinese proverb. This book discusses grief and suggests some strategies that may help.


A Parent’s Guide to Raising Grieving Children, Phyllis Silverman et al

Oxford University Press (2009)

When children lose someone they love, they lose part of their very identity. Life, as they knew it, will never be quite the same. The world that once felt dependable and safe may suddenly seem a frightening, uncertain place, where nobody understands what they're feeling. In this deeply sympathetic book, Phyllis R. Silverman and Madelyn Kelly offer wise guidance on virtually every aspect of childhood loss, from living with someone who's dying to preparing the funeral; from explaining death to a two year old to managing the moods of a grieving teenager; from dealing with people who don't understand to learning how and where to get help from friends, therapists, and bereavement groups; from developing a new sense of self to continuing a relationship with the person who died.


The Grieving Teen, Helen Fitzgerald

Simon & Schuster (2000)

In this wise, compassionate, pragmatic book, the author of "The Grieving Child" and "The Mourning Handbook" turns her attention to the special needs and concerns adolescents face during the grieving process.


Never the Same, Donna Schurmann

St. Martin's Griffin, (2004)

Children and teens who experience the death of a parent are never the same. Only in the last decade have counsellors acknowledged that children grieve too, and that unresolved issues can negatively impact children into adulthood. Unaddressed grief can lead to depression, substance abuse, and relationship difficulties. In Never the Same, Schurmann offers expert advice and encouragement to empower readers to reflect on their unique situation, come to terms with the influence of their parent's death, and live more healthful, peaceful lives.


The Orphaned Adult: Understanding And Coping With Grief and Change After The Death Of Our Parents, Alexander Levy

Da Capo Press (2000) 

Losing our parents when we ourselves are adults is in the natural order of things, a rite of passage into true adulthood. But whether we lose them suddenly or after a prolonged illness, and whether we were close to or estranged from them, this passage proves inevitably more difficult than we thought it would be. This book is easy to read and touches on all issues associated with the death of a parent. 


 Letting Go of the Person You Used to Be: Lessons on Change, Loss, and Spiritual TransformationSurya Das

Harmony, 2004

Surya Das is a spiritual teacher who has a light and lively style. He shares an enlightened approach to change and loss, dealing with difficult emotions such as fear, grief, and anger, and the role of crisis in uncovering our authentic selves.

Going to Pieces Without Falling Apart, Mark Epstein

Harmony (1999)

Epstein shows how "the happiness that we seek depends on our ability to balance the ego's need to do with our inherent capacity to be." He encourages us to relax the ever-vigilant mind in order to experience the freedom that comes only from relinquishing control. Drawing on events in his own life and stories from his patients, Going to Pieces Without Falling Apart teaches us that only by letting go can we start on the path to a more peaceful and spiritually satisfying life.


An Exact Replica of a Figment of my Imagination, Elizabeth McCracken

Back Bay Books; (Reprint edition 2010)

"This is the happiest story in the world with the saddest ending," writes Elizabeth McCracken in her powerful, inspiring memoir. A prize-winning, successful novelist in her 30s, McCracken was happy to be an itinerant writer and self-proclaimed spinster. But suddenly she fell in love, got married, and two years ago was living in a remote part of France, working on her novel, and waiting for the birth of her first child.

This book is about what happened next. In her ninth month of pregnancy, she learned that her baby boy had died. How do you deal with and recover from this kind of loss?


For parents and caregivers


Bereaved Children and Teens: A Support Guide for Parents and Professionals, Earl Grollman

Includes what to say and what not to say when explaining death to very young children; how teenagers grieve differently from children and adults; how to translate beliefs about death into language that children can understand; how ethnic and cultural differences can affect how children grieve; what teachers and parents can do to help bereaved young people at school; and activities, books, and films that help children and teens cope.


Talking About Death, Earl Grollman

A useful book for explaining the concepts of death to younger children with tips for helping parents help their children.


Helping Children Cope with the Loss of a Loved One: A Guide for Grown Ups, William Kroen

Anecdotes about clients and their families are used to illustrate how children from infancy through to age 18 perceive and react to death. Strategies on how to deal with grief are also provided.


For young people


Something I've Never Felt Before: How Teenagers Cope with Grief, Doris Zagdanski (AUS)

This is a collection of suggested strategies for helping teenagers cope with grief. The author has been a teacher, funeral director and bereavement educator and includes extracts from the writings of teenagers who have experienced grief and loss.


Straight talk about Death for Teenagers: How to Cope with Losing Someone you Love, Earl Grollman

The author explains what to expect when someone you love has died. With brief entries such as "Accidental Death," "Self-Inflicted Death," "Talking," "Crying," and "Going Nuts," Grollman offers advice and answers the kinds of questions that teens are likely to ask themselves when grieving the death of someone close.


The Grief Book: Strategies for Young People, Elizabeth Vercoe & Kerry Abramowski (AUS)

A book full of practical ideas which gives people struggling with grief and loss the tools they need to work through their grief.


Interactive and activity books for children and young people


Help Me Say Goodbye: Activities for Helping Kids Cope when a Special Person Dies, Janis Silverman

An art therapy and activity book for children coping with death. Sensitive exercises address all the questions children may have. Children are encouraged to express in pictures what they are often incapable of expressing in words.


Something Has Happened: An Activity Book for Young Children, Tricia Irving (NZ)

This book helps young children find words and ways to express and process what it is that's happened.


What's Dead Mean? Doris Zagdanski (AUS)

Combines drawing and pasting with facilitated talking to help children. Presents issues surrounding death in a clear and age appropriate manner providing opportunity for both adult and child to discuss issues openly.


When Someone Very Special Dies: Children Can Learn to Cope with Grief, Margaret Heegaard,

A practical format for allowing children to understand the concept of death and develop coping skills for life.


When Tough Stuff Happens: An Activity Book for Tough Times for 7-12 year olds, Tricia Irving (NZ)

An activity based book which aims to help children find the words and ways to talk about the difficult things that have happened to them, express their feelings about it all and find some ways to move forward as positively as they can.


Picture books for children about grief, loss, change and feelings


Lifetimes: Beginnings and Endings with Lifetimes in Between, Bryan Mellonie & Robert Ingpen,

Lifetimes explains life and death in a sensitive way. It talks about beginnings and endings. Using illustrations, it tells about plants, animals and people and explains that dying is as much a part of living as being born.


Waterbugs and Dragonflies, Doris Stickney,

Uses the concept of how a living being continues on but in a completely different form.


Jenny Angel, Margaret Wild & Anne Spudvilas

An illustrated fictional book about a young girl's journey after the death of her brother.


Jelly Bean's Secret, Molly Carlile & Carolyn Marrone

Through this sensitive yet frank book, young readers will learn about dying, the rituals and feelings that accompany this inevitable time and the surprising gifts that loving and remembering bring.


Earthlight: New Meditations for Children, Maureen Garth

Simple but imaginative stories lead children into magical worlds in which they are released from fears, discover peacefulness and stillness, and experience wonder-filled adventures.


What's Dead Mean?, Doris Zagdanski

An activity book for children between the ages of 3-7 years as well as adults. Designed to encourage communication between adults and children on the subject of death.


How do I Feel About? When People Die, S. Levette

A book that uses illustrations of a diverse mix of children to address facts and feelings about death and learning to cope.


When I'm Feeling Sad, Trace Moroney

This book is designed to help children better understand their feelings.


How it Feels When a Parent Dies, Jill Krementz

Personal accounts from 18 young people, aged 7-16, who speak openly about their feelings following the death of a parent.


Children also Grieve, Linda Goldman

Fully illustrated with colour photographs, this book offers support and reassurance to children coming to terms with the loss of a close friend or relative and to adults who are supporting them through their bereavement.


Dan's Grandpa, Sally Morgan

Dan's Grandpa tells the story of an Aboriginal boy coming to terms with the death of his grandfather.


After Charlotte's Mom Died, Cornelia Spelman

Because her mom's death causes six-year-old Charlotte to feel sad, mad, and scared, she and her dad visit a therapist who helps them acknowledge and express their feelings.


Always and Forever, Alan Durant

When Fox dies, Mole, Hare, and Otter are devastated. They feel they will never get over their great sadness. How can life go on without him? Then one day Squirrel comes to visit. She reminds Fox's family of all the funny things he used to do. And as the friends share dinner and tell stories, they realize at last that in their hearts and memories, Fox is still with them.


I Wish I Could Hold Your Hand: A Child's Guide to Grief and Loss, Pat Palmer

This warm, comforting book gently helps grieving children identify their feelings and learn to accept and deal with them. Heart-warming illustrations and simple, direct writing help children discover that it is normal and natural to feel the pain of loss.


I'll Always Love You, Hans Wilhelm

In this gentle, moving story, Elfie, a dachshund, and her special boy progress happily through life together. One morning Elfie does not wake up. The family grieves and buries her. The watercolour illustration suit the simple text perfectly.


Samantha Jane's Missing Smile: A Story about Coping with the Loss of a Parent, Julie Kaplow

Since Samantha Jane's dad died, she has been sad and quiet, keeping to herself. One day, her neighbour Mrs Cooper gently asks her about her missing smile, and Sammy Jane begins to open up about her grief, her worries, and her confusion. Sammy Jane's mother joins her daughter in Mrs Cooper's garden, and helps her further with accepting and responding to her profound loss.


The Fall of Freddie the Leaf: A Story of Life for All Ages, Leo Buscaglia,

This is a warm, wise and strikingly simple story about a leaf named Freddie. How Freddie and his companion leaves change with the passing seasons, finally falling to the ground with winter's snow, is an inspiring allegory illustrating the delicate balance between life and death.