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5 recommended books for grief and loss

When a friend or family member dies, you may not want to talk about how you're feeling. Reading about death and grief, whether fictional or real, can help.

These books have been known to help others make sense of bereavement and grief and may help you.

Sad Book by Michael Rosen

A heartbreakingly honest account of a father’s grief. Michael Rosen's ‘Sad Book’ chronicles his grief following the death of his son, Eddie, from meningitis at the age of 19. Michael welcomes and unpicks the layers of mourning, explaining why it is ok to be sad. A painful yet uplifting read that is suitable for both children and adults.

Michael Rosen said, "I wrote it at a moment of extreme feeling and it went straight down onto the page... Quentin didn't illustrate it, he 'realized' it. He turned the text into a book and as a result showed me back to myself. No writer could ask and get more than that."

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Why Not Me? by Barbara Want

An honest memoir of a widow's pain in coming to terms with the death of her husband.

This book recounts the death of Nick Clarke, BBC radio presenter of THE WORLD AT ONE, from his widow Barbara's point of view.

With painful honesty, Barbara lays open her feelings about the cancer as it progressed, and her instinctive fear that this would be the end. As Nick became more ill, her fear grew, and he died an incredibly short time after his diagnosis.

Barbara describes her life after his death. A howl of anguish and anger; she describes how many of her friends and colleagues didn’t call or offer support. She explains how alone she feels and how she struggled to explain his death to her young twin sons.

A ruthlessly honest dissection of a widow's pain. This book is uncomfortably raw, utterly compelling which ends without resolution.

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A Grief Observed by C. S. Lewis

Considered a classic, this is an invaluable read for many. Split into four parts, these are journals written by Lewis while he processed the death of his wife to cancer. As he details his paralysing grief and sheer sense of loss, his reflections are both profound and moving.

A Grief Observed probes the "mad midnight moments" of Lewis's mourning and loss. In these moments, he questions what he had previously believed about life, death and marriage.

He writes. "I know that the thing I want is exactly the thing I can never get. The old life, the jokes, the drinks, the arguments, the lovemaking, the tiny, heartbreaking commonplace." Lewis came to recognise that "bereavement is a universal and integral part of our experience of love."


Thinking Out Loud by Rio Ferdinand

Thinking Out Loud, written by Rio Ferdinand, has been included in our list because of it’s ability to appeal to men in a similar situation.

Following the tragic death of his wife and soulmate, Rebecca, to breast cancer, Thinking Out Loud documents Rio Ferdinand’s raw grief as he navigates domesticity and caring for his three young children. It tackles loss with sheer honesty. A tender account that aims to change the way men mourn and express their feelings.

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The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion

Joan Didion suffered two tragedies in in 2003. The first when her daughter Quintana Roo fell into a coma. The second happened a few days later, when her husband John suffered a fatal heart attack, while Quintana was still in hospital. The Year of Magical Thinking follows the year after John’s sudden death.

The book is a confession of Joan’s most secret thoughts. It is often regarded as a classic grief memoir.


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