Everyone struggles in life every now and then – it is just part of the game. People experience grief at different times in their lives, and it always hits differently. Some people turn to friends, while others choose family. There are people who seek professional help, as well as those who would rather hold everything inside. There are more ways to experience grief and get over it. Once you overcome such an experience, you will be better prepared to face life and its unexpected punches.

For some people, coping with grief is all about books. There are no doubts about it – books are part of the natural healing process. While some of them provide advice and ideas, memoirs come with personal experiences. From many points of view, it feels better to identify your experience with someone else's. It feels like someone actually understands you, and you can cope with this situation in a more efficient manner. All in all, here are some of the best books on grief – memoirs, personal stories, life experiences.


The Mourning Report, by Caitlin Garvey

Caitlin Garvey describes grief and how it has affected her in a very emotional manner. She has been through a situation that affects plenty of young adults on a regular basis. She was only 20 years old when she was hit with some terrible news – her mother was killed by breast cancer. Young and with future plans ahead, Caitlin could not cope with the grief and pain, so she failed.

A couple of years after her mother’s death, Caitlin was forced into a psychiatric facility. She found her mother’s death impossible to deal with, so she tried to kill herself. She survived, but she had to take consistent treatment. Once in the facility, she was diagnosed with severe anxiety and depression. She needed to spend lots of time there as an inpatient.

Years later, Caitlin has found a way to find closure and she tried to learn more about her mother’s death. She ended up interviewing people who were involved with the case – from a funeral director and a hairstylist to a priest and a hospice nurse. She tried to learn how they got over her mother’s death in order to follow their advice – a memoir of anxiety, depression and restlessness.


The Year of Magical Thinking, by Joan Didion

Joan Didion's book shows just how great bravery can be when dealing with grief. Courage helps the mind clear out and lose the sadness, but it also promotes acceptance. This book comes from one of the most appreciated authors in the USA. It is a book written with passion, but also with a lot of emotions and honesty. It explores a personal experience based on marriage and love.

The sad moment occurred just before Christmas in 2003. Joan and her husband John had one daughter – Quintana. She fell ill with something that looked like flu. Later on, she was diagnosed with pneumonia, just before entering a septic shock. She ended up in a coma and on life support. Just before the New Year’s Eve, John suffered a fatal coronary – another big hit for Joan.

About three months later, Quintana collapsed and had to undergo brain surgery for a harsh hematoma. This book describes the feelings Joan had to go through while losing her entire life in such a short period of time. It is a powerful book that shows what a thin line there is between life and death, a book about children, love and family. It is a book about life that will overwhelm you with emotions.


H Is for Hawk, by Helen Macdonald

This is an outstanding memoir about madness, happiness, sadness and life. It all starts with Helen Macdonald’s father, who passed away out of nowhere on a random street from London. It is pointless to mention she was devastated – no one saw it coming. Then, the story flows to one of her main passions in life – hawks. Helen has always been fascinated by hawks.

She had always felt fear when she thought about training a goshawk. However, as she was dealing with grief and sadness, she realized that she has many things in common with this vicious predator – and especially the fierce temperament. Therefore, she adopted Mabel and decided to train the bird in order to cope with her loss. It was a way to push her limits and stop thinking about her father's sudden death.

Helen has literally put herself into the hawk’s mind in order to understand how the bird sees things. She did her best to tame the predator and she succeeded. From many points of view, this book shows how important courage could be when dealing with grief. It has a positive outcome and has a few elements of humor to ease the reader’s mind.


Wave, by Sonali Deraniyagala

This is one of the best books on grief and will bring a raw and unaltered story that will most likely challenge your feelings. The book follows the outcome of a disaster from 2004. On the second day of Christmas, a tsunami hit the Sri Lankan coast. Lots of people were killed that day, including the author’s husband, two sons and parents. Somehow, she has managed to survive.

The book is extremely straightforward and frank. The initial experience was critical and she describes it in the smallest details. It is a heartbreaking story that shows just how unfair life can be. Furthermore, the book follows her struggle over the next months, when she had to actually learn how to live without everyone she has loved.

The author’s life has changed and life has shown her that things could get better. She still struggles with a life that she cannot understand, but things are better now. She has a new family in London, as well as a husband and children. While memories are still buried deep inside her heart, she has realized that things could get better with faith.


Men We Reaped, by Jesmyn Ward

Jesmyn Ward’s life was not great. She loved five men and she lost all of them – suicide, accidents and drugs. The men she loved were all targeted by the dangers associated with poverty. Dealing with one loss after another, she once asked herself – why is everything happening to me? As a result, she started writing one of the most emotional memoirs out there.

Asking herself why, Jesmyn realized that the answer was right under her eyes. She lived in a society where people died because of the environment, racism, economic struggle, drug addiction and the idea of broken families. It was obvious in the small rural community of Mississippi, so she decided to write about the story of her community seen through her own eyes.

The book is about grief, but also about how unfair life could be with the unlucky ones. She has a powerful style of writing and she describes pressure in the smallest details. She is brave and aims to show that people can do anything. In fact, she became the first person in her family to leave the community and go for high education.


Death Be Not Proud, by John Gunther

Death Be Not Proud tells the emotional story of Johnny Gunther, who was killed by a brain tumor when he was only 17. The book begins with a crystal clear description of Johnny. Written by his father, it tells the reader just how great Johnny used to be. He was great with math, chess and physics, but he was also active and polite to everyone around him.

The book moves on to more dramatic events. As Johnny was diagnosed with the brain tumor, he had to go through many months of agony. Brain cancer was a challenge and both John and his former wife Frances tried everything to prevent it from spreading. Despite battling this harsh affection, Johnny tried his best to finish high school and he actually succeeded.

The graduation ceremony is extremely heartbreaking. It is emotional and will bring in some powerful feelings. All in all, Johnny died in 1947. He passed away less than a month after completing high school. Despite his short and hard life, he managed to maintain his incredible courage and friendliness throughout his struggle.


Half a Life, by Darin Strauss

Half a Life is a powerful memoir that boosts brutal honesty and a mix of feelings that you will find difficult to cope with. It is a deep analysis of grief, responsibility and guilt. It is also a book about learning how to live with the past, especially if the past is not something to be proud of. The book begins with a simple statement from the author – half his life ago, he killed a young girl.

Being out in his father’s Oldsmobile, he caused an accident. As a result, a young girl passed away. She was a classmate. This is when the grief begins and this is when guilt inevitably kicks in as he goes through different events. His life has never been the same and he realized it throughout the funeral and the court case, but also during his interaction with the victim’s family and friends.

In the beginning, the book approaches a tragic style and explains the tragic event that changed the author’s life. Later on, it shows how hard it is to live with guilt. No matter how hard you try, things may not always work out. Grief has always haunted the author and there is nothing he can do about it, but learn to live with it and overcome it.


Heaven’s Coast, by Mark Doty

Life was great for Mark Doty in 1989. He was a poet with a great reputation and his talent stood out in the crowd. He also teaches in a college and he is deeply in love with Wally Roberts. Things seem to go in the right direction and Mark feels like he has managed to find balance. However, a simple news changes everything for them – Wally has been diagnosed with HIV.

Heaven’s Coast is a chronicle of pain and love. It perfectly describes the author’s feelings as soon as he heard about the diagnosis. Then, Wally’s body starts deteriorating and there is nothing Mark can do, but watch and try to improve his last days. The book follows through until the very last hour of Wally’s life and describes emotions and mixed feelings that people simply cannot understand.

The author had to let his lover go, while keeping him alive in his heart. What is going to happen next? How do you overcome grief when you know death cannot be avoided? The honesty in this book is touching, but the power to describe feelings in such small details is what makes it unique. The book has also received a few awards.


The Day That Went Missing, by Richard Beard

This is the intense story of a tragedy that struck a family. It is a story about family, power, loss and moving on. It is about love, but also about accepting death as it is – at the end of the day, there is not much you can do about it. Richard Beard’s story begins with a family holiday in Cornwall – 1978.

Richard and his brother Nicholas enjoy the waves. Out of nowhere, Nicholas is gone. He goes back out, then back in. He disappears. He is dead. Richard and other brothers do not even attend the funeral. Once it is over, the family returns to the family cottage and carries on with the holiday, as if nothing happened. Nicholas is simply written off in a collective act of denial.

About four decades later, the author cannot remember much – the location or the beach. He starts his own investigation to figure out what happened. Why did the family reach this way? What happened? The heartbreaking story is personal, but also about loss and grief.

Bottom line, these are some of the best books on grief – from memoirs and personal stories to life experience events that can change someone’s life.​