My Favorite Grief Memoirs

This list may seem like a downer, however I am deeply thankful for the brave people who are willing to share their stories on loss. There is a collective loneliness that many of us share, and the pain stings less the more we keep telling our stories...
  1. The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
    Honest and painful. It looks at the shock of grief and how unprepared we are when it hits us- no matter who we are and what we think we know. "Life changes in the instant..."
  2. The Long Goodbye by Meghan O'Rourke
    She traces the story of her mother's illness and death and her place within it. it looks at the psychology of grief as well, but with a poet/essayist's point of view, so it is beautiful to read. "When we talk about love, we go back to the start, to pinpoint the moment of free fall. But this story is the story of an ending, of death, and it has no beginning. A mother is beyond any notion of a beginning. That’s what makes her a mother: you cannot start the story."
  3. The Rules of Inheritance by Claire Bidwell Smith
    Claire became my friend after I wrote her to tell her how much her book meant to me after losing my mother. It's a journey of losing oneself in grief at a crucial time in life, when you are on the brink of becoming an adult, and learning to navigate the world. I found it very hopeful, but honest too that finding your way never totally feels easy-- it's as much as we can hope for to feel the grief and keep finding joy in spite of, and sometimes because of it.
  4. Wild by Cheryl Strayed
    Not a grief memoir exactly, but a story of survival and loss nonetheless. Some of the passages about her mother were really powerful-- Especially about carrying things that your mother instills in you and intuitively knowing they are there without actually remembering exact details of how they happened. This one was comforting to me.
  5. Epilogue by Anne Roiphe
    Touching and with a dash of humor at times. I enjoyed the way the author described trying to establish normalcy in her life in the aftermath of her husband's death. It focuses less on the loss and more about how to remake her life, which was refreshing.
  6. The Light of the World by Elizabeth Alexander
    Most recent read, which inspired this list. It is pure poetry. A beautiful tribute to her late husband. In exploring her experience, she has written a meditation on her beautiful relationship and love story, and given a gift to her readers by sharing who he was, down to the small details that made him brilliant and also human. It evoked in me a sense that the other side of Grief is Love. How deeply you grieve seems to be in direct relation to how much you loved. This one is really special.
  7. Lament for A Son by Nicholas Wolterstorff
    This one was really brutal to read, but I loved it. Probably the most spiritual of all of the books on the list, it is a father's detailed and personal account of his grief and emotion after the sudden death of his son. If someone was really struggling with loss and needed to feel understood, I would tell them to read this book.
  8. A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis
    Deeply confessional, about the death of his wife. It touches on the flailing we do after we lose someone we love and the loss of faith that sometimes occurs when we need it the most. Essentially the book is his journal of moving back toward a belief in God. Really beautiful, and helpful.
  9. A Three Dog Life by Abigail Thomas
    Suggested by   @laurimontclair