Five of the best books about grief | Books

Five of the best books about grief | Books


When it comes to grief, a list of a thousand books wouldn’t be enough. This small selection is offered in the hope that it might contain something that provides solace – or at least that it might point the way to something that does.


The premise of this poetic novella – giant crow moves in with bereaved family after mother dies – sounds unlikely. But through this brilliant semi-allegory, Porter captures how loss can upend a family, seemingly stretching space and logic in surreal ways. Told through voices of two boys, their father, and a shapeshifting crow, this is a funny, frightening and loving experiment in magical thinking. As an adult who was bereaved as a child, I approached this tale with some trepidation – fearing it might cut too close. In fact, it provided a kind of fierce comfort – holding pain up to the light, and aslant.


Grief might not always be beyond words, but it sometimes needs little elaboration. This spare book, written about the sudden death of Rosen’s son, Eddie, illuminates how grief’s complexity can be rendered through seemingly simple words and images. “Who is sad?” , Rosen writes. “Sad is anyone. It comes along and finds you”. This is not strictly a children’s book, but a book that recognises how acutely grief can speak to the child within us. Quentin Blake’s grey wash illustrations create a space for sadness to breathe.


Guests on Lloyd’s award-winning podcast Griefcast have included those who have experienced the death of a loved one by suicide, those who have lost siblings, children, parents and close friends. Lloyd’s brilliant book draws on excerpts from these podcast interviews, together with her own account of negotiating grief – her father died when she was 15. This is an outward-reaching guide, full of humility and humour. A reading list at the book’s close offers further resources and a “handrail through the grief fog”.


Sixteen months after her son’s sudden death, Riley writes of being “superficially ‘fine’” but “with an unseen crater blown into my head”. Moving in diary-like intervals, Riley brings her poet’s skill and formal ice-cold grace to this tender, philosophical account of “an altered condition of life” – the “stopping of time” that occurs after the death of a loved one.


Kate Gross was 34 when she was diagnosed with terminal bowel cancer. She died two years later, when her twin boys were just five years old. Gross wrote this luminously beautiful memoir-cum-commonplace book partly as way of articulating her own grief for the things she would not live to see and partly as a legacy and love letter to those she left behind. A clear-eyed and extraordinarily uplifting book.



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