Bereavement book recommendations
9th August 2022
Since Tovey Bros began our free bereavement support programme – STEPS – nearly a decade ago we have supported hundreds of grieving people struggling to come to terms with the loss of a loved one. Many course attendees have found our library of books on bereavement both helpful and comforting in trying to make sense of the many distressing emotions that accompany the death of a significant family member or friend.
Often, when the funeral is over, bereaved people experience a lull in the previous stream of visitors who may have provided a welcome distraction from the reality of the loss. When the initial shock begins to wear off and the mourner is forced to confront the reality of the death, feelings of confusion and isolation can hit home.
During our work with the bereaved, we have researched many books dealing with grief that encompasses all types of losses, and a great number of attendees have found solace in our STEPS lending library. We would now like to open up this service to the public irrespective of whether they have attended our course.
Here are a few of our best picks:
- ‘On Grief and Grieving’ by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross and David Kessler examines finding the meaning of grief through the five stages of loss – denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. This book was groundbreaking when it was first came to prominence in 1969 and remains valid today. It has been misunderstood over the years by critics misinterpreting the five stages as being too orderly and neat. After all, grief is a messy business, as anyone suffering a loss can attest. However, Kubler-Ross never intended the five stages to be linear, rather a rough guide to mourners who are likely to move in and out of these stages in no particular order, or even missing some out altogether. A good insight into grief in general.
- The second book we’d like to recommend is ‘The Orphaned Adult’ by Alexander Levy. It looks at understanding and coping with grief and change after the death of our parents, which captures the bewilderment we often feel when our last remaining parent dies and we are no longer anyone’s child. Levy compares the feeling of losing that parental buffer as ‘being outside in the rain without an umbrella’ and captures the feelings of vulnerability and fear we may feel, despite the fact we are adults ourselves. It is a sensitive exploration of how our lives shift when we become the first generation, usually before we are psychologically prepared for this monumental change. It also acknowledges how the death of our last parent can trigger dormant earlier grief for our other parent and how to process this double loss. Anyone who has lost both parents may find this book helpful.
- Where do our loved ones go when they pass on? This eternal question is explored in depth by Dr Michael Newton in his excellent book ‘Journey of Souls’ from his research into case studies of those who claim to have been reincarnated. His argument that energy cannot be destroyed, only transformed, is a fascinating study of what many believe is the essence of us – our soul. He provides numerous narratives from subjects who have undergone hypnosis to recall past life regression with astonishing detail. It’s a controversial subject but offers an alternative view of life after death.
- Lastly, we’d like to introduce you to a lovely book called ‘Water Bugs and Dragonflies’ by Doris Stickney which aims to explain death to young children. Written in an engaging and age-appropriate way, the author brings to life the fable of what happened to the water bug when he transformed into a dragonfly and was unable to keep his promise to return to his pond to visit his friends. Children are sometimes excluded from funerals and conversations of death in the mistaken assumption that they need protection from dying matters when studies have shown that their imagination can be far more frightening than the facts if death is discussed in an open, compassionate manner. This is a little book with a big impact.