When you are looking to make some sense out of the emotional impact of death and grief, a book can be a good place to start.
But finding one that strikes the right balance of empathy, experience and practicality, can be hard.
Below are six of the most thumbed books from the Angel & Dove bookshelf. The first three address the pain of loss, helping readers deal with the emotional landslide of grief. The others explore attitudes around the end of life experience, breaking the muffling silence that still hangs around the subject of death.
Read them and weep? Possibly. But we hope they bring comfort and understanding too.
Julia Samuel is a psychotherapist who has spent the last 30 years working with bereaved families. Through stories of those she has worked with, she explores and explains grief with incredible insight and intelligence. Her experience shines out from every page. Looking in particular at the death of partners, parents and children, the author shows the many layers and guises of grief and provides a very readable guide to understanding the difficult emotions around death.
A week-by-week walk-through the different stages of grief, this book also acknowledges that those stages can come at any time and in any order, and the book can be started wherever feels right to you. In bite-size chunks, it helps the reader understand grief, sifting through its layered, complex emotions. Each chapter concludes with a practical exercise that allows the reader to explore and understand their own feelings about their loss. The book demonstrates that grief may have common themes, but that each individual experiences bereavement in their own individual way.
Megan Devine sends the clear message that grief is not something to get over or a disease to cure. Instead, her books validate death and grief and help the reader to see loss as something that can be accepted and even valued. A psychotherapist whose own partner died unexpectedly, the author provides a refreshing and enlightening perspective on grief as someone who has experienced it profoundly herself.
After her father-in-law’s death, Erica Buist was plunged into unexpected grief which triggered agoraphobia and a whirling spiral of death anxiety. Struggling to work through her feelings, Erica set out to take control and travelled the world attending festivals around death, starting with the Day of the Dead festivities in Mexico. Along her geographical and emotional journey, she gains comfort and understanding through seeing death through the eyes of other cultures. A very different take on understanding grief, this newly published book explores loss with curiosity and a deft touch of humour.
As a palliative care doctor, Kathryn Mannix’s work has brought her in contact with thousands of dying people and their families, and each one of them has influenced this fascinating and moving book. Inspired by her patients as they approach their final breaths, Mannix sees death as an inevitability that we can talk about and plan for, rather than something we should avoid or fear.
Not a book about death exactly, but one about preparing for the inevitable in a practical, and perhaps even cathartic way. This is a great little read written by a Swedish lady who describes herself as being “between 80 and 100” and is surprisingly charming and funny. Based on the word döstädning, which translates as ‘death cleaning’ this slim read takes an interesting look at all the clutter we accumulate through our lives, and how we can sort through it all before death, freeing ourselves and our families, while taking stock of what really matters. Magnusson’s take is that death cleaning gives us the chance to make our lives as comfortable and stress-free as possible, particularly in our later years, while giving the reader permission to hold onto what’s precious.
Have you read any interesting or useful books which address the subjects of attitudes to death, end of life or grieving? If so, so let us know as we're always keen to broaden our knowledge.