I still ask some of the hard questions that C.S. Lewis asks in this book. At the time in my journey that I read this, I needed someone I trusted to give me permission to be angry. This book gave me permission. I quickly saw that Lewis wasn’t providing answers to the hard questions. You can sense his feelings of anger, doubt, and disorientation. The book speaks of hope, so don’t write it off as only one of lament. However, one of the quotes that may always stick with me is this:
“Not that I am (I think) in much danger of ceasing to believe in God. The real danger is of coming to believe such dreadful things about Him. The conclusion I dread is not ‘So there’s no God after all,’ but ‘So this is what God’s really like.”
This is a great, short book that will not overwhelm you, but gives some good insights into many “phases” during a grief journey. If you are reading this during your own journey, please know that some of this will not apply to where you are now, and the language he uses at times may feel a little irritating (because he speaks of a future that seems out of reach). Hopefully one day we can read it again and feel differently, because he’s trying to touch on many points along the journey. Some of the latter stages of grief can seem so far away for some. Don’t let that deter you. The quote I found to be most applicable was:
“No journey out of grief was straightforward. There would be good days and bad days.”
This is one of my all-time favorite books, for so many reasons. This book is widely credited as the foundation for modern psychology, but it is also a historical biography (Nazi concentration camps of WW2). I read this book and learned a ton about grief and extreme hardship without being constantly reminded of my own. It allowed me to transport into another place and time but also learn, grow, and be encouraged to heal.
“The way in which a man accepts his fate and all the suffering it entails, the way in which he takes up his cross, gives him ample opportunity – even under the most difficult circumstances – to add a deeper meaning to his life.”
As opposed to Oprah giving me permission to experience joy, and CS Lewis gave me permission to be angry with God, this book gave me permission to not be ok, but to truly grieve. Being in grief can be a long journey and every day truly is different from the last. Not feeling up for “normal” things is fine. Granting myself permission to speak truthfully to others, or just not respond, is ok. I am ok.
“There is not a reason for everything. Not every loss can be transformed into something useful. Things happen that do not have a silver lining.”
Much like Frankl’s book, this one speaks to trauma that isn’t exactly like mine. This one centers around childhood trauma and how the brain is formed through trauma. I’m a curious science nerd, and this one speaks to brain development. This allowed me to learn about trauma and the brain’s response to it without dredging through my own grief, but rather through the perspective of someone else. Also listening to Oprah (she reads the audiobook) talk about finding joy helped me to be ok with embracing joy in my own life even in the midst of the worst of my journey.
“Music, laughter, dancing (even a party for one), knitting, cooking—finding what naturally soothes you not only regulates your heart and mind, it helps you stay open to the goodness in you and in the world.”
This author is very clear about her faith, and this book is entirely from a Christian perspective. However, very few have continually suffered like Vaneetha Risner. The book has some raw emotional laments, but also so overwhelmingly hopeful. It seems that because she gives herself permission to be so angry and hopeless, that she truly experiences peace, joy, and hope.
“Contentment that is borne out of suppressing our longings leads to empty platitudes at best and bitter hypocrisy at worst. We all have longings. Crying out to God to fulfill them or change them or give us the strength to endure them strengthens our faith. Denying our longings under the guise of contentment may keep us from pain, may look more spiritual, and may make us less emotional, but it can lead to spiritual deadness.”
If you are looking for a therapist, start here. Psychology Today originated as a magazine publication and still published one bimonthly. I’ve been reading this site for more than a decade, longer than I’ve been grieving.
If you or your loved one relied on Hospice in your area, they provide grief counseling free of charge for a year. In some locations they provide it free of charge even if you didn’t have to use them.
This site isn’t exactly organized. It may feel overwhelming, but the authors understand grief, and they study it. I find that they have the right balance of right-brain and left-brain. I found it helpful to dive into. Much like the books I recommend, it’s helpful to understand grief when it doesn’t always look exactly like mine.
The same people who created What’s Your Grief also created Grief in Six Words. I don’t spend much time here anymore, but I found it therapeutic and beautiful to read someone’s entire story summed up in 6 words.
If you have lost a loved one to suicide, Alliance of Hope is the place to start.
Find a GriefShare support group or event near you. These groups meet weekly around the world. Visit or join a group at anytime.
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