When we talk about grief, we often talking about losing family, friends, pets… But, as many of us have learned over the past year and a half, loss can take many forms – a job, a relationship, a sense of normalcy. It’s during some of these difficult moments when we feel most alone. Because we don’t talk about grief, about death (whether literal or metaphorical). When it happens, no one really knows what to say to offer comfort. And being open about our own struggles can feel selfish, or we assume that someone, somewhere will see beneath the carefully constructed facade and know to come to our aid without needing to ask. Sometimes, it works out that way. Other times, there are stories to comfort us, and make us feel less alone…
The Book of Two Ways by Jodi Picoult – This is one of the first books I read where I encountered open and honest conversations about death, from hospice and end of life preparations to the various beliefs surrounding the supposed afterlife. It’s a book that says ‘no this isn’t easy, but we can’t keep pretending it doesn’t exist.’ It’s also a book of possibilities, rooted in quantum mechanics and multiverse theory. The Book of Two Ways is for the grieving soul. It dives deep into death, but doesn’t pull punches or sugarcoat it as is typical fashion. Jodi explores it fully, and through a variety of lenses. It’s real, and that makes it all the better for those who need a way forward.
The Year of Shadows by Claire Legrand – This book has every last piece of my heart. It’s musical and gentle, heartwarming and heart-wrenching. Olivia’s whole world has been turned upside down. Her mother is gone, and her father is relocating the family to the broken-down concert hall in a last-ditch attempt to save his orchestra. Spoiler alert (not really): ghosts live there, and they need Olivia’s help to cross over before they become shells of themselves. The characters in TYoS are some of my favorite, especially Igor the sassy cat. This is a perfect book for ages 9+ who’ve been through a lot of life changes, or simply want a not-scary ghost story any time of year.
The Heart Principle by Helen Hoang – This is a story of burnout, grieving the life and passion you can’t seem to find a way back to because you’re caught in a loop. It’s a story of the burnout caregivers face, watching as a loved one slips away and being utterly powerless. It’s also a romance, and a story of self-discovery. It’s also hopeful. I’ve already read it twice this year (and reviewed it HERE) and have a feeling I’ll be reading it a few times more.
Under the Whispering Door by TJ Klune – This book is like a warm cup of peppermint tea shared with friends. And like any Klune story, it’s heartfelt, humorous, and queer. Wallace Price has just died. He wasn’t a particularly good man, but when a reaper comes to collect him from his own funeral, and brings him to a teahouse in the countryside, he gets a second chance at life, and love. In UtWD’s pages, you’ll encounter friendly ghosts, adventure, A+ banter, gentle yearning, and maybe even gain insight into the Bureaucracy of Death. These characters have my whole heart. I laughed. I cried. I felt better with every page.
- Similar TV shows to watch: The Good Place, Dead Like Me
Letters to the Lost by Brigid Kemmerer – Juliet has always written letters with her photojournalist mother, a chance for something more tangible than email when they were apart. Now, her mom is gone, and to cope, she continues leaving letters on her grave. Then, someone responds. This is a beautiful YA romance because it is real. It speaks to how simple it can be to connect, how difficult it can be to keep that connection going, and the kinds of people (like good teachers), who will always be there for support when we need it most.
The Garden We Share by Zoë Tucker (out March 2022) – I did not expect to cry when I started into this story. It’s beautiful and evocative. Anyone who’s ever set foot in a garden will be hard-pressed not to find their imagination carrying them back to the scents of fresh herbs & flowers, the feel of sun & wind on a face, the sound of the bees buzzing. A story of seasons, it shows the cyclical nature of life, and is sure to be a useful tool to young children experiencing loss, particularly of a grandparent.
To Drink Coffee with a Ghost by amanda lovelace – Lovelace tackles her relationship with her mother in a way that is all-too relatable, exploring what you’re left with when the person who is supposed to care for you is the one who hurts you most and you never get a chance to reconcile that. But for all the trauma within its pages, Amanda doesn’t allow the heartbreak to eat away at you, and for that, her poetry is all the more powerful.
- Jane, Unlimited by Kristin Cashore
- A Dog’s Purpose (series) by W. Bruce Cameron
- Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs? by Caitlin Doughty
- The Rabbit Listened by Cory Doerrfeld