Suggested Books for Grieving Adults

Author: Jonnie Chandler

Editor’s Note: Our last issue featured books for children, and the issue before that listed books for teens. This article features books for adults. Some of them are specific to parental grief, while others are more general and incorporate all losses. 

I now tell time by before and afterBefore two Army Captains knocked on my door on August 11, 2005, I was an avid reader. I loved having the words of events, locations, and characters dancing in my head. I always had a stack of books to read, and I read for hours. After my son was killed, I was unable to concentrate. I was extremely restless and could only sit for a few minutes. 


I did not think of reading—my mind was frozen, I was depressed, and all I wanted to do was sleep. My mind filled with unanswered questions. I didn't question why—I know there is no answer to the tragedy of my son's death. I questioned how I can live with the agony, the incomprehensible loss of my only son. I depended on my husband, friends, and my VA counselor to help me find the strength to live with the inordinate loss and pain. But I knew that to gain strength I had to dig myself out of my deep, dark hole of grief.

So I reached for one of the two books that the 3rd Special Forces Group Chaplain had given me. It took me six weeks to read the first one, I Wasn't Ready to Say Good-bye by Brook Noel and Pamela D. Blair, PhD. My long-lost passion for reading was replaced by a need-to-read when I saw the words, “It has been said that after losing a child, we embark on a lifelong healing process.” Reading these words convinced me that to begin healing, I must continue my self-help reading.

I wish I could assure you that one of the following books will heal your tattered heart, comfort your ravaged soul, and answer all your questions. Unfortunately, I have not discovered that miracle book, but I have gotten comfort from each book. Sometimes only one sentence “speaks” to me, but I embrace all comfort, no matter how small.

I hope you find at least one book from this list that gives you support and comfort.

A Grief Like No Other ~ by Kathleen O’Hara, MA

O’Hara writes of her personal loss as well as accounts from her professional counseling. She offers practical and supportive steps to those grieving a loss from a violent death. She refers to the tidal wave of emotions and physical pain associated from guilt, anger, and anxiety. She offers practical suggestions and exercises to manage these powerful feelings.  

A Time to Grieve, Meditations for Healing After the Death of a Loved One ~ by Carol Staudacher

A helpful and strengthening book of meditations. The author honors the “Grief Dance” (one step forward, three steps back) with a guide through the many facets of grief. Facing the most profound emotional experience possible, the reader is taught that grief is a process of releasing emotions, discovering personal strengths, and healing.

After the Death of a Child ~ by Ann K. Finkbeiner

Interviews of parents whose children died five or more years previously form the backbone of this book. Finkbeiner, whose only child died in 1987, leads the reader through the inconsistency of emotions, arriving at the awareness that in order to survive the parents must let go, not of the child, but of the pain in a way that honors the child.

Confessions of a Grieving Christian ~ by Zig Ziglar

Sharing his Christian belief, the author writes of his daughter's death and the strength he received from God. He encourages releasing emotions with tears and gaining strength from prayer. He talks of the miracles that come from reaching out to others who are suffering. Mr. Ziglar believes that we will have bodies in Heaven, and we will be recognized, hugged, and held by our loved ones.  

The Courage to Grieve ~ by Judy Tatelbaum, LCSW

An excellent book to read when “stuck” in working though grief. The author addresses obstacles and resistance in facing deep emotions and fears. She offers straightforward advice to bolster self-support toward healing.

How to Go on Living When Someone You Love Dies ~ by Therese A. Rando, PhD

Dr. Rando uses simple layman’s terms to describe confusing and frightening emotions. She recommends establishing realistic expectations by acknowledging loss and learning to live again. 

Letter to a Grieving Heart ~ by Billy Sprague and John MacMurray

A lovely book with calming pictures, poetry, and scriptures. The author writes a sensitive account of his grief and describes how acts of kindness from friends and God's love helped guide him through his numbing grief and heartache.

Living When a Loved One Has Died ~ by Earl A. Grollman

A tough-love compassionate approach. Rabbi Grollman helps confront loss by sorting through feelings and advice toward building a new life. He encourages saying the four letter words (died and dead) we artfully avoid as a step toward facing reality and mental health.

Surviving Grief and Learning to Live Again ~ by Catherine M. Sanders, PhD

Dr. Sanders describes the grief process as five phases and guides the reader through each phase. She is quite good at describing the raw physical symptoms associated with grief stating that the pain can be as physical as it is emotional.  

When the Bough Breaks, Forever After the Death of a Son or Daughter ~ by Judith R. Bernstein, PhD

Dr. Bernstein explains dramatic changes in the life and attitude of grieving parents. She describes the bone crushing intensity of a grief that will never end. As a result of interviews, the author states that a parent does not “recover” from the loss of a child, but rather must adapt, altering all aspects of life to ensure meaning and purpose.

The Worst Loss, How Families Heal from the Death of a Child by Barbara D. Rosof, MS

The author addresses the symptoms of the death of a child, notification of sudden death, the feelings of helplessness, and finding ways within your timetable to live the remainder of your life. She warns the second and third years often are more painful and difficult than the first as the finality of loss becomes reality.  

Jonnie ChandlerBy Jonnie Chandler, surviving mom of Captain Jeremy A. Chandler:  Jonnie Chandler is the proud mother of U.S. Army Captain Jeremy A. Chandler. A Green Beret, CPT Chandler was assigned to 1st Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne) as ODA 334 (HALO) Team Leader when he was killed in Afghanistan while serving on his 4th deployment.