The best books for feeling validated in your grief

Why am I passionate about this?

After losing my dad to suicide, I jumped into the only thing I could think to do: writing. After spending a full 365 days writing about my grief, it only felt right to share it with other people for the sake of feeling less alone through the isolating journey of parent loss. Through that process, I have learned so much about myself, societal ways of grieving, and the un-comfiest parts of grief. I know how hard it can be to talk about someone you miss and are also mad at simultaneously, so my suggestions are truly from the heart to help process those difficult and big emotions. 

I wrote...

The First Year

By Bella Rainey,

Book cover of The First Year

What is my book about?

This is a look inside the first 365 days of grief for Bella Rainey after losing her father to suicide at the age of 20. Bella shows glimpses into her late father Phil Rainey's life, explains the complexity of guilty grief. The memoir starts with Bella's first "notes app entry" on May 26, 2021, just a few short hours after losing her dad. As the months go by, the memoir follows Bella's journey through grief with her notes app entries. Bella dives head first into each of these stages of her grief journey using the notes as mile-markers of growth, setbacks, and life changes. Through her brute honesty and open-book lifestyle, she hopes to help people better understand what it is like to lose a parent.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of I'm Glad My Mom Died

Bella Rainey Why did I love this book?

Jennette McCurdy takes oversharing to a new level in this memoir – something I personally think makes reading about grief more approachable while maintaining the importance of the topic.

She unravels the complicated times throughout her childhood as a child and teenage actor as her mom controlled her entire being, and then shows how it has made her grief process even more confusing than normal.

As someone who has experienced the same levels of guilty grief, this is probably the first book I would recommend to anyone who has a complex relationship with their dead parent. Jennette is frank and forward while still revealing the minimizing and guilty feeling that comes along with feeling relieved that your parent is gone. 

By Jennette McCurdy,

Why should I read it?

8 authors picked I'm Glad My Mom Died as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A heartbreaking and hilarious memoir by iCarly and Sam & Cat star Jennette McCurdy about her struggles as a former child actor-including eating disorders, addiction, and a complicated relationship with her overbearing mother-and how she retook control of her life.

Jennette McCurdy was six years old when she had her first acting audition. Her mother's dream was for her only daughter to become a star, and Jennette would do anything to make her mother happy. So she went along with what Mom called "calorie restriction," eating little and weighing herself five times a day. She endured extensive at-home makeovers while…

Book cover of Crying in H Mart

Bella Rainey Why did I love this book?

This memoir is a public and usually unspoken attribution to the complicated battles of cancer within culture as an Asian woman.

Michelle’s mom is diagnosed with cancer and eventually passes away due to her illness, and throughout her battle she continues a less-than-simple mother-daughter relationship. This leads to less than complicated feelings after her death.

This book has a true frankness to it that makes you feel like you’re sitting across from the author at coffee, hearing the stories of her mom secondhand. Some are positive, some are negative, and some are just in between, but they all play into the life Michelle has been handed now: life without her mom. 

By Michelle Zauner,

Why should I read it?

9 authors picked Crying in H Mart as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

One of Barack Obama's Favorite Books of 2021

The New York Times bestseller from the Grammy-nominated indie rockstar Japanese Breakfast, an unflinching, deeply moving memoir about growing up mixed-race, Korean food, losing her Korean mother, and forging her own identity in the wake of her loss.

'As good as everyone says it is and, yes, it will have you in tears. An essential read for anybody who has lost a loved one, as well as those who haven't' - Marie-Claire

In this exquisite story of family, food, grief, and endurance, Michelle Zauner proves herself far more than a dazzling singer,…

Book cover of The Year of Magical Thinking

Bella Rainey Why did I love this book?

We all know Joan Didion. If you don’t, you’re about to.

Throughout this book, Didion unpacks how traumatizing and life-altering grief of a close loved one can be. Her words are like a warm hug through the pages, for those of us going through the same or similar things.

She explains how grief can suck the joy from a once healthy mind, explaining how to come to terms with what once was and what must be.

By Joan Didion,

Why should I read it?

14 authors picked The Year of Magical Thinking as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From one of America's iconic writers, a portrait of a marriage and a life - in good times and bad - that will speak to anyone who has ever loved a husband or wife or child. A stunning book of electric honesty and passion.

Several days before Christmas 2003, John Gregory Dunne and Joan Didion saw their only daughter, Quintana, fall ill. At first they thought it was flu, then pneumonia, then complete sceptic shock. She was put into an induced coma and placed on life support. Days later - the night before New Year's Eve -the Dunnes were just…

Book cover of Notes on Grief

Bella Rainey Why did I love this book?

This book dives in head-first to the concepts of sudden loss.

When you lose someone, it can never be explained as easy – but losing someone when you had no idea they would be gone so soon is the least easy way to watch them go. This book shows how many of us are connected by grief and loss, and how important conversation and connection are for the sake of getting better.

Plus, the book is in relation to loss during the COVID-19 pandemic, adding another layer of relatability to thousands of people. 

By Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Notes on Grief as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A personal and powerful essay on loss from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, the bestselling author of Americanah and Half of a Yellow Sun.

'Grief is a cruel kind of education. You learn how ungentle mourning can be, how full of anger. You learn how glib condolences can feel. You learn how much grief is about language, the failure of language and the grasping for language'

On 10 June 2020, the scholar James Nwoye Adichie died suddenly in Nigeria.

In this tender and powerful essay, expanded from the original New Yorker text, his daughter, a self-confessed daddy's girl, remembers her beloved father.…

Book cover of Competitive Grieving

Bella Rainey Why did I love this book?

This book shows how layered and difficult grief can be, in the most uncomfortable and sometimes taboo ways. While flipping from page to page, you feel like you’re having a talk with your big sister, hearing her uncover things that no one else would be honest enough with you about.

Through her character Wren, this author is honest about how impossible it feels to grieve while also trying to live, as the narrator uncovers parts of her deceased friend she didn’t even know about. 

By Nora Zelevansky,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Competitive Grieving as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

*An Entertainment Weekly Pick of Summer’s Best New Books
*A USA Today Pick of Best Beach Reads
*A PopSugar Pick of Best New Summer Books
*A Daily Break Selection of the Month's Best Book

Wren’s closest friend, her anchor since childhood, is dead. Stewart Beasley. Gone. She can’t quite believe it and she definitely can’t bring herself to google what causes an aneurysm. Instead of weeping or facing reality, Wren has been dreaming up the perfect funeral plans, memorial buffets, and processional songs for everyone from the corner bodega owner to her parents (none of whom show signs of imminent…

You might also like...

Book cover of Benghazi! A New History of the Fiasco that Pushed America and its World to the Brink

Ethan Chorin Author Of Benghazi! A New History of the Fiasco that Pushed America and its World to the Brink

New book alert!

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Story-lover Middle East expert Curious Iconoclast Optimist

Ethan's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

Benghazi: A New History is a look back at the enigmatic 2012 attack on the US mission in Benghazi, Libya, its long-tail causes, and devastating (and largely unexamined) consequences for US domestic politics and foreign policy. It contains information not found elsewhere, and is backed up by 40 pages of citations and interviews with more than 250 key protagonists, experts, and witnesses.

So far, the book is the main -- and only -- antidote to a slew of early partisan “Benghazi” polemics, and the first to put the attack in its longer term historical, political, and social context. If you want to understand some of the events that have shaped present-day America, from political polarization and the election of Donald Trump, to January 6, the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, Russian expansionism, and the current Israel-Hamas war, I argue, you need to understand some of the twists and turns of America's most infamous "non-scandal, scandal.”

I was in Benghazi well before, during, and after the attack as a US diplomat and co-director of a medical NGO. I have written three books, and have been a contributor to The NYT, Foreign Affairs, Forbes, Salon, The Financial Times, Newsweek, and others.

By Ethan Chorin,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Benghazi! A New History of the Fiasco that Pushed America and its World to the Brink as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

On September 11, 2012, Al Qaeda proxies attacked and set fire to the US mission in Benghazi, Libya, killing a US Ambassador and three other Americans.  The attack launched one of the longest and most consequential 'scandals' in US history, only to disappear from public view once its political value was spent. 

Written in a highly engaging narrative style by one of a few Western experts on Libya, and decidely non-partisan, Benghazi!: A New History is the first to provide the full context for an event that divided, incited, and baffled most of America for more than three years, while silently reshaping…

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