The best books on grief and spirituality

Who am I?

As I formed my self-identity I considered myself a spiritual seeker, always straying beyond the boundaries of my more conservative Christian communities. As a minister’s wife, I had a wide experience of Christian-based faith and community. When my husband died instantly of a heart attack, my entire spiritual foundation seemed to crumble. This book is a memoir of my journey to rebuild a new spirituality, founded on the remnants of my original faith and expanding to meet my new and changing experience of who I am. I have a master’s degree in English so the study of literature, mythology, and poetry also strongly influenced my journey, my story, and this memoir.

I wrote...

Do You Want to Be Well? A Memoir of Spiritual Healing

By Christine Christman,

Book cover of Do You Want to Be Well? A Memoir of Spiritual Healing

What is my book about?

When trauma disrupts your foundational beliefs, the journey to a new way of being can be daunting and lonely. In this poetic memoir, Christine brings hope to the possibilities of spiritual healing. During a period of expansive inquiry into a variety of spiritual traditions, her husband’s sudden death created a longing to return to the Christianity of her roots. Finding the patriarchal religion of her upbringing no longer served her, she sought alternative Christian perspectives through a new lens of grief, healing compassion, and the sacred feminine. In Do You Want to Be Well, Christine helps readers courageously explore the spaces where religion fails us, where facing tough realities is necessary, and how self-love is discovered and nurtured.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times

Why did I love this book?

I learned in my grief that the experience of loss can open the door wide for personal growth and transformation. Pema Chodron’s book brings the possibility of gentle healing through the lens of Buddhist practice. After the first year of loss, as I was beginning to regain some stability, this book helped me find my way into new spiritual practices. I used it to expand beyond old beliefs that no longer served me and into new ways of thinking and being. It grounded me in the context of suffering, helping me to see that I wasn’t alone; that suffering was nothing to be ashamed of. And her stories offered some practical ideas that I hadn’t found in my Christian spiritual practice.

By Pema Chödrön,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked When Things Fall Apart as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Pema Choedroen reveals the vast potential for happiness, wisdom and courage even in the most painful circumstances.

Pema Choedroen teaches that there is a fundamental opportunity for happiness right within our reach, yet we usually miss it - ironically, while we are caught up in attempt to escape pain and suffering.

This accessible guide to compassionate living shows us how we can use painful emotions to cultivate wisdom, compassion and courage, ways of communication that lead to openness and true intimacy with others, practices for reversing our negative habitual patterns, methods for working with chaotic situations and ways to cultivate…

Book cover of A Grace Disguised: How the Soul Grows Through Loss

Why did I love this book?

Jerry’s book was recommended to me by a friend who had lost her husband three years earlier. I found that there were times in my grieving when I gained perspective by holding up the gravity of my loss against that of someone else’s. Jerry’s loss was so monumental and potentially devastating, I found myself drawn to his words again and again to encourage myself that if he could find his way through and still be grounded in faith, maybe I could too. His story shows the possibility of leaning into community and finding the internal strength to trust in healing.

By Jerry L. Sittser,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Grace Disguised as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

With vulnerability and honesty, Jerry Sittser walks through his own grief and loss to show that new life is possible--one marked by spiritual depth, joy, compassion, and a deeper appreciation of simple and ordinary gifts. This 25th anniversary edition features a new introduction and two additional chapters, one which provides help for pastors and counselors.

Loss came suddenly for Jerry Sittser. In an instant, a tragic car accident claimed three generations of his family: his mother, his wife, and his young daughter. While most of us will not experience such a catastrophic loss in our lifetime, all of us will…

Book cover of The Cure for Sorrow: A Book of Blessings for Times of Grief

Why did I love this book?

In all of my reading after my husband died, I was looking for company. Someone who would share and reflect my experience. Not only the loss, but the toll it took on my faith. Jan’s book spoke to me for several reasons. She had lost her husband several years before writing the book. In her experience I saw someone who was a few years down the road from me, negotiating her own spirituality, and writing from a place of healing.  Her poetry was honest, yes, but more importantly pure comfort. Grief had ravaged my soul leaving me feeling raw and vulnerable. Jan’s words were gentle and soothing. When I couldn’t concentrate enough to read anything else, I could pick up Jan’s book and find a poem and a connection.

By Jan Richardson,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Cure for Sorrow as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

When Jan Richardson unexpectedly lost her husband and creative partner, the singer/songwriter Garrison Doles, she did what she had long known how to do: she wrote blessings.

These were no sugar-coated blessings. They minimized none of the pain and bewilderment that came in the wake of a wrenching death. With these blessings, Jan entered, instead, into the depths of the shock, anger, and sorrow. From those depths, she has brought forth words that, with heartbreaking honesty, offer surprising comfort and stunning grace.

Those who know loss will find kinship among these pages. In these blessings that move through the anguish…

Book cover of Grieving Mindfully: A Compassionate and Spiritual Guide to Coping with Loss

Why did I love this book?

This was the first book I read about grief after my husband died. It was recommended by my therapist and I immediately purchased a copy for each of my adult children. It was the beginning of my search for finding meaning in my suffering. This book includes mindfulness practices which opened me to believing that I had the power to transform my experience of suffering into a deepening wisdom in my life. As I was challenged to lean into the faith of my past, I found solace in this new way of practicing spirituality in my life. It opened out a path for me to the healing which inspired my own book.

By Sameet M. Kumar,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Many people who suffer the death of a loved one cling to the experience of grief long after the actual pain of loss goes away. This is because grief itself is a complex issue, fraught with misinformation and unrealistic expectations, often leading to interpersonal isolation at the times people need connection the most. Ironically, it is often by embracing the experience of grief that people become most fully mindful of life.

Grieving readers will find, in this book, a new understanding of their own grief process. They will learn about the spiral staircase, a metaphor used to describe the ebb…

A Grief Observed

By C. S. Lewis,

Book cover of A Grief Observed

Why did I love this book?

“No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear.” These words, From A Grief Observed struck me when I read the book in my C.S. Lewis period, long before my husband died. But they returned to mind early in my grieving journey. I turned to this classic on grief and the Christian faith repeatedly for comfort and guidance as I moved through my grief journey. In this book, C.S. Lewis writes, with unprecedented vulnerability for his time, about the loss of his wife Joy. He writes about the experience of being jolted out of an intellectual faith and forced to rebuild his understanding of life, love, and God on something more.

By C. S. Lewis,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked A Grief Observed as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The perennial classic: this intimate journal chronicling the Narnia author's experience of grief after his wife's death has consoled readers for half a century with its 'sensitive and eloquent' magic (Hilary Mantel)

'An intimate, anguished account of a man grappling with the mysteries of faith and love ... Elegant and raw ... A powerful record of thought and emotion experienced in real time.' Guardian

'Raw and modern ... This unsentimental, even bracing, account of one man's dialogue with despair becomes both compelling and consoling ... A contemporary classic.' Observer

'A source of great consolation ... Lewis deploys his genius for…

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Interested in grief, spirituality, and loss?

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