The best books about trying to live life after the sudden death of a loved one

Who am I?

I wanted to make sense of death when my brother suddenly died. I wanted an outlet for my grief and I wanted my brother to live on in my story when he couldn’t in reality. I also want to think that there’s life beyond death. I want to believe in it so much because it’s hard to fathom someone being ripped out of your life all of a sudden. I know death. I know grief. I have faced them. I don’t understand why it had to happen, but I could imagine that there’s an extension of life beyond this realm. If I couldn’t find closure in real life, I may as well find closure in my imagination. This story is my imagination writing its own happy ending.

I wrote...

Life, Everlasting

By C.D. Loza,

Book cover of Life, Everlasting

What is my book about?

Peter wakes up with no memory of his life. Who is he? As the truth slowly unfolds, he struggles to come to terms with where he is now. Meanwhile, Gino and Theresa move to the US for a new life. After decades of being apart, they are forced to live together in a foreign land. As past wounds surface, Theresa grapples with what it means to start again.

Told in alternating voices of Peter and Theresa, Life, Everlasting, is a story of new beginnings, of finding one’s place in strange grounds, and of discovering that life goes on for both the departed and those left behind. 

The books I picked & why

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The Year of Magical Thinking

By Joan Didion,

Book cover of The Year of Magical Thinking

Why this book?

The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion is Didion’s most personal and most heartbreaking work. This was her personal account of loss after the death of her husband, while her daughter was in a hospital.

I read this when I was trying to make sense of my own personal loss. This has helped me greatly in trying to wrap my head around the unthinkable. With her clear and concise writing, her words spoke to me on a personal level about how to soldier when an unexpected tragedy happens. It made me go on and live even for just another day. And then another day. Until the days become weeks and months.

A Grief Observed

By C.S. Lewis,

Book cover of A Grief Observed

Why this book?

This book was a more cerebral book about grief. Observing grief as if it was something to pick apart and understand. A kind of detachment that I needed when the weight of my own loss was unbearable.

This book helped me understand rather than simply feel (which was overwhelming at that time) what happened. It provided explanations on things I could barely explain to myself. Even though it was a struggle, this book made me see grief from a different perspective other than my own. It also helped me understand where I was in my own process of mourning and provided me some comfort when it was hard to find.


By Andrew Holleran,

Book cover of Grief

Why this book?

This is a short novel, a slim book that packs a lot in its pages. A fictional work about the loss of a loved one and the emptiness of one’s life. How do you fill your days? How do you go on with your life when every street, every building holds a memory of the one you lost?

This was a deeply emotional work of fiction that speaks to my own empty days after the loss. It felt as if I was walking with the main character as he went through his days trying to find purpose and meaning. It speaks to my own guilt, my own survivor’s guilt. Why am I alive when someone isn’t? How do I rediscover the colors of the world when all I see is black? What does my life, my future hold when every waking day feels like a struggle to get out of bed? Holleran’s book was a meditation on loss and grief, one that I needed to read in the darkness of my solitude.

The Odd Sea

By Frederick Reiken,

Book cover of The Odd Sea

Why this book?

One fine day, sixteen-year-old Ethan walks down his driveway and then vanishes. This was the short description of the book and I immediately picked it up. Instead of being a thriller, this book deals with the aftermath of Ethan’s disappearance, how his family and friends searched for him with little success. More than that, this was a book without a definitive happy ending.

As I was going through grief, a story that doesn’t wrap everything nicely in a bow was very cathartic for me. This book helped me accept that not everything in life ends in happily ever after. This opened me to the bittersweet nature of life, how loss is very much a part of it, and that not everything has to make sense. Things happen that make no sense at all and that’s the most bitter pill I had to learn to swallow.

A Man Called Ove

By Fredrik Backman,

Book cover of A Man Called Ove

Why this book?

A Man Called Ove opens with Ove’s attempt to take his own life. The story immediately lured me in. Who, in the darkest days of their lives, didn’t think of ending it all? It’s not that you want to die. You just want to stop feeling the pain of living.

Equal parts comedy and tragedy, this book had me smiling, laughing, and crying. A touching novel about living again and finding something that’s worth living for, this was the book I needed to find the rainbow after the storm. This was the book I needed to feel hopeful, to pull myself together, and go on with life even if that life has been burdened by loss.

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in brothers, neighbourhoods, and death?

5,309 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about brothers, neighbourhoods, and death.

Brothers Explore 52 books about brothers
Neighbourhoods Explore 13 books about neighbourhoods
Death Explore 183 books about death

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like A Grace Disguised: How the Soul Grows Through Loss, Grief Is the Thing with Feathers, and Healing After Loss: Daily Meditations for Working Through Grief if you like this list.