Losing someone close to you — a family member, your partner, a best friend, anyone that had an impact on your life — is truly one of the most difficult things to go through. It's hard enough to face the grieving process and all too easy to hide away and ignore it all together. I've lost a few, incredibly loved, people in my life. I've also watched close friends lose loved ones, and the process is always painful, and never simple.
After losing a best friend, I shut myself down and didn't do much but hide away in my room. It wasn't until months later that I finally picked up a book suggested by friends and family that I felt like I could stand on my own again. And even though it didn't heal every wound or solve my problems, it did help me gain the courage to try and understand my emotions.
Books are always there for you, even when life seems to have flipped upside down and nothing makes sense anymore. There are a few books, some fictional and other deeply emotional memoirs, that capture how hard it is to lose someone close to you. And it's these books in particular that will hold your hand and help you feel less alone at this time in your life:
One of America's most iconic writers, Joan Didion, shares the painful year of losing her husband and having to watch her daughter become increasingly ill. This is her story on understanding grief, the strong connection between marriage and family, and what it means to lose someone you loved. Her words capture the universal emotions of tragedy and loss, and most importantly, she'll remind you that you aren't alone in these sad times.
After Lewis lost his wife, he wrote a collection of letters that's created one of the most honest books on the anger, confusion, and doubt that comes with death. Questioning his faith, the way humans live, and how someone so monumentally important can simply vanish are just pieces of what makes this book essential to anyone grieving. Even if you aren't religious like Lewis was, his heartfelt emotions are powerful enough to relate to anyone who is dealing with loss.
As helpful as memoirs can be during a difficult time in your life, sometimes fictional stories can provide more clarity to your own situation than anything else. The Sky is Everywhere, Nelson's first book, is about 17-year-old Lennie Walker, a girl who hides behind the shadow of her older sister, Bailey. But when Bailey abruptly passes away, Lennie has trouble coping, grieving, and facing the idea of falling in love without her sister's guidance. This beautifully written book made me cry over and over again, but it also helped me confront my own losses in a powerful way.
Mitch Albom had the chance to sit down and gain the best advice from his college professor and mentor, Morrie Schwartz, during the last few weeks of Morrie's life. Maybe you remember reading this in high school, but when you're struggling to understand loss and death, this book is one of the most important to keep close by. It's full of life lessons, questions, and wisdom for nearly anything you're going through.
John Green is known for producing tears, and while The Fault in Our Stars gets all the credit, Looking for Alaska is also a great book to keep close if you've lost someone. Miles "Pudge" Halter, on a search to find the meaning in life, moves to a new school where he meets Alaska Young, a beautiful and fascinating girl that steals his heart. This book is one I still go back to when I'm feeling down, even years after losing someone, and it never fails to show me how to get through the difficult emotions one goes through when it comes to losing a friend.
For anyone who has lost a life-long partner, Joyce Carroll Oats puts the tragic and extraordinarily painful process into perspective in her memoir, A Widow's Story . After losing her husband of 46 years, Oats writes the rawness and vulnerability of what it's like to lose someone you loved so deeply. Not only that, but she shows how grief can change you and make you act, for better or for worse.
Cheryl Strayed, who once wrote an advice column for The Rumpus under the anonymous name of Sugar, has put together a beautiful and heartwarming collection of lessons she's learned throughout the years. Death, loss, heartache, you name it. Strayed doesn't just tell her story, she gives you valuable knowledge to take with you, no matter what you're going through. This book has the humor you may need right now, because laughter can sometimes be the best medicine.
This may sound odd, being told to read The Harry Potter series right now, but when you think about it, it's been there for you your entire life. Hogwarts is home, and if there's one thing that you need while you grieve, it's comfort. Rowling also wrote so much on life and death within the series that it practically teaches you how to cope with death in a healthy way. It'll temporarily take you away from your miseries while also helping you face them in your own time, and in your own way.