Grief is a topic I've written about here a lot because it has impacted my life so much. And since I've read SO MANY books on grief, today I want to share my top 3 books for grief. If you had limited time or money and could only read three books on grief and loss – these are the ones I’d recommend! One is for adults, one is for kids, and one is for mental health professionals working with children such as counselors, social workers, psychologists, etc.
Grief and Loss Books: My Favorite Book on Grief for Adults:
I’ve read a lot of books for adults on grief, and this one is my favorite so far. I found it was especially helpful for coping with early grief, which I feel like a lot of books don't necessarily address. It is the book that gave me the most comfort during my own grieving process. Megan Devine is a counselor who also went through an immense loss when her husband drowned. I honestly highlighted so much of this book it's hard to distill down into a blog post. I'll share a few gems that stood out to me below and if you know someone who is grieving, this book would be a great gift to share with them.
It’s Okay That You’re Not Okay is the first book I’ve read that discussed grief and loss from a macro and cultural perspective as well which I found that to be very helpful in my own grieving process. For example, Devine discusses Western culture’s “inability to be present with pain” and since we see grief as a malady we “have outdated beliefs around how long grief should last and what it should look like. We see it as something to overcome, something to fix, rather than something to tend or support.”
Honestly, there are so many takeaways I had from this book and I have re-read it multiple times. One important point is that loss and grief and quite natural and that loss is inextricably linked with love: “if we commit to loving, we will inevitably know loss and grief. If we try to avoid loss and grief, we will never truly love” (Devine, p. 63). I also found the concept that losses don’t have to have a silver lining and that “not every loss can be transformed into something useful” to be very poignant.
I learned so much from this book and there were so many passages that just felt so real to me. Reading this book was like I had finally been seen in my own grieving process. For example, when Devine writes about the visceral process of grief and that “loss and grief change our landscape. The terrain is forever different and there is no normal to return to” (p. 63). I could so relate to the notion that when you lose a loved one “you don’t just lose them in the present or in the past. You lose the future you should have had, and might have had, with them. They are missing from all the life that was to be” (Devine, p. 70).
This book is a true gem about rehumanizing grieving and seeing it as a normal and natural process that changes us. Devine is so heartfelt and honest when she writes that “some things cannot be fixed. They can only be carried.” Wow.
My Favorite Grief Book for Kids:
The Invisible String by Patrice Karst
This is such a special picture book. Two twins wake up in the middle of the night during a storm and their Mom talks to them about how they are always connected to the people and animals that they love with an invisible string. It does have a line that refers to “Uncle Brian in heaven” so in some settings this may not work well (or you can change the words.)
The description says this book is written for preschool to grade 3 but I’ve even used it with older children too. It’s such a comforting and touching story. It can be used to talk about many different kinds of loss, and not just death. This picture book is about the unbreakable relationships and bonds we have with others, no matter what. I love it!
To accompany the reading of this book you can create an invisible string craft like this one below created by Lori Kays-Townsend using felt and yarn, or you can create a drawing.
To create an invisible string drawing, I usually have the child write their name large in the center of a piece of paper. Next, theypick out different colored markers to write the names of the people and animals around their name that they are connected to with an invisible string.
The Invisible String Grief Intervention Project
Invisible String Grief Activity
Favorite Intervention book on Grief for Mental Health Professionals:
Creative Interventions for Bereaved Children by Liana Lowenstein
Creative Interventions for Bereaved Children by Liana Lowenstein is the most comprehensive grief intervention guide I have seen! It includes guidelines for practitioners including letters and interventions for individual, group, and family sessions.
The creative interventions are structured and well-organized. In the first session, the child receives a Feel Better Bag (gift bag), and at each subsequent session, the child engages in a creative intervention, and then they put the activity inside their “Feel Better Bag.” I love the containment and structure that this ritual provides – which is especially important for children who are grieving.
The activities are presented in fun formats that kids love such as tic-tac-toe, stories, and basketball. There are interventions to engage and assess a bereaved child, to process grief reactions, to help children understand death, to commemorate the deceased, to facilitate coping skills, to enhance self-esteem, and even to address special issues such as cancer, suicide, and homicide.
One of the best things about this book is that the interventions truly address the thoughts and feelings that kids who are grieving experience! For example, there are activities to address when a child feels guilty or feels like the death is their fault. This is a common issue I’ve seen kids present with but I haven’t seen a lot of interventions to address this issue.
In one activity the child can even unlock a secret code that says: “nothing I said or did made my special person die.” There are also stories about coping with scary thoughts, activities about what causes death, what happens after death, and how to cope with grief attacks.
Below are a few sample pages of the book for you to check out for yourself and you can get 20% off all of Liana Lowenstein’s books with code PC14, plus get an extra 10% off when you buy 4 books! You can also check out her FREE eBook at: www.lianalowenstein.com
If you need CEUs or prefer video trainings, Liana Lowenstein also has an online training called Creative Interventions with Bereaved Children through Core Well CEU. After participating in this recorded webinar participants will be able to:
Explain the key differences between normative grief and traumatic grief
Identify the impact of loss at different developmental stages.
Identify common risk factors associated with children coping with bereavement.
Describe the key guidelines for explaining death to a child.
Describe the unique treatment issues of children coping with suicide and homicide death.
Apply a variety of innovative play therapy activities to help children cope with the death of a loved one.
It can be so hard to explain death to kids and this is why I appreciate this Life and Death Activity from Creative Interventions for Bereaved Children by Liana Lowenstein because it is an intervention that teaches kids that death is natural and everything eventually dies - including plants, animals, and people. Check out an excerpt here:
So many of the interventions in this book are clearly made by someone who has spent a lot of time with kids! I love this intervention called Basketball: A Game about Life and Death from Creative Interventions for Bereaved Children by Liana Lowenstein because it is a fun way to reinforce some important concepts about death that may be hard for some children to grasp.
Creative Interventions for Bereaved Children is honestly jam-packed with interventions to work on grief and loss with children. Here is one last example for you to check out. It caught my eye because I love doing puzzles with kids and this activity is great because it helps open up the conversation to answer questions that many children have about death but may be afraid to ask.
Remember, if you liked these bereavement interventions, be sure to head to www.lianalowenstein.com to check out her free eBook and get 20% off all of Liana Lowenstein’s books with code PC14, and get an extra 10% off when you buy 4 books! You can also check out the online training called Creative Interventions with Bereaved Children through Core Well CEU!