A Grief Recovery Project Post
As I was packing up my house and offloading most of my worldly possessions, I had the privilege of un-welcoming a new member to The W Club. Since I couldn’t take them with me, I decided to give her the books that made the most impact on my grief recovery. As I was writing notes to her on how each one made a difference for me, I thought that others might like them too. All of these should be available through your local library if you don’t want to purchase them.
Books on grief and grieving are plentiful, just ask Amazon. Since I was already working with a phenomenal counselor, I found the books that helped me the most weren’t specifically grief related. And they all came to me when I needed them most. Funny how that happens. Here are my Top 5, in the order they showed up in my life over the course of my first year of widowhood.
1. Carry On Warrior by Glennon Melton
Hi Lisa, Nowhere near what you are dealing with right now, but in my dark postpartum days I found a little light in some of this book. You are the definition of warrior my friend. Love you–E.
One of my besties sent this one to me when she knew I was struggling with talking about how I felt and in real danger of imploding. Carry On Warrior encouraged me to become a Reckless Truth Teller. An RTT keeps it real, forgoing the carefully curated image and social media profile. The idea is that we not only help ourselves, we help others by being REAL and authentic. The truth is, we have a lot of people in our lives who would like to help us, they just don’t know how. If we can’t share with them, they become just as helpless as we are. This book encouraged me to blog about my grief journey, in all its good and ugly bits, and not try to keep my grief to myself.
2. Broken Open by Elizabeth Lesser
“And the time came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” –Anais Nin
Another sweet friend gave this one to me. Have you heard of kintsugi or kintsukuroi? It’s the Japanese art of mending broken pottery with resin and gold to make it more beautiful than it was before. Broken Open encourages us to be accepting of what is, and allow ourselves to be okay with being broken. That by having been broken we are made stronger and more beautiful. This book resonated with me in a way none of the others did. Every other page would find me exclaiming out loud, “Yes!” I sobbed. I highlighted. I wrote notes in the margins. I fell in love with each quote Lesser included as if they were selected just for me. I realized that being broken open allowed me to grow and that our greatest tragedies can also be the catalyst for our most significant transformations.
3. When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chodron
“Only to the extent that we expose ourselves over and over to annihilation can that which is indestructible be found in us.”
I was struggling through the middle of an 8-week meditation challenge when this book showed up, a recommendation by another widow and I couldn’t wait to read it. This was the least emotional of the five books on this list, but the advice within was sound and incredibly helpful. The basic premise is that we create our pain and suffering through our expectations. That once we accept that death and suffering are inevitable parts of being alive, we can find true peace. It’s a bit dry, but I filtered all of that down to a very Buddhist version of Live Now.
4. Blessed Are The Weird by Jacob Nordby
“Lisa, this book is written by one of my close friends, and I think you will really enjoy it. It’s deep, it’s insightful, and I think you’ll find yourself nodding along throughout the book.” –M.
Another gift, this was intended to be inflight reading for my spring trip to Europe, but I didn’t get to it until after I was home. I started reading at a time when I was beginning to struggle to keep my newly rediscovered happiness, and questioning whether or not to continue blogging about my grief journey. I’d been debating (or talking myself out of) starting a new creative project. Nordby’s passion and dedication to the creative weirdos inspired me to begin the new project and beg for a meeting. This book also started me down the path of walking away from everything I know in search of my Live Now adventure.
5. The Afterlife of Billy Fingers by Annie Kagan
“Keep listening for my voice, and always, always and forever remember my love.”
When Jacob Nordby, author of Blessed Are The Weird, and I met for coffee and a mutual sharing of our stories, he told me about this book. Jacob thought I’d like this one, and he was correct. Written by a woman who lost her older brother, this book chronicles her experiences of communicating with him as he shared his view of the afterlife. (FYI, I don’t care what your beliefs are, there is no room to tear apart someone else’s coping mechanisms). Since none of us has a way to travel there and report back, I found this book comforting and full of hope. When you watch someone die a gruesome and violent death, the idea that the afterlife is peaceful is one that brings peace. And, as it appeared in my life close to the one-year deathiversary milestone, it also felt a little like Dan was saying the good-bye he wasn’t able to a year ago.
So there you have it, my Top 5 favorite grief journey books. If you have one, not on this list, I’d love to hear about it.
The Wandering Widow
Live Now. Dream Big. Love Fierce
You already know about my fondness for J.M. Storm’s writing. If his poems were songs, they would have been the soundtrack to the last year of my life. His book, In My Head was the only book to make the cut and make it in my suitcase for this adventure abroad.