3 Grief Memoirs to Read (especially if you aren't the griever)

In my years of conversations with women, I can't count the number of hours I've listened to stories of stunning, unfathomable loss.  

Grief always makes her huge presence known.  She might not be the 'presenting problem,' but she can't help but show up before too long, all big and strong.  She sucks the oxygen right out of the room.  Grief is unwieldy, powerful and vulnerable ... and desperate to be named, validated, attended to.  Somehow redeemed.

Books on grieving run the gamut from highly questionable and completely unrealistic to absolute game-changers.  I don't know about you, but when it comes to this tender topic, I'm not interested in academic studies or professional tomes.  

Memoirs.  I choose to immerse myself in the stories of others.

We often think that 'grief books' are only meant for those who are, um, grieving.  But I'm thinking that those who benefit most might be the ones watching helplessly from the sidelines, wondering what to say, what to do, how to respond. 

Far too often we do nothing at all and it ends up sending a message we never intended to send.

Grief is complex and never straight-forward.  More often than not, it's raw and messy, numbing and disorienting.  Nothing can prepare us for these chapters in our lives.  We'll never be able to package it up all pretty with a big bow on top no matter how hard we try.  Life as we've known it will never be quite the same again.  We are transformed in ways we never dreamed possible.

But take heart because that might end up being a very good thing.  

God is a Healer.  He specializes in miracles, the kind that mend and restore our tattered and torn souls.  And then He invites us to serve as 'wounded healers' to the broken-hearted around us.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all of our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.
- 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 

Each of these women's stories is memorably penned with her own unique viewpoint and emphases.  Go ahead and sift through each of them.  Listen to their videos.  Click the links to read a chapter or so.  You'll discover common threads, universal truths, and deeper understanding of grief's unspeakable impact.  I'm guessing that one of these will fit the bill for you.

Not just if you are suffering loss.  But if you want to authentically, effectively offer your presence to those who find themselves in that place.  And I have a feeling that if you're reading this, you do.  

Marisa Renee Lee
The first blog post I ever wrote was a short ode honoring my friend, Lisa, who died far too young.  So when I heard that her daughter Marisa was writing this book, I grabbed it as soon as it hit the shelves.

Marisa has become an accomplished, articulate professional woman, an appointee of the Obama White House, known as a 'rabble-rouser of social healing,' and the founder of several organizations.

Getting deeper insight into the impact of Lisa's death on her daughter was a powerful experience for me and brought me back to that February night in 2008 as this 'Counselor for Pastoral Care' followed the church's Pastor to the Lee home after we got the news that Lisa had suddenly gone home to be with the Lord.


It's OK that You're Not OK: Meeting Grief & Loss in a Culture That Doesn't Understand
Megan Devine
author website
The depth of the impact of this volume surprised me.  It's the kind of book where you read a chapter and then need to put it down for a bit.  While I read it after my Mom's death, it spoke to other griefs I've known of or actually experienced, the ones that made absolute no sense at all, the kind that you never saw coming, that drop the bottom right out of life itself.

After watching her husband drown in 2009, this psychotherapist has gone on to become a nationally known grief advocate and founded the Writing Your Grief community.

'I am talking about things beyond what we consider the natural order of things ... accidents and illnesses, natural and manmade disasters, violent crimes, suicides ... the underground losses, the pain no one wants to talk about ... the baby who died.

People think the whole point of grief is to get out of it as quickly as possible.  As if grief were some strange thing, some bizarre, and incorrect, response to someone you love being torn from your life.  Grief gets a narrow window to be expressed.  After that, you are expected to return to normal, carrying with you the gifts you've learned from the experience.  You're supposed to become wiser, more compassionate, and truly understand what's important.  Staying sad means you're not doing it right.'


Amanda Held Opelt
The sister of Rachel Held Evans writes of the stunning impact of Rachel's sudden death even as she herself was going through her own devastating series of miscarriages.  There is a beautiful, gentle strength to her cadence, her writing style, that drew me right in on page one.  

As she weaves her story, Amanda seamlessly incorporates research on how rituals are able to aid in healing.  And to my surprise, I'm discovering how much I'm drawn to the Jewish ritual of 'sitting shivah.' 

'Shivah provides that next right step for friends who want to offer comfort but who are afraid to encroach on the bereaved, afraid of not knowing what to say or what to do.  And it shows a mourner how to receive love.  Shivah is indeed intrusion.  Death must be trespassed upon.  In shivah, fear is interrupted by friendship.  Loneliness is interrupted by love.  Pain is interrupted by presence.'

I'm slowly making my way through these pages.  For some reason, I'm in no hurry to finish up.  Probably because I'm finding Amanda to be a gentle companion in my own grieving journey.

What title would you give your grief story?

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P.S.S. {4 hours after publication}
Upon reflection, I deleted a portion of the final line of the 3rd paragraph. It was poorly worded and didn't reflect my love and passion for God's Word.



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