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5 Books To Read When Dealing With Grief

Posted: February 15, 2013

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The loss of loved ones takes a toll on women’s health; sometimes books can help when dealing with the grief.

By Sandhya Renukamba

During times of extreme or sudden stress, shock is a defence mechanism that the body brings up. It is nature’s way of letting in only as much as we can handle. But, after the initial shock wears off, denial can take a toll on women’s health. For life to go on, and get back to normal, dealing with grief is essential – working through the inevitable feelings of bewilderment, anger and depression that loss can bring.

Indian women often find that friends and family are a source of great comfort in times like these. Books, too, can offer that extra helping hand when dealing with grief. Many of us turn to our scriptures, as faith can work wonders. Vibha Sharma, a fellow blogger from Chandigarh, lost her father in her late teens. She says, “I picked the one (book) which I had complete faith on – the Bhagwad Gita. Though I could not understand it much, it did have a soothing impact on my disturbed mental state. Reading it over and over again made me realize the logical setting of the stage which is called the world”.

The first book here takes a hard look at all religions and their role in coping with loss. The rest are non-religious, and have each helped some Indian woman I know to deal with grief, and heal in many other ways.

Does He Know A Mother’s Heart?

Does He Know A Mother's HeartAuthor: Arun Shourie. Publisher: Harper Collins.

This is an intensely personal book that explores the belief in a God. The author, a well-known thinker, journalist and politician, is also a father to a special child. He takes an intense and very practical look at the scriptures of almost all religions of the world.

He questions the idea of an all-powerful God and his role in the suffering of humanity – questions that arise in the minds of anyone suffering and desperate for convincing answers. Why did this happen? Why me? Is there something that I have done to deserve this? Why does God not do something about my suffering?

Mr. Shourie suggests a way to heal: “There is pain and suffering around us, true. But so are joy and laughter,” he writes. “Empathise – not feel sorry for – get into the skin of, and feel like the person must feel.”

Tear SoupTear Soup

Authors: Pat Schweibert and Chuck DeKlyen. Illustrations: Taylor Bills. Publisher: Grief Watch.

This is the one book I would recommend if there is to be just the one, for anyone dealing with grief or loss – either due to bereavement or any other upheaval in life.

This book is suitable for children (children too, feel grief and need to mourn their loss to heal) as well as adults. It puts across that it is OK to grieve, and that there isn’t any right or wrong way to do it. Everyone grieves differently, and that’s how it is supposed to be. The book gives very practical insights and suggestions both for the person dealing with grief and for the person who is lending support.

The Knitting Circle

Knitting CircleAuthor: Ann Hood. Publisher: W.W.Norton and Co.

In this novel, Mary Baxter is devastated by the sudden death of her only child. She is unable to go to work, to socialize or do anything that would help her to overcome the unbearable pain. This strains her friendships and puts her marriage in jeopardy. Her mother persuades her to join a knitting group.

There, she makes new friends, who all share their own stories of grief and bereavement. Their understanding and companionship, along with the knitting, helps Mary heal, bridging the gap between giving up on life because of her loss, and starting to live again with happy memories of her daughter.

This is one of the many books that helped Indian Home Maker, a fellow blogger from Delhi, who lost her daughter Tejaswee a couple of years ago, to cope with her loss. The trust set up in her memory has been an inspiration to many of her readers.

Healing After LossHealing-After-Loss

Author: Martha W Hickman. Publisher: Harper Perennial.

This book has daily messages with practical suggestions – taking one day at a time for dealing with grief. The brief meditations and quotes are just right for those who may not feel up to a lot of reading; the book can be dipped into at any place for some inspiration and solace. The author wrote down her thoughts and feelings daily for many months after her daughter’s death, and much of the book has been written from those jottings, along with relevant inspirational quotes. 

You Can Heal Your Life

You-Can-Heal Your LifeAuthor: Louise L Hay. Publisher: Hay House India.

Indian women often get a low deal from life, and often feel helpless and powerless. Also, characteristically, there is a tendency to put women’s health last. Bereavement can add to the needless suffering. There is the need then, for something that puts the power to mould their life in these women’s hands.

With its positive messages, this book is the most life-affirming one I have ever encountered. Putting the positive out there puts it in the realm of the possible – no matter what your previous life-experiences. This book reaffirms the belief that healing the mind can often lead to healing the body.

Have you read any book that helped you when you were dealing with grief? Do let us know in the comments.

*Featured image credit: Arinas74.

In her role as the Senior Editor & Community Manager at Women's Web, Sandhya

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