When your spouse dies, your world changes in that instant. You’re left wondering how you’re going to cope without your spouse and what comes next for you. The grief process for widowers can be challenging on the good days, and unbearable on the not-so-good days.
For those who’ve suffered this type of loss, there are many books for widows on grieving. They help you navigate through your pain and sorrow. The books on grief recommended below are a mix of those written by therapists specially trained in dealing with grief, and others written by people just like you who have suffered one of the greatest losses in life.
1. I’m Grieving as Fast as I Can: How Young Widows and Widowers Can Cope and Heal By Linda Feinberg
I'm Grieving as Fast as I Can is popular among grief support groups. It was written by a grief counselor as a guide to help widowers get through the toughest days following the death of their spouse.
It offers practical advice on what to expect when you're grieving, the different types of grief, and knowing how to tell when you're ready to go back to your life. The author relies on her experience as a therapist and quotes some of her former patients to highlight certain grief issues.
2. The Year of Magical Thinking By Joan Didion
“Life changes fast. Life changes in the instant. You sit down to dinner and life as you know it ends.” - Joan Didion
The book’s title references the term magical thinking, which generally means that a person who’s out of touch with reality thinks that catastrophic events can be averted by the power of thought. The Year of Magical Thinking is a memoir that describes the intense pain and sorrow that the author experienced when her husband died of a fatal heart attack in their apartment.
Didion takes you through her husband's sudden death and the grief she suffered concurrently when their daughter was hospitalized and in a coma when her husband died. She manages to capture in words what it's like to feel the depth of unimaginable pain and sorrow, to lose your rational thinking, and not to know how to move forward in life after the death of your spouse.
3. Widow to Widow: Thoughtful, Practical Ideas for Rebuilding Your Life By Genevieve Davis Ginsburg
Widow to Widow is written from the perspective of a marriage counselor who lost her husband unexpectedly while he was out playing tennis.
Davis Ginsburg recounts how she felt like a fraud. In public, she made it seem that she was holding everything together. But the reality was that the depth of her despair made it difficult to function in her personal life. She talks about how a support group for people who lost a partner helped her connect to other widows who could relate to what she was going through on a much personal level.
In her sorrow, she leaves behind her counseling practice to start a new organization called Widowed to Widowed Services. It’s a support group aimed at helping those who’ve lost a spouse feel like they belong to something. They meet to discuss their grief experiences and offer support to one another. The author says that her book is in essence a “support group between covers.”
4. Widows Wear Stilettos: A Practical and Emotional Guide for the Young Widow By Carole Brody Fleet with Syd Harriet, Ph.D., Psy.D.
In Widows Wear Stilettos, the author hand-holds grieving widows through each step of grieving. Brody Fleet helps widowed young women process the loss of their spouse in order to successfully reclaim their lives and move forward. The book follows a somewhat sensible timeline in what you should expect to occur and when.
She covers the emotional side of grief by describing what it feels like when you first lose your spouse, and also describes what happens after the funeral. Brody Fleet provides some useful advice also on how to deal with the insensitive things that people say.
On the more practical side of things, she talks about the red tape and end-of-life planning documents that she recommends you complete. She gives parenting advice as well as relationship advice to those considering remarriage.
5. The Hot Young Widows Club: Lessons on Survival from the Front Lines of Grief (TedTalk Series) By Nora McInerny
Nora McInerney describes her journey as a young widow who suffered back-to-back losses with humor and sass in accompaniment with her tragedies. Originally a blogger, she shares the story of having a miscarriage, followed by the death of her husband, and then her father, all within a few short weeks from the other.
In The Hot Young Widows Club, McInerny shares with others how they can also survive multiple losses through the use of grace and humor. Her life experiences are examples for the grieving widow, and for anyone who’s dealing with a significant loss in their life. Men and women alike can benefit from reading this book and learning how the author made it through.
6. Healing a Spouse's Grieving Heart: 100 Practical Ideas After Your Husband or Wife Dies (Healing Your Grieving Heart series) By Alan D. Wolfelt
Healing a Spouse's Grieving Heart is a useful manual for men and women who’ve suffered the loss of a spouse. It’s aimed at giving practical advice on how to move forward from your grief and learn successful mourning strategies.
The author helps to teach others how to live and love again after the death of a spouse. Wolfelt is a counselor and educator on the topics of death, grief, loss, and bereavement.
7. A Widow's Journey: Reflections on Walking Alone By Gayle Roper
Gayle Roper walks you through the grieving process from the perspective of a woman who’s grieving the loss of her husband. Through her journey, she learns to move forward in life without her husband and life partner. She laments over the loss of her almost 50-year marriage.
A Widow's Journey chronicles the love and loss that she experienced throughout her marriage, and that culminated with the death of her husband. Roper offers advice from a series of blog posts turned manuscript. She writes for an audience who’s grieving the loss of their spouse, and for those who are struggling to pick up the pieces.
8. Comfort for the Grieving Spouse's Heart: Hope and Healing After Losing Your Partner By Gary Roe
Gary Roe’s original goal in writing Comfort for the Grieving Spouse's Heart was to offer comfort, healing, and hope to others who’ve suffered the devastating loss of their spouse. He also designed the book to be read one chapter a day. Both men and women benefit from the material that’s found in this book as it touches on gender-neutral issues related to death and bereavement.
The author outlines other ways in which you’ll benefit from reading his book. In general, you’ll learn to:
- Process complicated grief emotions
- Cope with changes to relationships
- Tackle mental and emotional health issues
- Cope with added stress
- Address mental health issues
- Practice self-care
- Live a fuller, more meaningful life
9. Widower to Widower: Surviving the End of Your Most Important Relationship By Fred Colby
Widower to Widower specifically addresses issues related to men who’ve lost their spouses. He writes from the experience of having suffered the loss of his wife whom he was married to for 45 years. In his journey through the grieving process, he found it difficult to find the needed sources to help him cope with his grief.
He wrote his book to help other men who are suffering the loss of a spouse find answers to the most common and pressing matters facing a widower. He gives practical advice as well as discusses how grief affects a man, how to process that grief, and how to move forward in life after loss. Through his experience and research, he compiled what he deems to be all the vital information a man would need to help him get through those first few weeks and months of grieving.
10. The Widower’s Notebook By Jonathan Santlofer
Highlighting a man’s perspective on how the grief process works, Jonathan Santlofer writes about the untimely death of his wife after undergoing a routine outpatient medical procedure. Santlofer kept a notebook that chronicled his grief in the ensuing months. He filled his notebook with his thoughts, grief cycles, and drawings.
In the end, he wrote about how his wife’s death left him devastated and feeling uncomfortable in his new identity as a widower. The Widower's Notebook also highlights the different ways in which men and women are expected to grieve in Western society. He discusses gender inequalities and how it's more acceptable for a woman than a man to grieve publicly.
11. It's OK That You're Not OK: Meeting Grief and Loss in a Culture That Doesn't Understand By Megan Devine
It's OK That You're Not OK is a must-read for anyone suffering from grief. The book’s message is universal to those who are grieving a significant loss. Although it’s not specifically aimed at the grieving widower, it offers practical advice on grief and mourning that other books seem to miss.
The author, Devine, claims that there's no ending to the pain and suffering after experiencing the loss of your spouse. She says that there’s no "getting over" your grief. Instead, she talks about how grief stays with you for the rest of your life and how the pain only lessens to become manageable. In her book, she gives the mourner permission to grieve their loss without being made to feel that they’re somehow flawed or less than for feeling the pain of their suffering.
Books for the Bereaved Surviving Spouse
Trying to figure out how to cope with a significant loss, such as the death of a spouse, can add more stress to your already overwhelming feelings of pain and loss. Reading books on grieving written by others who’ve faced a similar loss helps you to understand what you’re going through, and what’s next to come.