David Kessler is an American author, public speaker, and expert in death and grieving. He's written several books about grief, including two that he co-wrote with famed Swiss-American psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross.
Kessler is well-known as a modern-day thanatologist, or one who studies death, dying, and bereavement. His career spans several occupations, including volunteering as a police trauma officer, participating with the Red Cross on aviation disasters, and working with the dying in hospitals and hospice centers.
Overview: Our Top Picks
- Finding Meaning: The Sixth Stage of Grief by David Kessler ($13.79)
- On Grief and Grieving by David Kessler ($11.71)
- The Needs of the Dying by David Kessler ($11.29)
- Visions, Trips, and Crowded Rooms by David Kessler ($16.99)
- Love and Beyond by David Kessler ($27.60)
- The Rights of the Dying by David Kessler ($4.94)
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Kessler's career concentrations are in hospice, palliative care, grief, and loss. He recently shifted his life's work to include interviews about the afterlife, near-death studies, and near-death awareness.
Kessler has compiled a vast array of experiences that have taken him from concentration camps to Mother Teresa's Home for the Dying Destitute in Calcutta. The resulting experiences culminated in his best-selling books that are a must-read for anyone interested in death and dying.
Should You Read David Kessler’s Books in Order?
There’s no correct order in which you should read David Kessler's books. Although his latest book is a revamped version of one of his earlier works, reading them out of sequence will still provide you with a positive reading experience.
There’s no need to go back and read his earlier work before reading his latest books if you're looking to learn about the process of grieving for personal reasons. If you're a student trying to understand the highly specialized area of grief and how it affects a grieving person's mental health and wellbeing, you may want to organize your reading based on your interests.
List of David Kessler Books
David Kessler's career spans over three decades and includes experiences in all areas of grief and bereavement. He's had the opportunity to work with some of the world's leading experts in grief and has become one of the most recognized authors in this area. Through the years, he's written and co-written several books outlining the grieving process and ways to cope with grief.
Kessler’s books are popular reads among people who've suffered through traumatic loss. His work also appeals to those seeking to further their careers as thanatologists, grief counselors, pastoral care counselors, and medical doctors practicing in the fields of gerontology and emergency care.
1. Finding Meaning: The Sixth Stage of Grief
David Kessler's latest, Finding Meaning: The Sixth Stage of Grief, adds a new dimension to the stages in which we process grief. This particular book has special meaning for Kessler, who's been an expert in the field of grief and grieving for over 30 years, because he's also a survivor of a significant loss in his life.
His son, David, died of an accidental overdose a few shorts years ago at 21. Kessler talks about the emptiness and grief-paralysis he felt due to his loss in his latest book and subsequent grief-related workshops. He recognizes that his expertise in death and dying didn't exempt him from the effects of traumatic loss.
The message of this particular book is that, in helping others, you can find healing. This book also talks about the nature of grief and how society doesn't always recognize or support the basic human need to grieve.
2. On Grief and Grieving
David Kessler's most popular book is On Grief and Grieving, which he co-wrote with Elisabeth Kubler-Ross a few years before her death. This book by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross is her last one before her death and combines many aspects of her life experience and spiritual insight explaining the process of how grieving helps us live through loss.
Kubler-Ross dedicates her book On Grief and Grieving to the way we experience the process of grief and sadness. It teaches us about the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. On Grief and Grieving takes the stages to the next level and weaves together a new theory of inspiration and practical advice, including sections on living with sadness, perceived hauntings, dreamwork, isolation, and healing.
3. The Needs of the Dying: A Guide for Bringing Hope, Comfort, and Love to Life's Final Chapter
In The Needs of the Dying, Kessler explains how dying individuals wish to live the last chapter of their lives. The book also sets a foundation for family members and their dying loved ones to communicate final wishes with doctors, medical staff, and each other, even when words seem difficult.
Kessler identifies critical areas of concern for those facing the end of life. He lists some of the most basic needs of the human condition associated with:
- Wanting to be treated as living human beings
- Needing hope
- Freedom to express emotions
- Desire to participate in care
- Demanding honesty
- Searching for spirituality
- A desire to be free of physical pain
4. Life Lessons: Two Experts on Death and Dying Teach Us About the Mysteries of Life and Living
Life Lessons is a classic in dying and bereavement, written jointly by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross and David Kessler. The book is filled with many life lessons on love and happiness, how long grief lasts, and other practical and spiritual lessons that we must learn to live a life that's both fulfilling and rewarding.
The book contains profound yet straightforward lessons about living life to its fullest while we still can. The authors also write about how to live your most authentic life, learning about yourself as you go, and living a life that reflects who you are. The many lessons are related to finding fulfillment and true meaning in life while casting an entirely new perspective on suffering.
This book is suitable for anyone who's having a challenging time getting through difficulties in their life.
5. Visions, Trips, and Crowded Rooms
Visions, Trips, and Crowded Rooms focuses on three shared experiences related to the mysteries surrounding our final days before we die. Kessler divides his book into three sections, each confronting unique aspects of what happens when the human mind and body prepare to die.
The first section of the book deals with visions that the dying have as they near death. The second part of the book talks about getting ready for a trip. This phenomenon links to the experience that many dying individuals have as they prepare to journey to the other side. This final journey is recognized as the dying person's final transition.
In the book's last section, Kessler discusses the “crowded room” phenomenon, where the dying see a room full of people that others can't see.
6. Love and Beyond: Your Journey on Earth with God
Love and Beyond is one of David Kessler's greatest works dealing with the human mind and existential crises that most dying individuals face. The book explores self-realization, the ego, and finding and fulfilling one's life purpose. Kessler attributes the words of this book to God. He claims that he wrote this entire book in the presence of a higher power who dictated through automatic typing the whole manuscript.
The stories in this book describe how God challenges our beliefs and who we think we are. Indigo children, angels, Judgment Day, and our role and purpose as individuals in this vast universe are all outlined and weaved into stories that can help you find truth and meaning in life.
7. The Rights of the Dying: A Companion for Life's Final Moments
The Rights of the Dying is a guide for people facing life challenges such as terminal illnesses and for the people who care for them. In it, the owner of a home hospice care service shares his experience and insight gained from years of providing hospice and palliative care to dying individuals and working with their grieving families.
The book takes a common-sense approach to dealing with the rights of the dying. The families who care for them also benefit from the information and advice shared within. You'll learn about patients’ rights, wants, and needs as they transition to death. Kessler addresses this issue in a compassionate way that helps grieving individuals have difficult conversations when the end is approaching.
8. Healing Grief Card Deck: 55 Practices to Find Peace
Although this card deck doesn't fall into the traditional type of written “book” by David Kessler, it's equally as compelling in healing after loss. This card deck has 55 individual cards, each focusing on recovery from grief and other aspects of the grieving process.
The deck is a tool that professional grief counselors can use to further their practice and engage their clients in the grieving process. Anyone can purchase this deck and learn to use it at home. The cards focus on an individual's response to loss, understanding grief, and dealing with loss.
David Kessler’s Books as a Blueprint For Living
The topic of death and dying is still considered somewhat taboo or uncomfortable in our modern society. This can leave us to either imagine to ourselves what happens next or turn to books on the subject.
David Kessler is a leading expert of our time in writing and lecturing about the dying process. His no-nonsense approach to his writing makes things easy to read and comprehend. Many grief professionals look to Kessler’s expertise when caring for their patients or clients in clinical settings. His books are certainly a helpful approach to dying that may help answer many of the questions you have.