13 Best Elisabeth Kübler-Ross Books for Adults and Children


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Compassion until the very end is something Elisabeth Kübler-Ross was known for, and while she's still greatly revered many years after her death. Look through the short summaries below to find out about her most popular books for both adults and children. 

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Popular Elisabeth Kübler-Ross Books for Adults

There are many books about grief for adults from which to choose, but none are so complete as the body of work from renowned author and grief expert Elisabeth Kübler-Ross. 

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1. On Death and Dying: What the Dying Have to Teach Doctors, Nurses, Clergy, and Their Own Families

There are books you'll read once in your lifetime and books you'll read for a lifetime. On Death and Dying is one of those rare, special books that you'll return to when in need or gift to others when they're in need. 

What you'll gain from reading On Death and Dying is a more straightforward path to giving your loved one positive support and abundant love during their last days. That alone will help you to manage your grief once they're gone.

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2. On Grief and Grieving: Finding the Meaning of Grief Through the Five Stages of Loss

Kubler-Ross’ five stages of grief for those who are dying have been adapted in On Grief and Grieving to support the survivors of loss. 

Her book is well-written, easy to digest, and is meant to guide you through the most challenging parts of your anguish. Included in the book are stories from others to help you see death and grief through more perspectives, thereby building upon empathy.

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3. Life Lessons: Two Experts on Death and Dying Teach Us About the Mysteries of Life & Living 

In its essence, Life Lessons is a conversation between Elisabeth Kübler-Ross and David Kessler—another death and dying expert. Through dialogue, they share what they’ve learned from their patients, including such things as when to let go and what’s most important. 

Many readers agree that their book offers peace for your soul when the worst has happened. Others find value in reading about the two different but similar experiences from these two compassionate caregivers.

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4. Death: The Final Stage of Growth

As seen through the lens of other cultures, Death: The Final Stage of Growth contends with the related death taboos felt across the United States. Revealing the viewpoints of physicians, clergy people, survivors, and more, Kübler-Ross helps the reader to understand how death isn't something to be feared. 

Death, instead, is something to embrace as part of life, if not the key to our very existence. Pick up a copy for yourself or buy one for a friend to help manage and understand the grief that accompanies death in a new and revealing way.

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5. The Wheel of Life: A Memoir of Living and Dying

Elisabeth Kübler-Ross created the foundations for hospice as we know them today because too many terminally ill patients weren't being cared for as well as they should—they were being ignored. Worse, pain medication was being underused, and many died alone.

Inside, you'll read about her own experiences, ones that drove her to discover a new level of compassion, especially for those in so much need of it. Read The Wheel of Life first to appreciate why hospice is essential. Reread it to understand how you can be more compassionate for those on the spiritual journey. 

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» MORE: Your family has 500 hours of work to do after you die. Learn how to make it easier.

6. On Life After Death 

On Life After Death is a collection of essays that may feel so similar that it's like you're reading the same story, but perhaps that's because Kübler-Ross’s empathy becomes more and more familiar as you read through her body of work. 

Still, these stories can make you see all of life differently. You may leave the pages and see humanity for its beauty. You may also see natural life for its similarity to us as equal travelers on this planet. No matter how this book heightens your compassion, you're sure to see a growth in concern for others.

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7. The Tunnel and the Light: Essential Insights on Living and Dying

If you have a friend or loved one suffering from a terminal illness, you may want to pick up a copy of The Tunnel and the Light to learn how to be more supportive and help them cope. Perhaps they'll see that if life and living are positive, death and dying can also hold some hope. 

Alternatively, you could pick up a copy for a friend who's having a tough time managing their grief. It's enlightening, it'll answer those crucial questions, and it may just bring them the peace they need.

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8. Questions & Answers on Death and Dying: A Companion Novel to On Death and Dying

The questions raised in this companion novel deal with the heavier subjects of death and dying, such as suicide, terminal illness, euthanasia, and other critical illnesses. Questions & Answers on Death and Dying is a book well-suited for any physician or nurse, clergy person, and other supportive care members.

Nurses who have read it remarked how much more compassionate they've become to those who are dying or dealing with death. Other readers have said that it helps them give terminal patients what they need in their final stages of life.

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9. Death Is of Vital Importance 

Composed of lectures, Death Is of Vital Importance conveys how much living a full life is equally of great importance. Through her observations and life-long experiences, you'll come to see that the two are not separate but somewhat intertwined experiences. 

Her approach isn't what some consider conservative, but after reading it, you'll walk away with a better grasp on how to talk with both children and adults about the death and dying process. Many have even benefited from the book if they have a friend or loved one facing death.

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Popular Elisabeth Kübler-Ross Books for Children

Death and dying are either taboo or polarizing for many, but helping children become death-positive at a young age will give them a life without that same burden. 

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10. On Children and Death: How Children and Their Parents Can and Do Cope with Death

Kübler-Ross’s On Children and Death is a book that needs to be read by grief counselors and pediatric palliative care physicians alike. 

Children can also learn from this in conjunction with their parents. Read together, siblings, children, and parents will learn how to cope and work through losing young family members.

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11. To Live Until We Say Goodbye 

In her book, To Live Until We Say Goodbye, Kübler-Ross follows the lives of four people, three of whom are dying from cancer. In it, she writes, “Should you shield the canyons from the windstorms you would never see the true beauty of their carvings.”

Together with a photographer, Kübler-Ross documents their lives, witnessing as each experiences the five stages of grief. Notably, though, there are additional types of grief, such as an unfinished life or the guilt and fear that accompanies death. These, too, are struggles.  

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12. Remember the Secret 

Remember the Secret is Kübler-Ross's only illustrative book that explains death to young children. Kids ages 2–6 will begin to understand that death is just the body dying—that they can still see their loved one even after they've gone.

The illustrations are from the early 1980s and may seem dated, but young children may not notice the same things as their parents. 

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13. AIDS: The Ultimate Challenge 

From a historical perspective, AIDS: The Ultimate Challenge offers much insight into the problems surrounding those living with AIDS during the late 1980s. You'll find a wealth of information if you're a student trying to gain insight into the disease or as a caregiver who wants to improve their compassion when helping others cope with a terminal illness. 

Kübler-Ross dives into the stigma surrounding the pejoratively coined "gay disease" with a tough stand while exposing how families, friends, and society reacted. Most importantly, she brings in the human factor so that AIDS becomes a historical lesson in compassion and love. 

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Live as if It’s Your Last Day

Elisabeth Kübler-Ross was an advocate through and through. She said, 

“It's only when we truly know and understand that we have a limited time on earth – and that we have no way of knowing when our time is up, we will then begin to live each day to the fullest, as if it was the only one we had.”

For additional resources on how you can show love and support to friends and family during their times of sorrow and grief, join Cake today. 

  1. “Obituary Elisabeth Kübler-Ross.” Journal of Near-Death Studies, UNT Digital Library, 2004. digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc799085/
  2. “Popular Quotes.” Good Reads, Good Reads, n.d. www.goodreads.com/quotes

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