Experiencing the death of a loved one or going through the challenges of suffering a significant loss can be overwhelming and confusing. Grief is a subjective yet universal occurrence affecting almost everyone at least once in their lifetime. But it's also an experience that not many know how to cope with on their own.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- Should You Read David Kessler’s Books in Order?
- Popular Grief Counseling Books for Counselors and Therapists
- Popular Grief Counseling Books for Grief Counseling Clients
- Popular Religious Grief Counseling Books
We’ve gathered a list of helpful books to demystify some of the unknowns of the grieving process for individuals dealing with loss. These books also provide added resources for professionals dedicated to supporting the bereaved. While everyone's grief experience is unique, some challenges are universal.
Shared experiences help the human grief process by educating those struggling to make sense of their loss and adding new ways of combating grief for counselors to integrate into their practices.
Should You Read David Kessler’s Books in Order?
David Kessler's well-researched works are at the forefront of books about death and dying. Kessler is an American expert on grief and has written several books on how individuals face loss after suffering significant setbacks. Kessler has solidified his place as an expert on the human grieving experience with another leading figure in this arena, psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross.
With several books about grief to his name, Kessler is a known figure in the fields of thanatology, psychology, and bereavement. When learning about grief, it's exciting to read all of his books to gain the upper hand in the grieving process and get through the challenges of loss.
Fortunately, with Kessler's writing style, it's unnecessary to follow any particular order when picking up any of his books. You can start anywhere and still get the full benefit of his research, whether you're a grief professional or a layperson interested in learning how loss affects you or your loved ones.
Popular Grief Counseling Books for Counselors and Therapists
Almost every grief professional has their go-to books on the stages of grief and on how long grief lasts. They rely on the experiences and research of other professionals dedicated to bringing the latest discoveries and training methods on death, dying, and bereavement in improving their practices.
Much like any other field of study, thanatology, which is the foundation of the investigation into how people deal with the dying process, death, and bereavement, reading and learning are part of the ongoing process for most grief professionals. The following is a list of carefully curated book titles for grief counselors and therapists.
1. Grief Counseling and Grief Therapy by J. William Worden, Ph.D. ABPP
William Worden's book, Grief Counseling and Grief Therapy, is a bible in grief counseling and psychology research and development. His book is a practitioner's guide to understanding and treating complicated and uncomplicated grief responses in bereaved individuals. He outlines the key concepts and latest developments in grieving, including his four tasks of mourning.
Also included in the newest edition is a chapter on mourning mediation that helps grief professionals understand the unique challenges individuals face when grieving. The text is highly suitable for newcomers to this field and established professionals.
2. On Death and Dying by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, M.D.
On Death and Dying is one of the premier books by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross on how humans experience grief related to the dying process and other end-of-life issues. This book is a classic and a must-read for individuals starting on the path to becoming professional grief counselors and therapists.
A classic read that introduces the five stages of grief, On Death and Dying, uses a series of patient interviews to explore the human psyche as one approaches death. Kubler-Ross' work is enlightening and educational when viewing grief through the patient's lens, their families, and the practitioners dedicated to their well-being. She gives the reader a deeper understanding of what it means to grieve and how people experience grief in real-world settings.
3. Grief is a Journey: Finding Your Path Through Loss by Dr. Kenneth J. Doka
Grief is a Journey is a book by Dr. Kenneth Doka that introduces a new way of conceptualizing how individuals grieve and does away with the long-established concept that individuals suffer in stages. Dr. Doka emphasizes the individual and often unpredictable grief reactions to loss processing.
His book also touches on the oft-ignored disenfranchised grieving of individuals suffering through loss that society doesn’t recognize in general. This type of grief can include the death of a romantic partner outside of one's marriage, the loss of a beloved pet, or a death by suicide.
4. Techniques of Grief Therapy edited by Robert A. Neimeyer
Techniques of Grief Therapy offers detailed grief counseling and therapy approaches that serve as a guidebook and workbook for practitioners of all levels. The editor aims to bring new ideas to the forefront when treating grief-related symptoms in persons of all ages.
The clinical approaches included in this book offer an exploration of creativity for the practitioner to implement with each client. The editor discusses different techniques of treating grief based on an individual's unique needs while pinpointing common pitfalls.
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5. On Grief and Grieving by David Kessler and Elisabeth Kübler-Ross
On Grief and Grieving is a ten-year follow-up to Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’s seminal book On Death and Dying. Kessler expands on Kubler-Ross’s teachings on grief, death, and dying by combining her research and written work with his very own experiences in the field.
Together, they make a powerhouse of expertise, research, and proven techniques to help practitioners learn and improve their current skills. Kessler offers plenty of real-life examples in describing the grieving process and how individuals react to the death of a loved one and other traumatic life experiences.
Popular Grief Counseling Books for Grief Counseling Clients
Grief practitioners working with individual clients often seek to improve an individual’s overall experience while receiving grief counseling or therapy. There are many different ways individuals experience loss-related symptoms and many ways of approaching treatment.
Regardless of how experienced a grief practitioner is, there’s always room for learning and improvement when helping others deal with loss. The following books are some of the more popular and current titles available for recommendation to grief counseling clients.
6. I’m Grieving as Fast as I Can by Linda Feinberg
The book I'm Grieving as Fast as I Can has become one of the go-to publications for young widowed persons dealing with the untimely death of a spouse. The author touches on her personal grief experiences after suffering her husband's sudden and unexpected loss.
In her book, Feinberg doles out advice on coping with the profound grief associated with this type of loss and how to talk to surviving children about the death of a loved one. The book also serves as an added source of support for grieving individuals who feel at a loss on moving forward with managing the household post-loss.
7. The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
The Year of Magical Thinking is a tale of one woman’s survival of grief and loss following her husband’s untimely death. She wrote the book in a few short weeks, completing it one year and one day from when he died.
During this time, the author also dealt with her daughter’s serious health issues that kept her daughter from seeing her father before he died. Didion’s daughter recovered from that medical episode only to suffer a later accident requiring hospitalization.
She later died a few short months after the author completed the book on how grief affected her after losing her husband. Didion wrote a second book on how her daughter’s death compounded her misery when she was already grieving the loss of her husband.
8. It’s OK That You’re Not OK by Megan Devine
It’s OK That You’re Not OK is a manifesto on self-compassion when dealing with a tragic loss. While some book reviewers found the author’s tone angry and off-putting, the majority found her raw emotion and honesty refreshing when dealing with the loss of a loved one.
The author embodies many characteristics common to persons who lost their partners in a tragic and untimely manner. She carries forward her expertise as a therapist and the personal experience of loss, giving hope to bereaved individuals struggling to accept their new reality.
Popular Religious Grief Counseling Books
Dealing with loss often makes grieving individuals question their faith and belief in God, and they may find themselves struggling with their religion, teachings, and spirituality. Some grief counselors and therapists dedicate their practices to spiritual grief counseling that aims at reconnecting bereaved individuals to their spiritual beliefs. The books below have positively impacted many people who’ve struggled with their religion after suffering a significant setback.
9. A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis
C.S. Lewis wrote A Grief Observed under a pen name, and the literary world didn't attribute this particular work to him until after his death. Lewis is famously known for authoring the children's book series, The Chronicles of Narnia.
In his book on grief, Lewis writes about his experiences following his wife's death and the subsequent reconciliation with God and his faith. The added value of this particular book for grieving individuals is that it gives an honest and emotional accounting of how grief affects men. Lewis writes candidly about how he overcame grief's most crippling effects in a culture that doesn't always recognize a man's suffering.
10. Good Grief by Granger E. Westberg
Good Grief is a three-part devotional series on grief and loss from a spiritual standpoint. The author combines popular spiritual teachings from different religious backgrounds to create comprehensive three-part literature and workbooks.
His writings aim to help grieving individuals reconcile their faith against their loss and open them up to finding renewed hope. The series includes meditations, scripture, and grief work for healing after loss.
Popular Literature on Grief
Coping with grief is often overwhelming and can feel insurmountable. Grieving individuals will almost always face unfamiliar circumstances that call for added support. Books help fill a gap whenever grief strikes at odd hours or when others don’t seem to get the pain and suffering that occurs the bereaved. Both practitioners and others sometimes need a good book on grief to help solve the mysteries of how people suffer and how to survive post-loss.