Updated: August 27, 2018
When you are recently diagnosed or bereaved, people are frantic to help you solve your problem. This is well-intentioned but can often be annoying. Especially when advice comes from the 'Solutions People.'
When my mother-in-law’s breast cancer returned for the third time in 2009 (and was stage IV) - I was living many states away and in my desperation to be helpful I kept sending her cookbooks with names like “Cooking with Cancer.” I was a student and used my academic library privileges to send her countless articles on breast cancer. If the article had the words ‘breast’ and ‘cancer’ in the synopsis, it most certainly landed in her inbox. I'm pretty sure I sent her random cancer articles too. I’m sure she was rolling her ideas and hitting delete.
Image from Emily McDowell Studio, one of the cards in her Empathy Line.
I wanted to be able to contribute whatever I could towards her health, and my helplessness left me frantic, clinging to the smallest ideas and pushing them her way - and likely overwhelming her.
While uninformed medical advice is rarely appreciated, resources on where to turn can most certainly be helpful. It's most useful to have them when you are ready to access them and not to have them stuffed down your throat (or in my mother-in-law’s case, in her mailbox).
If you find yourself in the position of trying to support someone who is sick or bereaved, it can be helpful to pass along resources digitally (so that it can be searched for later in the email archive), but be sure not to bombard the person with numerous emails oozing with solutions/answers/studies/recipes/etc.
I’ve been reading about grief pretty consistently since my sister died. Here I will include a list of the books, websites, and online communities that have been helpful to me as I continue to struggle with the realities of her early death. I will include the author’s loss in parenthesis (e.g., child, sibling, parent). Whether you have lost a similar person or not, all of these resources are valuable.
Many of these blogs/groups/podcasts have their own recommendations that you will discover with a little bit of searching. There are many resources out there, and what you find comforting/helpful varies from person-to-person. Some people like humor, some people like faith, other people like a little of everything. Do not be discouraged if the first few things you pick are not what you need. If you have recommendations of the resources that have helped you, please include them in the comments.
- The books and resources listed here are not faith-based.
- Most books will be linked to my favorite local (to me) independent bookseller.
- I will continually add to this list as I come across more resources - check the updated date at the top of the page.
Resilient Grieving by Lucy Hone (child loss)
Modern Loss by Rebecca Soffer and Gabrielle Birkner (essay collection)
It’s Ok You’re Not Ok by Megan Devine (partner loss)
The Dead Moms Club by Kate Spencer (mom loss)
Poor Your Soul by Mira Ptacin (in utero loss & child/sibling loss)
Lifetimes: The beautiful way to explain death to children (written for children, but a beautiful book for anyone)
Comfort: A Journey Through Grief by Ann Hood (child loss)
There's No Good Card for This by Kelsey Crowe and Emily McDowell (a great book for friends and family who want to support a loved one in need)
Here For You (father/sibling loss) ← have to do a personal plug!
Refuge in Grief (partner loss)
52 beautiful things (father loss)
Spohrs are multiplying (child loss)
Baby Boy Bakery (child loss)
The Unexpected Widow (partner loss)
@hotyoungwidowsclub (partner loss)
@anjalipinto (husband loss)
@noraborealis (husband/father loss)
@katebowler (stage IV colon cancer diagnosis)
@mollyrosenguy (father loss)
Modern Loss (any loss)
Still Kickin: Dead Sibling Survivors (Sibling loss)
The Compassionate Friends (20+ groups for all sorts of losses - from suicide to baby/toddler loss to grandchild loss)
Hot Young Widows Club (partner loss)
Motherless daughters (mother loss)
In Person Groups with chapters across the country
Here For You offers a selection of Compassion Packages - gift boxes of thoughtfully curated home essentials to send to family and friends living through life's toughest moments.