Tuesday, January 4, 2011

the grief bookshelf

Besides handing endless kleenex to us and the kind of hugs that squeeze all of your air out, one of the most healing things people have done for us is give us books to read.

On those sleepless nights when my mind wouldn't stop and praying didn't work and the grief was just unbearable, I would turn my lamp on and reach for a book - blindly - from the stack on my nightstand.  The books had started coming almost immediately after Gabe died; in the mail box, with a meal, wrapped in tissue and tied with bows, wrinkled and dog-eared, new and crisp.

Books about God, about finding Him in the storm, about real people who have gone through real loss. . . about how to hang on.

I would read late, late, late into the night until exhaustion forced me to dreamless sleep.  I still do this a lot.

This is a rough list of what we've been reading.

The One Year Book of HOPE  {Nancy Guthrie}
Organized into days and weeks, hope for each moment.  Nancy writes from her own heart and the experience of losing her daughter, Hope.  I think this book is helpful because it shines a light at the end of a tunnel, just with the word year in the title. 

Silent Grief  {Clara Hinton}
Again, from personal experience with child loss, this author spoke of the very real need to let the grieving happen, even if others don't understand.

When Life is Changed Forever {Rick Taylor}
My friend Pam gave this book to me at JD and Cambria's first swimming lesson last summer.  I was numb and in shock, still jumping every time someone screamed.  At that point, I couldn't imagine anyone with a tragedy greater than ours. Tunnel vision.  I sat down that afternoon and read the entire book.  Rick and his wife Judy lost one of their sons in a tragic water accident when their five year old little man tried to save his two year old brother.  The two year old lived, but not his hero big brother.  The Taylors acknowledge that life changes forever.  I knew that, deep in my soul, and it felt good to have someone say it instead of platitudes like time will heal.  Raw, honest and real.

Mommy, Please Don't Cry. . .There Are No Tears in Heaven {Linda DeyMaz}
First book I received.  It's a picture book, a letter to a mom from a child in Heaven.  The baby in the third picture looked exactly like my Gabe; chuckling and happy.  I met Jesus today, Mommy. . .  I wept.  This is a beautiful book. 

Keep a Quiet Heart {Elisabeth Elliot}
Short essays by one of my favorite authors.

Heaven {Randy Alcorn}
A beautiful, Scriptural, outside the box approach to Heaven.  What if we truly longed to be in Heaven?

Love and Respect {Dr. Emerson Eggerichs}
This book and the principles in it literally saved our marriage.  I wouldn't have thought of reading it (again) through the lens of grief, but it was required material at the marriage retreat we went to in October.  Love and Respect still apply BIG TIME while grieving. . . living it out is keeping us from the 85% of marriages that end in divorce after losing a child statistic.

SIDS and Infant Death Survival Guide {Joani Nelson Horchler and Robin Rice}
When my mind was driving me crazy with insane what ifs I read these accounts of many, many people who had lost their babies to SIDS.  One story even had the firefighter daddy coming home in the morning, so strikingly similar to our loss.  These little people went to Heaven. . . and there was nothing anyone could have done, at any time, to stop their deaths.  My heart needed that assurance so, so badly as we waited on autopsy reports and answers and so many questions.

Lessons I Learned in the Dark {Jennifer Rothschild}
A blind woman writes of the Light she knows in Christ.

Heaven {Joni Eareckson Tada}
Her subtitle says it well : your real home.

The Spirit of Hope {gift book from Hallmark}
Small collection of quotes.  I like this one: Courage is doing what you must, when doing what you must is the hardest thing of all.

Because He Loves Me {Elyse Fitzpatrick}
God so loved. . . me. . . that He gave. . . His only Son

Morning Will Come {Sandy Day}
Infant loss stories; more realization that I was not alone in the loss of my child.

What Do I Know About My God? {Mardi Collier}
Focusing on what I do know about God was calming and helped me hang on to Him.

At the Scent of Water {Linda Nichols}
I was stunned by the realness of this fictional story of Sam and Annie when I read it several years ago.  I wept reading it.  Linda Nichols weaves a breathtaking story of tragedy, a love that only God could restore and hope that only a loving Father gives.  I never forgot the verse that the book is based on, and after we lost our little man, I spent an afternoon in our guest room curled up on the bed re-reading this beautiful book.  Frankly, there is far too much reality for this to be a simple work of fiction. "At least there is hope for a tree: if it is cut down, it will sprout again, and its new shoots will not fail.  Its roots may grow old in the ground and its stump die in the soil, yet at the scent of water it will bud and put forth shoots like a plant." {Job 14:7-9}

Surviving the Loss of a Child {Elizabeth B. Brown}
A grief counselor suddenly loses her twelve year old daughter and learns about grief firsthand. This book is excellent; one of the many influences that discouraged us from seeking pills and medication for the pain and sleep loss.  The author writes with the experience of her own grief and the knowledge from years of counseling.

I Will Carry You: The Sacred Dance of Grief and Joy {Angie Smith}
Author of the very famous blog Bring the Rain, Angie writes about the loss of their daughter Audrey.  Beautiful.  Drawing from her own loss and her knowledge as a developmental psychologist, she gently incorporated her daughters into their grieving process instead of shutting them out;  I learned a ton about helping my children grieve.

Choosing to SEE {Mary Beth Chapman}
This is a phenomenal book; we found hope in just scanning the chapter titles, let alone reading the Chapman's words. I love the illustration she uses of buying a pitcher and having a family ceremony of breaking it on the driveway and then gluing it back together as a testament to the healing of God and that they wanted comfort to seep through the broken places in their lives.  Like many aspects of grief, the pitcher didn't break according to her plan; it shattered into fine powder.  Mary Beth writes with honesty and sincerity.  Grief doesn't follow a formula; it's a journey, and the Chapmans are walking the road.  I'm so thankful that they are sharing the journey.

When the Road Seems Too Steep {Ronald E. Minor}
Daily, weekly plan, thoughts, reading. Again, light and purpose just in having someone chart the course ahead for me.  Next week? It's such a burden to think about when grieving. It helps to have something mapped out.

Surviving One Bad Year {Nancie Carmichael}
I just started this book.  It is divided into two parts: emergency tactics to cope immediately and strategy to recover.  Excellent. 

The Beautiful Ache: Finding the God Who Satisfies When Life Does Not {Leigh McLeroy}
Embrace the pain. . . find Him in the aching longing. . .pointing my aching heart to Heaven, a place we were created for.

When Answers Aren't Enough: Experiencing God as Good When Life Isn't {Matt Rogers}The pastor at New Life Christian Fellowship at Virginia Tech writes with an extremely rare honesty about the sting of death; death isn't okay. It wasn't his time. Death is not part of life. Death is not God's design. I was reading this the other night in bed and couldn't keep from reading aloud to Daniel; we both agree that this guy "gets it" and are so thankful for his forthrightness, his reluctance to skip to the happy part, and his clear understanding of Scripture. Four stars.

I'm so thankful for each one of these resources; I know there are many more. . . what are some you find helpful or have given/or received?

*Children's Grief Bookshelf coming. . .


  1. After my brother and dad passed away, someone gave me the book "A Grace Disguised" by Jerry Sittser and it was hugely instrumental in my grieving process.

  2. Safe in His Arms by John Macarthur is a good book. Sorry we did not get to hook up over Christmas.

  3. Hayley,
    This is a great list...thank you for sharing. Your comments on how each one ministered to you is helpful to be able to reference these to others that grieve. I have a friend that lost a son to a silly childish prank, he was 10 yrs old. He made comment too, about the books people lent him or gave to him during his grieving as well. He found great comfort and healing through the writings of many.

  4. I'm so glad that you have such kind and thoughtful and loving friends to surround you and support you and send you books! The One year book of Hope is excellent; we have it now.
    In fact, one of my friends in WA has read through it; she was given the book after they lost yet another baby last year. (They've lost 7 in all; it's so very heartbreaking ;(
    If you want to read her blog; it's here:

  5. During the 9 hour trip between Michigan and Iowa I read "Choosing to See" out loud to Dave (you know... between breaking up fights, answering the question "are we there yet?", and stopping to take little ones to the bathroom...). We both got quite teary many times. I loved it. Loved the candid way She wrote and expressed herself!!

  6. Hayley~ So sad with you over your loss of Gabe, and so grateful that the One Year Book of Hope is helping you during this dark time.