Learning to grieve: the one where I read all the books

Wednesday Letter #45

I’ve mentioned before that I’ve been reading a lot about grief. Over on Twitter, I’ve shared some of the articles that have helped me through this past year. Today I want to share some of the books that have done the same. 

Everybody died, so I got a dog by Emily Dean

Growing up Emily Dean always wanted a dog, but she knew her family weren’t the dog having kind. Their lives were too chaotic. “Dog families” are predictable and dependable, while Dean’s parents were anything but. 

The title Everybody died, so I got a dog gives you an idea of how Dean’s life turns out. What it doesn’t tell you is that Dean writes about her relationships with her sister, mother and father and their subsequent deaths in relatively quick succession with humour and grace. 

It’s OK That You’re Not OK by Megan Devine

Following the sudden death of her partner, Matt, Megan Devine, who is a trained psychotherapist, realised that how we talk about grief isn’t always in the best interest of people who are grieving. Rather than seeing grief as a problem to be solved, It’s OK That You’re Not OK views grief as an emotion people learn to live with not move on from. 

A friend recommended It’s OK That You’re Not OK because they thought Megan Devine’s approach to grief would resonate with me. They were right. 

The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion

In December 2003, Joan Didion’s husband John Gregory Dunne died suddenly. A few days previously their daughter Quintana was admitted to hospital and placed in an induced coma due to septic shock. In the weeks following Dunne’s death, Quintana made a recovery only to fall seriously ill again a few months later. 

The Year of Magical Thinking is Didion’s experience of this heartbreaking period of her life. Didion writes about early grief with honesty and clarity many do not have when processing their grief. 

Blue Nights by Joan Didion

In August 2005, less than two years after the death of her husband, John, Joan Didion’s daughter, Quintana died. 

Blue Nights is about grief, motherhood and Didion’s memories of her daughter. It is also about Didion’s experience of growing older, dealing with symptoms that doctors struggle to diagnose and what it means to be considered “frail” by people who may or may not know you. 

A Half Baked Idea by Olivia Potts

When her mother died Olivia Potts turned to baking. By her own admission she wasn’t particularly good at it, but it quickly became a respite from grief and her job as a barrister. So, she quit her job and enrolled at Le Cordon Bleu.

Interspersed with recipes that will have you running to your own kitchen, A Half Baked Idea is a heart-warming memoir about grief, changing career, falling in love and the power of food.

You can read my previous installments about learning to grieve here, here and here

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