Grand Rapids:

The Four Best Books On Loss and Grief

At Gerst, we are committed to providing families with resources that they might need to both plan a funeral and also cope with their grief. Our Recommended Reading List focuses on assisting our community through all types of grief and helps each individual better understand loss and who they are as they grow alongside grief. In honor of Reading Month, we have compiled a list of the best books on loss and grief and our complete list of recommended reads. 

“Each person’s grief has its own life span; it needs to follow its own path.” ― Rick Riordan

Recommended Reading: The Four Best Books on Loss and Grief 

I Wasn’t Ready to Say Goodbye: Surviving, Coping and Healing After the Sudden Death of a Loved One by Brook Noel & Pamela Blair, Ph.D.

I Wasn’t Ready to Say Goodbye is a fantastic and comprehensive grief resource. The book gives insight into many types of grief, including anticipatory grief, sudden loss, and long-term, complicated grief, and provides readers with effective grief coping strategies. The authors also approach each chapter with understanding and empathy, encouraging each reader to give themselves grace and to take hope that healing is possible. 

What Readers Have to Say: 

“This book takes that anxiety away and lets you know it’s OKAY to talk about death.” – Lindsay 

“This book is currently helping my mom deal with her feelings after the death of my dad. She picks it up almost every morning before she starts her day. It helps her understand her feelings and realize she is ‘normal’ in her grief. I highly recommend it.” – A. Geiger


It’s OK That You’re Not OK: Meeting Grief and Loss in a Culture That Doesn’t Understand by Megan Devine

In It’s OK That You’re Not OK, author Megan Devine challenges the long-held socially accepted view that grief should be gotten over as quickly as possible and that something is “wrong” with you if grief lingers longer than a few weeks or months. Instead, she argues that growing alongside grief, not overcoming it, is healthier and more sustainable in the long run. Megan writes, “The cult of positivity we have does everyone a disservice. It leads us to believe we’re more in charge of the world than we are and holds us responsible for every pain and heartbreak we endure.” Throughout the book, she provides readers with advice, everyday mindfulness practices, and, most importantly, how to love yourself during pain and heartbreak. 

What Readers Have to Say: 

“The author does an amazing job of explaining the unexplainable parts of grief. It is a very human book, full of grace and permission to feel, and written in a way that it does not come off as one of those ‘self-help’ books. It was a hard book to put down because it brought so much comfort.” – Rebecca

“Whether your loss is 42 years ago or recently, this book helps. Offers ideas and ways to go through a tragic loss. It touched me deeply.” – Jeannie


The Grieving Brain: The Surprising Science of How We Learn from Love and Loss by Mary-Frances O’Connor, PhD

Did you know that the neurological pathways in our brain literally change after experiencing loss? In The Grieving Brain, neuroscientist and psychologist Mary-Frances O’Connor explores how our neurons encode love, forming a “default setting” in our brain that loss disrupts. With science and empathy, she helps readers understand the biology of grief. After all, struggling after loss is truly a natural response. 

What Readers Have to Say: 

“It helped me to understand how much the brain struggles with the absence of our loved ones. I’m not alone in this transition and how important it is to be patient with myself and everyone who’s grieving.” – Vini

“Maybe it’s because I am a scientist, but the way O’Connor lays out what we know, how we know it, and what it means was like light after light going on for me as I continued the process of grieving and recovering from the effects of the loss of my wife.” – Alan


Bearing the Unbearable: Love, Loss, and the Heartbreaking Path of Grief by Dr. Joanne Cacciatore 

In Bearing the Unbearable, Dr. Joanne Cacciatore weaves stories of losses she has witnessed in her family and community with her personal experiences of grief. She doesn’t tiptop around the pain of grief. Instead, she acknowledges that the process can feel unmanageable and, frustratingly, does not follow a straightforward path to healing. With each chapter, Dr. Cacciatore gives readers a safe space to acknowledge grief and honor its role in our lives.    

What Readers Have to Say: 

“As she is well-acquainted with grief in its many forms, Dr. Cacciatore’s thoughtful words serve to make bereavement less terrifying. Her unique understanding of grief makes me certain that I can navigate this journey. Relying on “Bearing the Unbearable” gives me confidence that I can help others do it, too.” – Mary

“I hung onto every word, often rereading paragraphs three-four-five times as they uncannily resonated with my pain and experience, as I had written it myself.” – Andrea  




Visit our website’s Recommended Reading & Links section to view our entire list of reading resources. 

Finding Grief Support at Gerst 

Our team is committed to offering you the comfort and options you deserve. Our team will help you create a personalized, meaningful funeral, taking care of each detail along the way. We also strive to provide ongoing support after the funeral through our social media pages, blogs, monthly newsletter, and online resources. If you are struggling, please do not hesitate to reach out. We are here for you!