Ideas & Inspiration for Transcending Grief & Cultivating Joy
Curated below are a range of videos that have proven helpful in living well with loss, working through grief, inviting joy into daily life, and being a force for good in the world. I hope you find something that inspires, sparks curiosity, and/or supports you.
The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse | Charles Mackesy
The Healing Power of Kindness
Charlie Mackesy offers inspiration and hope in uncertain times in this beautiful book, following the tale of a curious boy, a greedy mole, a wary fox and a wise horse who find themselves together in sometimes difficult terrain, sharing their greatest fears and biggest discoveries about vulnerability, kindness, hope, friendship and love.
When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times | Pema Chodron
How can we live our lives when everything seems to fall apart—when we are continually overcome by fear, anxiety, and pain?
The answer, Pema Chödrön suggests, might be just the opposite of what you expect. Here, in her most beloved and acclaimed work, Pema shows that moving toward painful situations and becoming intimate with them can open up our hearts in ways we never before imagined. Drawing from traditional Buddhist wisdom, she offers life-changing tools for transforming suffering and negative patterns into habitual ease and boundless joy.
A Three Dog Life | Abigail Thomas
Building a New Life Out of Disaster with Intention, Heart & a Little Help from Three Dogs
When Abigail Thomas’s husband, Rich, was hit by a car, his brain shattered. Subject to rages, terrors, and hallucinations, he must live the rest of his life in an institution. He has no memory of what he did the hour, the day, the year before. This tragedy is the ground on which Abigail had to build a new life.
How she built that life is a story of great courage and great change, of moving to a small country town, of a new family composed of three dogs, knitting, and friendship, of facing down guilt and discovering gratitude.This wise, plainspoken, beautiful book enacts the truth Abigail discovered in the five years since the accident: You might not find meaning in disaster, but you might, with effort, make something useful of it.
Belonging: Remembering Ourselves Home | Toko-pa Turner
What if belonging isn’t a place at all? What if it’s a skill that has been lost or forgotten?
Feel like you don’t belong? You’re not alone.The world has never been more connected, yet people are lonelier than ever. Toko-pa Turner (Canadian writer, teacher & founder of the Dream School) maps a path to Belonging from the inside out.
Drawing on myth, stories and dreams, she takes us into the origins of our estrangement, reframing exile as a necessary initiation into authenticity. Then she shares the competencies of belonging: a set of ancestral practices to heal our wounds and restore true belonging to our lives and to the world.
Prayers of Honoring Grief | Pixie Lighthorse
Lifting, Singing & Praying the Lost Parts of Ourselves Back Home, Drawing from Native American Traditions
Choctaw writer Pixie Lighthorse believes we should make time and space for fully experiencing grief. These prayers are a reminder of our connection to something greater than ourselves, which holds us while we are healing.There is a void left in our culture by the absence of death rituals or rites of grieving, and this book is a lifeline for those coping with that void. Pixie encourages us to see grief as a natural, normal part of life: as a process for working with deep, embodied wisdom to heal after loss.
P.S. I Love You More Than Tuna | Sarah Chauncey & Francis Tremblay
Sometimes Love Comes on Four Legs
Our companion animals occupy a unique space in our hearts. When they’re gone, the loss can be devastating. P.S. I Love You More Than Tuna gives us an opportunity to give loved ones or ourselves comfort during the grieving period, when so many of us feel misunderstood after a beloved pet dies. It celebrates the special bonds we forge with our four-legged family members and reminds us their love for us―and ours for them―never ends.
Thirst (Poems) | Mary Oliver
Poems For the Journey Without a Partner
Thirst is a collection of forty-three poems from Pulitzer Prize-winner Mary Oliver. Grappling with grief at the death of her beloved partner of over forty years, she strives to experience sorrow as a path to spiritual progress, grief as part of loving and not its end.
Black Widow: A Sad-Funny Journey Through Grief for People Who Normally Avoid Books with Words like "Journey" in the Title | Leslie Gray Streeter
True, Endearingly Funny Story on How the Only Book for Recovery is the One You Write
Looking at widowhood through the prism of race, mixed marriage, and aging, Black Widow redefines the stages of grief, from coffin shopping to day-drinking, to being a grown-ass woman crying for your mommy, to breaking up and making up with God, to facing the fact that life goes on even after the death of the person you were supposed to live it with. While she stumbles toward an uncertain future as a single mother raising a baby with her own widowed mother (plot twist!), Leslie looks back on her love story with Scott, recounting their journey through racism, religious differences, and persistent confusion about what kugel is. Will she find the strength to finish the most important thing that she and Scott started?
One Long River of Song | Brian Doyle
A Writer Who Left Us Too Soon, His Voice is Solace
From a "born storyteller" (Seattle Times), this bestselling book of stories & essays invites us into the miraculous and transcendent moments of everyday life. While Brian Doyle passed away at the age of sixty after a bout with brain cancer, he still reminds us of the exquisite beauty in the ordinary, whether it's the awe of a child the first time she hears a river, or a husband's whiskers that a grieving widow misses seeing in her sink every morning. His voice is knowing and wise.
Signs: The Secret Language of the Universe | Laura Lynne Jackson
Another View of How Our Loved Ones Stay With Us
In Signs, Laura Lynne Jackson, a former English Teacher and psychic medium, brings the mystical into the everyday. She relates stories of people who have experienced uncanny revelations and instances of unexplained synchronicity. However you explain these meaningful coincidences, this book is comforting and motivational in asking us to see beyond ourselves to the bigger possibilities of a universe that operates by design.
H is for Hawk | Helen Macdonald
Healing Grief Can Involve Unexpected Relationships
An instant New York Times bestseller, Helen Macdonald's story of adopting and raising one of nature's fierce predators soared into the hearts of millions of readers worldwide. Aggressive & feral, her goshawk Mabel's temperament mirrors Helen's own state of grief after her father's death, and together raptor and human "discover the pain and beauty of being alive" (People).
How to Live When a Loved One Dies | Thich Nhat Hanh
Leading Ourselves Back into Life After Loss
In the immediate aftermath of a loss, sometimes it is all we can do to keep breathing. Nobel Prize nominee & Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh guides you through the storm of emotions surrounding the death of a loved one. How To Live When A Loved One Dies offers powerful practices that will help you reconcile with death and loss, feel connected to your loved one long after they have gone, and transform your grief into healing and joy.
The Grieving Brain | Mary-Frances O'Connor, PhD
Groundbreaking Discoveries About What Happens in Our Brain When We Grieve
In The Grieving Brain, neuroscientist and psychologist Mary-Frances O’Connor, PhD, gives us a fascinating new window into one of the hallmark experiences of being human. O’Connor has devoted decades to researching the effects of grief on the brain, and in this book, she makes cutting-edge neuroscience accessible through her contagious enthusiasm, and guides us through how we encode love and grief. With love, our neurons help us form attachments to others; but, with loss, our brain must come to terms with where our loved ones went, or how to imagine a future that encompasses their absence.
The Art of Losing: Poems of Grief & Healing | Kevin Young
Finding Kindred Spirits & Solace in Poetic Voices
This poetry anthology is the first of its kind, delivering poetry with a purpose. Editor Kevin Young has introduced and selected 150 devastatingly beautiful poems that embrace the pain and heartbreak of mourning. Divided into five sections (Reckoning, Remembrance, Rituals, Recovery, and Redemption), with poems by some of our most beloved poets as well as the best of the current generation of poets.
Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family & Place | Terry Tempest Williams
The Intersection of Inner & Outer Loss and Renewal
In the spring of 1983 Terry Tempest Williams learned that her mother was dying of cancer. That same season, The Great Salt Lake began to rise to record heights, threatening the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge and the wild birds that Williams, a poet and naturalist, had come to gauge her life by. Interweaving these narratives of dying, Refuge helps us discover our inclinations toward renewal and spiritual grace.
Life Prayers: 365 Prayers, Blessings & Affirmations to Celebrate the Human Journey | Elizabeth Roberts & Elias Amidon, Editors
A Helpful Resource For Holidays & Other Meaningful Days
Here's an eloquent anthology honoring the wonders and challenges of life on earth and celebrating the seasons of our lives. In this richly eclectic collection of poetry, wisdom, chants, prayers, and blessings from truly diverse thinkers and writers around the world, you'll find affirmations of the human journey in all its forms, in all its struggles and glories.
The Body Keeps the Score | Bessel Van Der Kolk, MD
Exploring how trauma affects not just the mind and emotions, but lives in the body, too.
One does not have be a combat soldier, or visit a refugee camp in Syria or the Congo to encounter trauma. Trauma happens to us, our friends, our families, and our neighbors. While we all want to move beyond trauma, the part of our brain that is devoted to ensuring our survival (deep below our rational brain) is not very good at denial. Long after a traumatic experience is over, it may be reactivated at the slightest hint of danger and mobilize disturbed brain circuits and secrete massive amounts of stress hormones.
The challenge is: How can people gain control over the residues of past trauma and return to being masters of their own ship? Talking, understanding, and human connections help, and drugs can dampen hyperactive alarm systems. But we will also see that the imprints from the past can be transformed by having physical experiences that directly contradict the helplessness, rage, and collapse that are part of trauma, and thereby regaining self-mastery.
This book is a guide and an invitation—an invitation to dedicate ourselves to facing the reality of trauma, to explore how best to treat it, and to commit ourselves, as a society, to using every means we have to prevent it.
Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End | Atul Gawande
A Surgeon Explores What it Means to Live and Die Well
Medicine has triumphed in saving lives, but in the inevitable condition of aging and death, sometimes the goals of medicine seem too frequently to run counter to the interest of the human spirit. Gawande, a practicing surgeon, argues that quality of life, not just extending life, is the desired goal for patients and families. Being Mortal asserts that medicine can enhance our experience even to the end, providing not only a good life but also a good end.
You Are Here | Jenny Lawson
A Raw & Honest Resource for Dealing with Anxiety
From #1 New York Times best-selling author Jenny Lawson, this book is part therapy, part best friend, part humor, part coloring book. Some of the material is dark, some is light; some is silly and profane and irreverent (yes, Jenny uses some 'colorful' language). There's commiseration and advice and permission to hide "in a pillow fort." She shows us this is life, happening right now, all around, in its messy glory.
About Grace (Novel) | Anthony Doerr
Grieving & Learning to Forgive Ourselves
This first novel by Anthony Doerr, the Pulitzer Prize-winning #1 New York Times best-selling author of All the Light We Cannot See, offers a heart-touching story and characters full of grief and longing yet replete with grace. In luminous prose, he writes about the power and beauty of nature and the tiny miracles that transform our lives. All of Doerr's works are poignant & beautiful, and this one speaks to the soul in its crooked journey to survive loss.
A Slender Thread: Rediscovering Hope at the Heart of Crisis | Diane Ackerman
Helping Others on the Edge Can Help Us Hold On, Too
Best-selling author Diane Ackerman used to volunteer every week taking calls on a crisis line. The callers were shocking, funny, stressful, deeply depressed, healing, and inspiring. So, too, was the life in her backyard, where the wild creatures she observed so closely lived their own lives on the edge. In this book, she weaves both worlds together, including her own struggles and moments of joy, taking us deep into the heart of darkness and light.
The Second Half of Life | Angeles Arrien
When You Find the Courage to Change at Midlife, a Miracle Happens
Working with images, poetry, metaphors, and other forms of symbolic language from diverse world cultures, Dr. Arrien introduces us to the Eight Gates of Initiation. By mastering their lessons and gifts, you harvest the meaning and purpose of your life, and come into spiritual maturity.
"There is a grace in this book, an invitation to beautiful, deep wisdom, a banquet to refresh your spirit for the years ahead."—Jack Kornfield, Ph.D., author of A Path with Heart
"The Second Half of Life is a wise, unique, and beautifully written guidebook for those who want to live every day of their lives. A book for everyone who plans to grow old."—Rachel Naomi Remen, M.D., author of Kitchen Table Wisdom and My Grandfather's Blessings
Almost Everything: Notes on Hope | Anne Lamott
Finding Hope Even When the World Seems Dark
Despair and uncertainty surround us: in the news, in our families, and in ourselves. But even when life is at its bleakest, Anne Lamott shows how we can rediscover the hope and wisdom that are buried within us and that can make life sweeter than we ever imagined. Almost Everything pinpoints these moments of insight and, with warmth and humor, offering a path forward.
1001 Ways to Live in the Moment | Barbara Kipfer
A Little Book for Living in the Moment
Offers readers a rare gift: the chance to stop right here, right now and truly celebrate the present moment. Exploring themes such as "adventure in awareness" and "the undeluded self," this simple, motivating guide will help anyone discover, or rediscover, the countless reasons why a life worth living is a life worth enjoying moment by moment.
Final Gifts: Understanding the Special Awareness, Needs & Communications of the Dying | Maggie Callahan & Patricia Kelley
Supporting Those We Love at End Of Life
Through their stories we come to appreciate the near-miraculous ways in which the dying communicate their needs, reveal their feelings, and even choreograph their own final moments. Filled with practical advice on responding to the requests of the dying and helping them prepare emotionally and spiritually for death, Final Gifts shows how we can help the dying person live fully to the very end.
Inner Outings: Adventures in Journal Writing Book & 33-Card Deck | Charlene Geiss & Claudia Jessup
A Tool for Journaling & Self-Exploration
Journaling is not only outlet for emotions & ideas, it taps into the therapeutic benefits of personal or confessional writing to pull out a deeper range of thought, feeling, understanding, and individual expression. Each of 33 cards offers a simple question to plumb the depths of the journaler’s experience to spark self-exploration. It's a great resource for anyone wanting to explore the healing power of daily writing and needing a prompt to get the pencil or pen moving.
The Way It Is (Poems) | William Stafford
Poems that Look Through the Difficult, Finding Peace
The Way It Is gathers unpublished poems from William Stafford's last year, including the poem he wrote the day he died, as well as a selection of luminous poems from previous collections. Here you'll find "brave starings off into emptiness"and glimmers of joy in the ordinary. The poet's voice is one of faith in life despite despair and belief in an enduring soul underlying it all—that "invisible thread" that "goes among things that change. But it doesn't change."
The Power of Giving | Azim Jamal & Harvey McKinnon
The Power of Giving to Transform Others & You
Giving does more than just improve the lives of others. Giving affects our own lives profoundly—from the practical benefits of improved health and meaningful impact in the world to the intangibles of creating feelings of hope and connection with others. In The Power of Giving, the authors show the many ways of giving, beyond time or money, and how giving from our hearts is an essential yet often overlooked human need.
The Year of Magical Thinking (Memoir) | Joan Didion
Exploring an Intensely Personal Yet Universal Experience: a Portrait of a Marriage—and a Life, in Good Times and Bad
This powerful book is Didion’ s attempt to make sense of the “weeks and then months that cut loose any fixed idea I ever had about death, about illness ... about marriage and children and memory ... about the shallowness of sanity, about life itself."
A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Card Kit | Bob Stahl, PhD & Elisha Goldstein, Phd
Creating Breaks in Grief, Stress & Anxiety
Developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn, author of Full Catastrophe Living, mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) is a clinically proven program that is effective in alleviating stress, anxiety, panic, depression, chronic pain, and a wide range of medical conditions. This powerful program has been distilled into bite-sized guidance you can use daily.