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Read Women Chat > On Grief, Suffering, Struggle

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message 1: by Carol (new)

Carol (carolfromnc) | 2107 comments Mod
After reading Jesmyn Ward's essay in Vanity Fair this morning on losing her Beloved, her husband, earlier this year to COVID-19, I thought we could use a thread to share recommendations of books, essays, literary resources of any kind, on grief and grieving, on suffering (physical or otherwise), on struggling. I tend to be of the, just ignore that elephant in the room, version of coping, which is generally unhelpful as well as unhealthy in the long term. One of the things I appreciate about this group and our members is that, by sharing resources and then being open to change on our own terms and timing, we can be a source of positive coping, positive change, not getting stuck, and other good things.

Here's a link to Ward's powerful (understatement) essay.

https://www.vanityfair.com/culture/20...

If you want to request books on a certain topic within these general themes, feel free to use this thread for your requests. Have you found any books or articles - whether fiction or nonfiction - that address grief et al well? Please share your recommendations.


message 2: by Tamara (new)

Tamara Agha-Jaffar | 646 comments Thank you for sharing that, Carol. It is powerful and heartbreaking.


message 3: by Tamara (new)

Tamara Agha-Jaffar | 646 comments The work that came to my mind right away was Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking. I read it several years ago, so I can't remember much about it. I probably should re-read it. I thought I'd suggest it to get the ball rolling.


message 4: by Carol (new)

Carol (carolfromnc) | 2107 comments Mod
Tamara wrote: "The work that came to my mind right away was Joan Didion's The Year of Magical Thinking. I read it several years ago, so I can't remember much about it. I probably should re-read it. I ..."

I have wanted to read that for some time. I’m glad you reminded me. Earlier this summer, I read Sigrid NunezThe Friend and recommend it highly for those of us who respond better to fiction than non-fiction treatments.


message 5: by Irene (last edited Sep 02, 2020 05:53AM) (new)

Irene Benito  (irenebj) | 14 comments Thanks a lot for this thread, Carol. One of my favorite books on grief is not written by a woman, but I'll recommend it anyways because I just loved it: Julian Barnes' Levels of Life. An essay written by him in other of his books led me to Didion's aforementioned The year of Magical Thinking and Joyce Carol Oates A Widow's Story.

By women I have currently on my tbr list and looking forward to them both When Death Takes Something from You Give It Back: Carl's Book and Time Lived, Without Its Flow. For Spanish speaking readers there is wonderful La ridícula idea de no volver a verte, which has been translated into several European languages, but weirdly, not to English...


message 6: by Carol (new)

Carol (carolfromnc) | 2107 comments Mod
Irene wrote: "Thanks a lot for this thread, Carol. One of my favorite books on grief is not written by a woman, but I'll recommend it anyways because I just loved it: Julian Barnes' [book:Levels of Life|17262198..."

Thanks for sharing these, Irene. I'm glad you mentioned Levels of Life, too. This topic is too important to worry about circumscribing it as we might typically do for other discussions.


message 7: by Laurie (last edited Sep 02, 2020 05:52PM) (new)

Laurie | 8 comments Oh wow, I didn't know Ward's husband had died. How devastating. How many more men can she lose in her life? The books on grief that immediately came to me are Ward's own Men We Reaped and H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald. And since a male author is acceptable, Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders is very strange but full of grief.


message 8: by Anita (new)

Anita Fajita Pita (anitafajitapitareada) | 952 comments Mod
I really liked Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto. The edition I read came with Moonlight Shadow. They both explored grief and the ways different people handle losing loved ones.


message 9: by Story (new)

Story (storyheart) | 636 comments The Art of Death: Writing the Final Story by Edwidge Danticat is a touching exploration of loss and grief.

I also liked The Way Through the Woods: Of Mushrooms and Mourning by Long Litt Woon, translated by Barbara Haveland.

Another I enjoyed was Threads: The Delicate Life of John Craske by Julia Blackburn


message 10: by Alwynne (new)

Alwynne | 945 comments I'm not sure if these are suitable or not:

I remember this as being quite a powerful account, it's a memoir by artist Marion Coutts that covers the time leading up to her husband's death after he was diagnosed with a terminal cancer, I don't know if anyone else has read it?

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/2...

There's also Sonya Deraniyagala's account of losing her family to a tsunami

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1...

I’m not a particular fan of Maggie O’Farrell but I remember her novel After You’d Gone as being a moving portrait of grief and loss – although the description doesn’t make that clear

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/2...

And although it deals with broader issues I thought Richard Lloyd Parry’s book covering the aftermath for families of the loss of their children to the Japanese tsunami in 2011 was an incredibly moving, powerful book

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/2...


message 11: by Alwynne (new)

Alwynne | 945 comments Realised after I posted that Richard Lloyd-Parry doesn't strictly fit.


message 12: by Story (new)

Story (storyheart) | 636 comments Alwynne wrote: "Realised after I posted that Richard Lloyd-Parry doesn't strictly fit."

I almost added Max Porter's Grief is the Thing with Feathers but then wondered if that was okay for this group. :)


message 13: by Claire (new)

Claire (clairemcalpine) | 107 comments I can't speak for anyone else, but a year ago I lost my 17 year old daughter, very suddenly and pretty much I couldn't read anything for 6 months and I'd suggest that it's best not to recommend anything to someone during those early days of grief.

However, about a month into the surreal period post loss, I remembered I had a book on my shelf, for research purposes, that I dug out and then read and it described with an absolute clarity many of the things I was experiencing.

The Grief Recovery Handbook: A Program for Moving Beyond Death, Divorce, and Other Devastating Losses

The two authors are consultants to bereavement professionals, and founders of Grief Recovery seminars & certification programs in the US and Canada. It is not a book I could review, but one I am endlessly grateful to its authors, for its existence,

THIS totally resonates. Highly recommended to anyone going through a LOSS, or having trouble recovering from one.


message 14: by Tamara (new)

Tamara Agha-Jaffar | 646 comments Claire wrote: "I can't speak for anyone else, but a year ago I lost my 17 year old daughter, very suddenly and pretty much I couldn't read anything for 6 months and I'd suggest that it's best not to recommend any..."

Claire, I am deeply, deeply sorry for your loss. I can't imagine anything harder in life than losing your child. My heart goes out to you.


message 15: by Liesl (new)

Liesl | 486 comments Claire wrote: "I can't speak for anyone else, but a year ago I lost my 17 year old daughter, very suddenly and pretty much I couldn't read anything for 6 months and I'd suggest that it's best not to recommend any..."

Oh Claire, I'm so sorry to hear that. My thoughts are with you.


message 16: by Laurie (new)

Laurie | 8 comments Claire wrote: "I can't speak for anyone else, but a year ago I lost my 17 year old daughter, very suddenly and pretty much I couldn't read anything for 6 months and I'd suggest that it's best not to recommend any..."

Claire, I am so sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing your experience on what helped you with the toughest thing any parent can go through.


message 17: by Claire (last edited Sep 09, 2020 05:45AM) (new)

Claire (clairemcalpine) | 107 comments Tamara wrote: "Claire wrote: "I can't speak for anyone else, but a year ago I lost my 17 year old daughter, very suddenly and pretty much I couldn't read anything for 6 months and I'd suggest that it's best not t..."

Thank you for your kind words Tamara, Liesl and Laurie; it's something the English language has inadequate adjectives for, perhaps that is in part due to what Carol mentions, that way anglo culture has of ignoring/suppressing what is difficult.

To imagine is something entirely different to experiencing, for though it isn't something I would wish upon anyone, my daughter has become a kind of magical inspiration to me, giving me a perspective on life and much within it, that I would likely not have developed without this tragic event. That too, becomes something difficult for some to witness and accept, not conforming to accepted expectations of practicing grief.


message 18: by Carol (new)

Carol (carolfromnc) | 2107 comments Mod
Claire wrote: "I can't speak for anyone else, but a year ago I lost my 17 year old daughter, very suddenly and pretty much I couldn't read anything for 6 months and I'd suggest that it's best not to recommend any..."

@Claire, i'm choked up just thinking of the pain of your loss and wish you whatever peace and light you want and need. thank you for sharing this title and your context.


message 19: by Carol (new)

Carol (carolfromnc) | 2107 comments Mod
Alwynne wrote: "I'm not sure if these are suitable or not:

I remember this as being quite a powerful account, it's a memoir by artist Marion Coutts that covers the time leading up to her husband's death after he ..."


@alwynne - no fears about mentioning titles written by men. if they've been valuable to the recommending member, that's enough.

I read Ghosts of the Tsunami: Death and Life in Japan’s Disaster Zone a couple of years ago and his description of the parents and how they approached both their grief as well as the allocation of responsibility for the avoidabe death of their children hit hard. his writing was luminous. I would not be able to read this were I in the midst of grieving, but it helped me to process and consider how I might approach a devastating loss - in theory. Highly recommended.


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