“Friends delivered volumes of poetry and books on grief by the dozen. But when I tried to read, letters no longer formed words, and words did not make sentences. Instead, each page held a jumble of letters that meant nothing, no matter how hard I stared.” -Ann Hood
Despite her love for the written word, novelist Ann Hood was initially unable to concentrate on any reading following the death of her five-year-old daughter.
Eventually she discovered books that were beneficial to her healing, just as my daughter Elizabeth did after her eight-year-old son Jacob died from cancer.
Memoirs from those who had gone down the dark path of child loss were particularly helpful.
The following books offer grieving parents the healing and hope they so desperately need after a child dies, whenever they are ready to read them:
“Okay, Lord, you can have him. But if he must die, I want it to be for something big. I want someone’s life to be changed forever.”
That was Laura Sobiech’s prayer when she found out her seventeen-year-old son Zach had one year to live.
“All the memories of years filled by the spirit of that beautiful boy swam in my mind and left my heart to ache like arms that clutched a weighty treasure for a long time.
How could I let go of this son who brought so much joy into our lives and into our home? What would our family be like without the child who made everything run smoothly just by his peaceful presence?”
How can any one of us live without the child that brought so much to our lives?
Reading this book did change my life; my heart expanded with love for this amazing writer, her family, and the beautiful son who faced death with a bravery that belied his youth.
Zach did, indeed, do something “big” through his music, releasing a YouTube video of his song, “Clouds” in December 2012.
It went viral, surpassing three million views at the time of his death the following May. While death and dying is certainly part of the story, this book is not about dying, but rather how to live.
How can we live without our loved one? By becoming a better person, in honor of them.
How does someone find joy again after a tragic loss?
September Vaudrey delves deep into unimaginable loss, sharing how her family eventually discovered redemptive joy following the death of her nineteen-year-old daughter Katie.
“I now knew from personal experience that the same God who allows pain to enter our lives also sends us comfort, His presence, and more strength than we thought we possessed.
And with the sorrow, He extends an invitation for the transformation of our character and a richer, wiser appreciation of life,” September writes in this beautifully crafted memoir.
Full of life and light, Katie’s absence is keenly felt in her family. So is God’s grace and comfort.
In the excruciating aftermath of her young daughter’s death from cancer, Kate Merrick struggled to find a way to live, fully and faithfully.
Delving into Biblical examples of real women who suffered deeply and somehow emerged joyful, the author confronts the myth that equates being loved and blessed by God with perpetual happiness.
“We want the blessing of Christian life but none of the pain. We think twice about diving in, risking love because we might lose it, risking reputation, comfort, all these things we think will keep us safe and happy,” Merrick writes.
It reminds the reader that the Bible promises Christians will face trials on this side of Heaven, but joy can still be found in the midst of those trials.
Where is God in the most difficult times? So asks author Jill Kelly.
Her own story of deep loss and unexpected joy demonstrates how God shows up, even when grief feels insurmountable. She demonstrates how he is there, in the midst of every trial, to give comfort and peace.
Kelly offers a vision of healing and hope for whatever circumstance you’re facing.
With a beautiful leather-bound cover, this book would make a wonderful gift for a grieving parent’s shelf.
“It’s not fair!” I lamented upon becoming a widow and single parent at the age of 52, my whole world upended in the blink of an eye.
“It’s not fair!” I exclaimed even louder when my grandson died at the age of eight. What could be more unfair than the death of a child?
While not directly dealing with loss, this book definitely ponders suffering and pain, and the questions we have when things go wrong.
Melanie assures us it is okay to question God during the difficult times. “There’s a commonality in the ways that we fear, and there’s a commonality in the ways that we fail, and when we partner in pain, it gives way to sharing in the joy as well,” Dale writes.
It’s that commonality that brings comfort in reading books by authors who have gone down the path of child loss or through attending a support group. That’s why grieving parents feel an instant connection with others who have lost a child.
While life indeed is “not fair,” Dale maintains a person can still learn to love a life they didn’t choose.
Related: What Is the Point of Life
I heard this author speak before I ever read his book. He is just as powerful a writer as he is a speaker.
After Mitch’s nine-year-old son died of a brain tumor, the author wrote letters and poems to his son as catharsis for his grief.
While the raw pain of a grieving father is evident in these pages, so is the hope and recovery.
“Letters to My Son” is a must-read for anyone who has experienced a great loss and is trying to find some path out of the darkness of their despair and is one of the few books on childhood loss written from the father’s perspective.
Children’s minister Leanne Hadley shares the poignant stories and simple faith of children she served as a former children’s hospital chaplain, sharing their encounters with God, Jesus, and angels.
Despite the sad subject matter of dying children, this beautiful book is inspiring and uplifting with true stories of hope and beauty in these children’s short lives.
Their experiences could give real comfort to those who have lost a child. What a loving companion Hadley is in her work with dying children and their families.
This lovely gift book should be given to every grieving mother before she leaves the funeral home.
Author Angela Miller has the heart of a warrior mother, speaking to the laments of every grieving mother’s soul.
Beautifully decorated pages include brief but powerful messages every grieving mother needs to hear, such as “it’s not your fault,” and “there’s nothing you could have done.”
Written by his sister, this memoir details the strong faith of a dying young man.
Ben Breedlove suffered from Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy (HCM), a heart condition that posed a constant risk of sudden death.
His condition led to cardiac arrest on four separate occasions, during which he felt the presence of angels and experienced the perfect peace of heaven.
In his “My Story,” a YouTube video that went viral after his death in 2012, Ben used flashcards to tell the world about the heaven that beckoned him.
An uplifting and inspirational book that can bring comfort to grieving parents.
Prenatal and infant loss can be particularly lonely.
Dianna Vagianos Armentrout acknowledges and honors that kind of loss as she chronicles her pregnancy journey with daughter, Mary Rose, who died an hour after birth of trisomy 18, a genetic illness incompatible with life.
For most of her pregnancy, Armentrout walked the dark path of a grieving mother. Through journal entries, essays and poetry, she invites the reader to process grief and honor the life of their child, no matter how brief.
Hospice chaplain and grief specialist Gary Roe turns to three decades of experience working with grieving parents to write this uplifting book that should be given to every grieving couple.
Not only does he walk the reader through the powerful impact of child loss, but he also demonstrates how to deal with the unpredictable emotions and move through feeling overwhelmed to begin the healing process.
Besides delving into the individual grieving process, he addresses couple and family relationship upheavals, as well as ways to navigate spiritual uncertainties.
Author Jeannie Ewing maintains that our culture and society hold a very superficial comprehension of suffering and loss, and while her daughter did not die, she does understand grief and suffering.
When her infant daughter was born with a rare genetic disorder that causes the bones to prematurely fuse together, Jeannie grieved a loss, knowing her child faced a life of surgeries and pain. Yet she somehow found God in all of it.
Combining her personal experiences with training in psychology and counseling, Jeannie demonstrates there is much life to be lived in the midst of loss, and that grief and joy can coexist.
For those who are looking for a more practical action-oriented book dealing with child loss, Alan Wolfelt includes ways to embrace, not avoid, grief.
Presenting simple yet highly effective methods for coping and healing, this book provides answers and relief to parents dealing with the loss of a child, offering 100 practical ideas such as writing a letter to the child who has died or creating a memory book.
The guide also addresses common problems for grieving parents, including dealing with marital stress, helping surviving siblings, or dealing with hurtful advice.
Expressive writing is a powerful tool in healing from loss.
This guided journal includes 100 prompts aimed at guiding the reader through the darkness of grief.
Featuring quotes from writers paired with open-ended questions and prompts, the journal is lovely to look at, with plenty of space for writing.
Where else to look for help than from those who have gone down the road before you?
In this anthology collection of stories from more than twenty bereaved mothers, readers will find hope, healing, and a common understanding of what it is to have experienced the loss of a child.
Surviving Loss of a Child is part of the award-winning Grief Diaries series founded by Lynda Cheldelin Fell, whose 15-year-old daughter was killed in a car accident.
I would be remiss not to include the very book I quoted at the beginning of this list.
Novelist Ann Hood’s memoir about her five-year-old daughter Grace’s sudden death from a rare form of strep in 2002 is a heart-rending read.
That the author finds solace and healing through the craft of knitting demonstrates how creative endeavors can have emotional and health benefits for those who grieve.
Readers will also find hope of moving forward (not moving on) in the couple’s decision to adopt after the death of their daughter.