My Favorite Grief Books:
Reframing PTSD as Traumatic Grief by Dr. Alan Wolfelt, How Caregivers Can Companion Traumatized Grievers Through Catch-Up Mourning
I mercifully came across this book early in my third year of grieving. Finally, I had a name for what I was experiencing, Traumatic Grief. This book also gifted me an eloquent and expert description of everything I needed from my fellow humans that I wasn’t getting. Sweet validation! Highly recommended for anyone who has suffered reproductive trauma PTSD and who is interested in learning about traumatic grief.
It’s OK That You’re Not OK by Megan Devine, Meeting Grief and Loss In a Culture That Doesn’t Understand
While this book speaks to the physical death of a loved one, it’s written with no-nonsense wisdom and much-needed realism – two things I happen to find irresistible. With headings such as “Butterflies, Rainbows, and the Culture of Transformation” and “Down the Rabbit Hole of Pain Avoidance”, well, who can say no?
Sacred musings by CS Lewis on the death of his wife, who battled cancer and went into remission before eventually losing her life. Full of poignancy, sharp observations and existential questioning, much of this work is transferable to the loss of the dream of children, parenthood and grandparenthood. “The act of living is different all through. Her absence is like the sky, spread over everything.”
How We Grieve by Thomas Attig, Relearning the World
Though eloquent and heartfelt, this book is more dry than the others. It’s an excellent resource, but not a quick read. However Attig’s compelling and most useful proposition, the framing of grieving as relearning ourselves and the world, makes this work a worthwhile endeavor. Due to its analytical tone, I’m not sure how I would have done with this book had I tackled it during my first few years of grief. Reading it in my fifth year significantly broadened my view of my own healing process while giving me some more healthy tools with which to work.
Silent Sorority by Pamela Mahoney Tsigdinos, A (Barren) Woman Gets Busy, Angry, Lost and Found
The first, and “best” infertility book I ever read holds a special place in my heart. This iconic and well crafted memoir takes the reader through rounds of fertility treatments and other means of trying to conceive, and then into the “after life”. Pamela’s humor, irreverence, blazing insights and naked realism evokes a collective “Me, too” from infertility survivors around the world.
Finally Heard: A Silent Sorority Finds Its Voice by Pamela Mahoney Tsigdinos
Nailing it again, Pamela offers an absolute and much-needed clarification on the social and cultural roadblocks faced by those of us recovering from reproductive loss while navigating non parenthood. A most crucial hole to fill in this society that is ill prepared to companion reproductive, IVF and parenthood losses. The profit driven and unregulated (here in the US) fertility industry is also illuminated. Brief, highly accessible, and yet comprehensive, I highly recommend this read for friends and family of infertility survivors as well.
Living the Life Unexpected by Jody Day, 12 Weeks to Your Plan B For a Meaningful and Fulfilling Future Without Children
A deft and key resource for the involuntarily childless. Jody Day provides us with an all-inclusive walk through of the aspects of life and self we need to address when steering through unintended childlessness. This walk through is accompanied by thought-provoking exercises, suggestions and questions that help guide the reader through their own process. In addition, this work offers a much-needed broad context – historical, social and cultural – for childlessness, as well as an opportunity to cheer from the sidelines, as no one takes on taboo and stereotypes quite like Jody!
Life Without Baby by Lisa Manterfield, Surviving and Thriving When Motherhood Doesn’t Happen
A most useful homage and tool kit for the journey after the pursuit of parenthood. From grief to self-care and beyond, this expansive yet equally sensitive resource provides ideas on how to cope with and traverse all we encounter in the transition from infertility or expected parenthood to non parenthood.
I’m Taking My Eggs and Going Home by Lisa Manterfield, How One woman Dared to Say No to Motherhood
Eloquently written. An empowering and validating read for anyone coming out of trying to conceive without a child and heading towards or already on planet “save yourself”. One of many standouts is Ms. Materfield’s detailing of the stops and starts along her path to finally ceasing her pursuit of parenthood. An important sharing of a process that is typically perceived as linear but is often anything but. Also much needed in a world where so many paths to parenthood, such as IVF, are trumpeted, but in reality not feasible for most.
Avalanche, A Love Story by Julia Leigh
An entirely unmasked and poignant account of one woman’s journey through multiple failed fertility treatments and the disintegration of her relationship with her partner. The fertility industry gets called out. The dark and helpless rock in a hard place states the infertility journey takes us on is captured with truth both raw and gutsy.
When You Can’t Have Kids by Kate Bettison
An account of her personal journey and beyond, this extremely thoughtful and thorough work touches on all of the aspects of the infertility and involuntarily childless experiences, both internal and external. From adoption to fostering to the general rage and body hatred that arise from trying to have a baby and not being able to. Written in a voice both heartfelt and human, this book will pull at your heartstrings.
Cracked Open by Miriam Zoll, Liberty, Fertility, and the Pursuit of High Tech Babies
Trigger warning: This book does end with a successful adoption and with the iteration of a process that comes across as atypically quick and easy (the mid forty something author and her husband acquired what seemed to be a healthy newborn after only seven months of waiting). This book has many standouts though. Superbly written, Ms. Zoll provides a personal, upfront and all too important detailing of failed fertility treatment’s mental health ramifications. Her journey is artfully laced with broader societal contexts (on the fertility industry, Gen X social implications, influences, etc) both incisive and relevant.
Tribe by Sebastian Junger, On Homecoming and Belonging
An interesting read and look at our non tribal society. In addition to wading into some historical perspective, this work takes a bold look at how our individualistic modern society can negatively impact mental health and well-being. Oh, and here’s one especially for our tribe: “In humans, a lack of social support has been found to be twice as reliable at predicting PTSD as the severity of the trauma itself.” Ahem.
The One Thing Holding You Back by Raphael Cushnir, Unleashing the Power of Emotional Connection
And intensive anatomy of emotions and of the human emotional process. This book explains the importance of moving beyond emotional awareness and into the realm of connecting with one’s emotions. Emphasis is placed on feeling emotions we typically avert, exercises and step by steps of identifying and connecting with feeling are provided. While I’m not in full agreement with the author’s assertion that connecting with your emotions will allow you to live your dreams, (it doesn’t work in the land of baby making, after all!), this is a useful read for those of us with life experiences that have plowed us deep into the emotional realm.
The Paradoxes of Mourning by Alan Wolfelt, Healing Your Grief With Three Forgotten Truths
The depth of this work shines from its simplicity. And it’s a most useful tool in a culture where the vast majority of conventional grief messages and beliefs are not only untrue, but harmful. If you are spinning your wheels in grief, this book will get you back to the core of what’s real.
The Next Happy by Tracey Cleantis, Let Go of the Life You Planned and Find a New Way Forward
Refreshingly myth busting and illusion slaying, fellow infertility survivor Tracey Cleantis lovingly, firmly, and with great wit walks us through the process of saying goodbye to a dream. Her research backed presentation of “never give up’s” ramifications is a long-awaited counterpart to this one-sided, over emphasized cultural narrative. And for those of you who despise platitudes as much as I do, chapter seven alone makes this worth the read.
I Thought It Was Just Me (But It Isn’t) by Brenee Brown, Making the Journey from “What Will People Think?” to “I Am Enough”
A key work for those of us walking the all too often shame oriented infertility and/or childlessness paths. A breakdown of shame’s aspects and angles is accompanied by practices and actions that can be taken to build shame resilience. And there are even a few sections that center around infertility, so unlike when I read most other books, I actually didn’t have to “translate” every section into my experience. This book greatly expanded my insight, especially on the way the infertile and childless are treated by others in our culture.
Quiet by Susan Cain, The Power of Introverts In a World That Won’t Stop Talking
Given that grief makes even the most extroverted of us more introverted, and that the need to know, understand and care for yourself is particularly heightened in the absence of the children we dreamed of, I had to include this one on the list. Rife with both social research and the medical science behind intro and extraversion, I came away from this book with a deeper appreciation for my introverted self. And of the characteristics that infertility and childlessness have drawn on/exacerbated.