Grief is not linear, and it’s never really complete. So, these are some books that I have loved and found helpful with grieving. I’ll include the relationship of the person author to the deceased, as well as the cause of death.
Gilda Radner was the first person ever hired to work on SNL. She is a comedy legend. She was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 1986. When she went into remission in ’88, she started writing her memoir. She died in 1989. This book chronicles her life, career, and illness. This is the only book on this list written from the perspective of the person who was sick.
The title alone makes me teary. Amy Krouse Rosenthal was an amazing writer and human. Like Gilda Radner, she had ovarian cancer. And, as the title implies, this book is written by her husband. Amy had a prolific career as an author, but her final published piece, “You May Want to Marry My Husband” in the Modern Love column of NY Times, went viral. She died just over a week after it was published. This book is a beautiful memoir about their marriage and their journey through her cancer diagnosis and treatment.
Comedy writer and actor Harris Wittels’s life was cut tragically short by a drug overdose. You might remember Harris as the animal control guy “Harris” on Parks and Rec. He also wrote for the show. This book is written by his sister Stephanie. I laughed out loud reading this book, and also cried a lot. Stephanie writes so honestly about her whole range of feelings. I think that’s one of the cool things about having a sibling’s perspective- everyone has rose-tinted glasses after someone dies, but I think a sibling is probably more likely to get real than a spouse.
This book is about the year after Joan Didion’s husband died of a heart attack. A few days before his death, their daughter was hospitalized, and was unconscious when he died, and then she was hospitalized again after learning about his death. Joan Didion was obviously an incredible writer, but I think one of the reasons this book is so famous is because it’s about life after someone’s death, but also about the fear and stress of having someone you love in the hospital, unsure of what’s going to happen to them.
The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch is one of the books I re-read often. His big passion in life was following his dreams, and helping others follow theirs, so Dream New Dreams, written by his wife, is a lovely homage. Randy died of complications from pancreatic cancer. Their three children were all young when Randy died. Her memoir talks about her experiences as Randy’s full-time caregiver, as well as life after his death, and what it was like becoming a single parent.