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Reading between the lines: how literature can help with loss (Part 2)

30th May 2017   Latest News

books on death and bereavement

In part one of ‘Reading between the lines‘, we discussed how literature can help children to deal with grief and loss. When death hits a family, children often become our main focus; so much so, it’s often the case that we forget to deal with our own emotions and feelings.

For adults, the grieving process can somewhat different. While children and adults are often in a position where they will experience death together and mourn together, the type of comfort they offer to each other is completely different. For instance, adults are also more likely to verbalise their grief and show obvious signs of sadness.

For adults, literature presents an opportunity to inhibit other people’s feelings – this is particularly powerful when dealing with strong emotions such as loss or grief. We like to read about relatable characters and story lines, and in turn, these help us to come to terms with our own situations.

Below, we have compiled a list of books that are aimed at adults dealing with loss. These books often deal with the complex types of grief that some children may not be able to comprehend. For example, the loss of a spouse or partner, or of a child, or even financial issues associated with the funeral.

Top adult’s books on death and bereavement

As I Lay Dying William Faulkner

As I Lay Dying, William Faulkner

Faulkner’s classic novel tells the tale of the grown-up Bundren children who are on their way to bury their mother, Addie, in her native country. The family are travelling with the body of their mother in a coffin hand-crafted by Cash, the carpenter son. The children provide narration as the journey progresses, presenting their different perspectives on the complex grieving process. The novel provides a deep insight into loss, mourning and human psychology.




CS Lewis A Grief Observed A Grief Observed, CS Lewis

Perhaps most recognised for writing the Narnia stories, CS Lewis is also famed for writing about grief and loss. Considered one of the best books for coping with bereavement, A Greif Observed is compiled from the four journals that Lewis kept during the loss of his wife to cancer, just three years into their marriage. A Greif Observed is a collection of reflections on the experience of bereavement and tells a painfully honest, profound account of coming to terms with the death of a partner.





Ernest Hemingway A Moveable FeastA Moveable Feast, Ernest Hemingway

Similar to Lewis, Hemingway also wrote about his first-hand experiences of death and dying. However, in his memoirs, Hemingway writes about the end of his life, comparing himself as a young man full of life and an old man in his final years. The book details his years spent in Paris with his wife, whom he very much loved, as well as his passion for writing, even though he saw little success in his early years. Hemingway pines for the happiness he felt in those youthful years and reflects about his old age. The book is beautifully simplistic and somewhat hopeful, as we follow the author’s journey as he rises above the struggles of later life.



Mary Shelly Frankenstein Frankenstein, Mary Shelley

Many of us are familiar with Frankenstein – the classic novel was written by Mary Shelly in her early twenties about a monster who cannot be controlled by his creator, Victor Frankenstein. Death and loss are running themes throughout the novel, with most of the characters meeting their demise by the end of the book. Throughout the novel, Shelley makes a point that death is inevitable and that a person can die peacefully without fear or regret so long as they resolve all matters in their life beforehand. The book also shows the emotional impact death can have on others.




Simone De Beauvoir A Very Easy Death A Very Easy Death, Simone de Beauvoir

A year after her mother’s death, Simone de Beauvoir penned this short memoir. An extremely personal and intimate depiction of the six weeks leading up to her mother’s passing, the book offers many relatable themes – love, grief, loss, bereavement. De Beauvoir offers an insight into the ‘pre-grief’ stages that accompany the knowledge that someone is dying from cancer, whereby the body changes and the person become less like themselves. The account is raw and honest and written in beautiful prose.




A personal, compassionate funeral service

At ISCA Funerals, we are a caring, professional funeral directors based in Exeter, Devon. If you would like any further information about literature to help cope with loss and bereavement, we would be happy to speak with you.

Alternatively, get in touch with ISCA to discuss our Exeter funeral services – whether you require alternative funeral arrangements, coffins and urns, or more information about our great value funeral options, we can help.

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