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Books about compassion and bereavement

Take a look at our recommended titles about compassion as part of St Elizabeth Hospice's Compassionate Communities project.

Compassionate Communities gives you the tools to help others whether it be at work, through community events or simply how to support a neighbour going through a bereavement. By developing these skills, we can build the confidence and resilience needed to care for one another before and after end of life.

With the end in mind: how to live and die well by Katheryn Mannix

Told through a series of beautifully crafted stories taken from nearly four decades of clinical practice, Mannix' book answers the most intimate questions about the process of dying with touching honesty and humanity. She makes a compelling case for the therapeutic power of approaching death not with trepidation but with openness, clarity and understanding.

Borrow With the end in mind: how to live and die well

How to surrive losing a loved one: a practical guide to coping with your partner's terminal illness and death, and building the next chapter in your life by Karen Jackson and Christine Pearson

Receiving the news that your partner has a terminal or life-limiting illness, or has died unexpectedly, is among the worst experiences in life. At a time when you are least able to cope, you are faced with a multitude of difficult decisions, some of which must be made quickly. What you need is a friend who has experienced everything you are about to face, who can support you as you navigate some tough, important choices. This book is that friend.

There is plenty of information out there but where to start looking? What information is needed and how can it be accessed? What decisions are essential in the immediate term and what can be left until later? Throughout the book, the emphasis is on protecting and supporting those left behind by presenting almost every choice you may need to make and the possible implications of each decision.

Borrow How to surive losing a loved one

There's something I've been dying to tell you by Lynda Bellingham

In 2013, actress, television personality and Sunday Times bestselling author, Lynda Bellingham was diagnosed with cancer. Until now, Lynda hasn't spoken publicly about her illness - she has felt strongly that everyone's experience of cancer is so different, and she wanted to keep what she has been going through personal to her while she came to terms with her life now. But in this memoir, Lynda talks with beautiful poignancy about her life since her diagnosis, her family and how together they came to terms with a future they hadn't planned.

This is a brave and brutally honest memoir and yet even when talking about these deeply personal experiences, Lynda manages to spread her infectious warmth and humour bringing light to a very dark time.

Borrow There's something I've been dying to tell you

Let's talk about death (over dinner): an invitation and guide to life's most important conversation by Michael Hebb

Of the many critical conversations we will all have throughout our lifetime, few are as important as the ones discussing death - and not just the practical considerations, such as DNRs and wills, but what we fear, what we hope, and how we want to be remembered. Inspired by his experience with his own father and countless stories from others who regret not having these conversations, Michael Hebb cofounded Death Over Dinner - an organisation that encourages people to pull up a chair, break bread, and really talk about the one thing we all have in common.

This book offers keen practical advice on how to have these same conversations - not just at the dinner table, but anywhere. There's no one right way to talk about death, but Hebb shares time- and dinner-tested prompts to use as conversation starters, ranging from the spiritual to the practical, from analytical to downright funny and surprising.

Borrow Let's talk about death (over dinner)

Dostadning: the gentle art of Swedish death cleaning by Margareta Magnusson

'Döstädning', or the art of death cleaning, is a Swedish phenomenon by which the elderly and their families set their affairs in order. Whether it's sorting the family heirlooms from the junk, downsizing to a smaller place, or setting up a system to help you stop misplacing your keys, death cleaning gives us the chance to make the later years of our lives as comfortable and stress-free as possible.

Whatever your age, Swedish death cleaning can be used to help you de-clutter your life, and take stock of what's important. Radical and joyous, this book can help you or someone you love immeasurably, and offers the chance to celebrate and reflect on all the tiny joys that make up a long life along the way.

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Finding joy by Gary Andrews

Illustrator and animator Gary Andrews suddenly lost his wife, Joy, to sepsis, leaving him a widower and single father to two young children. As a way of coping, Gary posted a doodle a day on Twitter, illustrating the ups and downs of family life after Joy's death. His drawings, which depict his and his children's pain, love and humour with an extraordinary honesty, have since resonated with people all over the world and have been shared tens of thousands of times online. 'Finding Joy' brings together old and new drawings to tell Gary's story.

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On grief & grieving: finding the meaning of grief through the five stages of loss by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross and David Kessler

Completed shortly before her death, the author of 'On Death And Dying' teams up with David Kessler to provide a deeply empathetic and accessible guide for those in grief.

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A grief observed by C.S. Lewis

In April 1956, C.S. Lewis, a confirmed bachelor, married Joy Davidman, an American poet with two small children. After four brief, intensely happy years, Davidman died of cancer and Lewis found himself alone again, and inconsolable. To defend himself against the loss of belief in God, Lewis wrote this journal, an eloquent statement of rediscovered faith. In it he freely confesses his doubts, his rage, and his awareness of human frailty. In it he finds again the way back to life. Now a modern classic, 'A Grief Observed' has offered solace and insight to countless readers worldwide.

This readers' edition will include the original text of 'A Grief Observed' as well as new and specially commissioned responses to the book and its themes from respected contemporary writers and thinkers.

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It's ok that you're not ok: meeting grief and loss in a culture that doesn't understand by Megan Devine

When a painful loss or life-shattering event upends your world, here is the first thing to know: there is nothing wrong with grief. "Grief is simply love in its most wild and painful form," says Megan Devine. "It is a natural and sane response to loss." So, why does our culture treat grief like a disease to be cured as quickly as possible? In this book, Megan Devine offers a profound new approach to both the experience of grief and the way we try to help others who have endured tragedy.

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Good grief: the A to Z approach of modern-day grief healing by Shelley F. Knight

An inspiring companion for your journey through grief. Grief is closely associated with death, but can be triggered when we lose anything with which we have an emotional connection. Much that can be read about the grieving process is outdated and can serve an injustice to our rapidly evolving, modern society. In conjunction with recent medical and societal advancements, new and complex presentations of grief have arisen. As a result, our own journey through grief must also evolve in order for us to effectively heal and even flourish as a result of our experiences surrounding loss.

Delivering an eclectic blend of medical and spiritual observations and teachings, 'Good Grief' addresses life as well as death, and provides a practical guidebook for your unique grief journey.

Borrow Good grief

Dying to be free: a healing guide for families after suicide by Bev Cobain and Jean Larch

A healing guide for family members who have lost a loved one to suicide, this book contains recollections from suicide survivors to provide an insight into the confusion, fear, and guilt family members experience.

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A clear blue sky by Jonny Bairstow and Duncan Hamilton

As a young boy of eight, Jonny Bairstow was dealt a cruel blow. His father David 'Bluey' Bairstow, the combative and very popular wicketkeeper and captain of Yorkshire, took his own life at the age of forty-six. David left behind Jonny, Jonny's sister Becky and half-brother Andy, and his wife Janet, who had recently been diagnosed with cancer at the time of his death. From these incredibly tough circumstances, Jonny and his family strived to find an even keel and come to terms with the loss of their father and husband.

Jonny found his way through his dedication to sport. He was a gifted and natural athlete, with potential careers ahead of him in rugby and football, but he eventually chose cricket and came to build a career that followed in his father's footsteps, eventually reaching the pinnacle of the sport and breaking the record for most Test runs in a year by a wicketkeeper.

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The madness of grief: a memoir of love and loss by Richard Coles

Whether it is pastoral care for the bereaved, discussions about the afterlife, or being called out to perform the last rites, death is part of the Reverend Richard Coles's life and work. But when his partner the Reverend David Coles died, shortly before Christmas in 2019, much about death took Coles by surprise. For one thing, David's death at the early age of forty-three was unexpected. The man that so often assists others to examine life's moral questions now found himself in need of help.

He began to look to others for guidance to steer him through his grief. The flock was leading the shepherd. Much about grief surprised him: the volume of 'sadmin' you have to do when someone dies, how much harder it is travelling for work alone, even the pain of typing a text message to your partner - then realising you are alone.

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An introduction to coping with grief by Sue Morris

Grief is a natural reaction to loss, but in some cases it can be devastating, preventing the bereaved from moving on with their life and affecting their relationships and work. This self-help guide offers an examination and explanation of the grieving process and offers strategies to help someone adjust to life without a loved one.

Borrow An introduction to coping with grief