Best book you’ve never heard of on … getting over it.

This post is part of a series we haven’t seen in a long time: the best books you’ve never heard of. We’ve covered everything from fertility to marriage to organizing to the daily grind.

Prepare yourself for something very dreadful: today’s book is depressing. Sort of.

The holidays are a happy time, full of joy and anticipation. But for many people, they are also messy and hard, stirring up all kinds of complicated feelings. For those who have experienced a fresh loss, they can be just plain terrible.

It’s time to dust off my copy of this book you’ve never heard of, right now, in the midst of the holidays.

It’s The Grief Recovery Handbook: the Action Program for Moving Beyond Death, Divorce, and Other Losses including Health, Career, and Faith by John James and Russell Friedman, and its message will change your life.
Grief Recovery Handbook

I worked through this book in therapy a few years ago. I couldn’t have been more surprised when my therapist handed me a copy, because I didn’t think my issues had anything to do with grief.

It turns out that the umbrella for “grief” was much larger than I expected. Grief is a normal and natural emotional response to loss—any sort of loss, not just the obvious ones like death or divorce.

People grieve any number of things that we don’t typically associate with “grief:” a move, a diagnosis, a job loss. A loss of faith, a dysfunctional childhood, a rejection. We grieve (or rather, we need to grieve) anything we wish had ended “different, better, or more.”

This book helped me understand grief, the way it affects people, the way it has affected me.

There are two reasons to read this book.

First, read it for your own sake. Unresolved grief will wreck your life.

Everyone’s experienced loss, and it doesn’t always look like you expect. This book helps you understand and accept your own losses, instead of minimizing them. (A crucial distinction.)

(On your own, it’s an interesting and helpful read. Many people will need to go through the material with the help of a therapist, like I did.)

best book you've never heard of on ... getting over it

Second, read it for the sake of those around you. This book helps you be a better human being.

As a culture, we are terrible at grief—our own or others. We say horrible things to people who are grieving, like it was for the best, it could be worse, look on the bright side. You’ll learn how to engage with grieving people in a way that is actually helpful, instead of hurtful.

You’ll also learn some fascinating and eye-opening things, like how often things like fender-benders correlate with times of grief.

This book is about sad stuff, but it’s not a sad book. It’s interesting and enlightening and hopeful, and it deserves to be better known.

P. S. Read about more of the best books you’ve never heard of here. And find tons of great Kindle deals here.

Getting Over It

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  1. Yes! I read their book for kids (When Children Grieve) for adults helping kids with grief and loss, when I was moving away from the little boy I nannied. It was so amazing. It really made me think about how we don’t allow sad feelings in our lives well. Two books that I think complement that book a lot are Sacred Rhythms by Ruth Haley Barton who talks a lot about spiritual practices that help you make room in your life for God to sit with you in all your feelings, and (the beginning at least) The Secret Life of Pronouns, by James W. Pennebaker where he outlines his research on writing as trauma therapy.

  2. Jess Townes says:

    Thank you so much for this recommendation. When my husband and I went through foster parent training, we delved a great deal into grief and like you I was surprised at the things that fell under the broad umbrella, and how deeply they impact us. I am going to read this and then keep it on hand for the right person at the right moment. Great series by the way, I’m new to your blog so I’ve got some catching up to do!

    • Anne says:

      Thanks for the kind words. 🙂

      That’s interesting that they cover grief in foster parent training. I wouldn’t have expected it, but OF COURSE it makes perfect sense that they do. I’m glad to hear that they’re equipping foster parents to interact with kids who are experiencing a tough time on multiple levels.

  3. Kierstin says:

    This looks really good! I’ve been wanting to read Smoke Gets in Your Eyes by Caitlin Doughty after I heard her speak on NPR. I think grief rituals from around the world are really fascinating. Thanks for the recommendation!

  4. Steph says:

    This is a perfect time of year for a book like this…we’ve experienced quite a bit of loss of life around Christmastime. Not to mention the grief surrounding family’s of origin, unmet expectations, relational strife, etc. Putting this book on my list.

  5. Tessa~ says:

    Thank you for this suggestion. Mostly because I would never have thought of it, by myself. The idea that so many things, fall under this umbrella for grief, is new to me. But oh so logical.

    Again, thank you.

    Perhaps I ought to get it, for working with my psychiatrist.

    Happy coming Christmas,
    ‘Miss’ Tessa~

  6. jeri says:

    When my husband died our son was 5 yrs and our daughter was 6 months. I would have never thought our daughter would struggle as an adult until a Christian Counsellor take her through a grief process from losing her dad at that early age.
    Good books on Grief are a necessity. Thanks for sharing.

  7. Karlyne says:

    Empathy (as opposed to sympathy) is a relatively unknown concept to most Americans, but, wow! if you’ve ever had any of those horrible things said to you during a time of grief, you’ll see the need for it. It’s not our job to “fix” anyone else’s grief, no matter what that grief is about, no matter how big or small. All we need to do is be there during it.

    • SoCalLynn says:

      I lost my dad 2 years ago when he was killed in a hit and run accident. An acquaintance of mine said something to me that hurt me deeply, but I understood that it was not her intention. I wouldn’t consider things said by someone who means well “horrible” as they and you have no idea how you will take in those words. You just don’t know, and I would never hold against my friend or anyone else the pain I felt when I knew that wasn’t her intention. People don’t mean to hurt us in our grief, our grief causes pain in a myriad of unanticipated ways.

      • Karlyne says:

        I didn’t say that someone who said something horrible was a horrible person. Everyone says stupid things at times, and, even, yes, horrible things at times. Many times it’s because we either don’t know what to say or we’re being thoughtless or insensitive. And, no, I wouldn’t hold that against anyone, either, when I knew it wasn’t intentional (and I’d try very hard to forgive if it was intentional. I’d try until I did.). But, the whole point of this blog is that we can learn to be better at being kind to our grieving friends, and I think the first way to do that is by recognizing our words and what they do to people.

  8. So true. My therapist pointed out to me that my emotions surrounding the premature birth of my son (overwhelming sadness, anger) were classic grieving.
    Last week she helped me see that I also never completely got over a painful breakup many years ago when I was just a teenager, and it has impacted my relationships since. I’ll put this on my wish list. (Waiting for the Tidying Up book to arrive soon!)

    • Anne says:

      I’m so glad you have someone helping you walk through that, Carrie.

      (It took me a hard time to understand how we grieve the loss of our hopes or the loss of the life we expected to have, and I’m continually surprised at how that continues to manifest itself.)

  9. Kate says:

    My previous therapist told me that loss and grief have been a major theme in my life, mostly for the “umbrella” things that don’t seem like a big deal til it’s 20 years later and they’re still under the surface, holding you back. I’ll definitely check this one out!

  10. Marcy says:

    Oh wow. This year has been a major year of transition, change, and loss, so I’d better pick up a copy. [Pregnancy then job loss two days after finding out, then miscarriage (accompanied by lots of health complications, over the course of many months), major move, major job change for my husband… you get the idea.] Actually the last *several* years have been pretty crazy… my therapist says the word he thinks of when he thinks of me is “transition,” so yeah.

    It’s funny how, when there are so many undramatic and actually good days, you look at your life and you minimize the losses, but then typing it all out (er, not even all of it) it’s like, “Wow! I’m still standing! Thank You, God!” ^_^

      • Marcy says:

        Thank you! It helps that things have been a lot calmer in the last half of the year, and there have been lots of beautiful moments. Earlier, when it was one blow after another, I was more… hanging by a thread than *standing*, exactly. But yeah.

  11. When I was tutoring literature classes with a small group of high school students, one of the boy exclaimed after reading The Odyssey, “Good grief! They cried all the time!” It really made me think. It does seem like our culture is one of the very worst for actually letting people (men especially) grieve. We just try to soldier up and bury our troubles instead of working (and crying) through them.

    This book looks awesome. I’m adding it to my reading list right now. Thank you!

  12. Meg says:

    My favorite is “When Holidays Hurt: Finding Hidden Hope Amid Pain and Loss” by Bo Stern. It’s free of cliche’s, offering real encouragement and insight that is only possible by walking a rough road.

  13. Vicki Setzer says:

    I worked for hospice for three years as a care giver, One of the things i learned if you do not deal with your loss and your grief it will come back again sometime in your life and bite you in the butt. I have seen this in my own life as well as others. I had a friend who just lost her young son to cancer i may get this book for her. Thank you, I love your blog.

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