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7 Books About Death and Dying for Comfort During Tough Times

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Dee Das

Staff Writer

Trying to live, love, and say it well in good sentences. Pronouns: she/her. Contact:

Death despite being an integral part of our lives is anything but comforting. Be it our own or that of a loved one, it’s always dreaded and never welcome. While nothing can replace the pain of the end of life, we can always try to seek solace in words. They might not alleviate the suffering, but knowing other people have gone through the same set of human emotions can be strangely assuring. Here is a list of seven books to help you get through the grief of death and dying.

The Friend by Sigrid Nunez

Our narrator ends up with the custody of an old and huge Great Dane who happens to be the dog of her lifelong best friend. Unable to cope with the grief of losing a loved one and the eviction notice she is getting threatened with as dogs are not allowed in her building, she almost reaches her breaking point. But when she feels she is about to unravel something mysterious happens. She falls in love with this weird dog and the canine-human bond is bolstered every day as they are both seen mourning for the same beloved.

Tuesdays With Morrie by Mitch Albom

Mitch Albom’s professor, Morrie Schwartz, had been his guardian angel when he was in college. They drifted apart over the course of time, but the love, though latent, remained strong. In the concluding chapter of Morrie’s life, this relationship gets rekindled. Morrie’s imminent death makes Albom rediscover not just his old mentor but also what life and living truly mean.

Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes

Twelve-year-old Jerome is killed by a white cop who mistakes his toy gun for a real one. The novel is written from the perspective of Jerome’s ghost. His death wreaks havoc in the lives of his loved ones. The emotional upheaval gets too much to handle as this issue is not exclusive to Jerome’s family. Black children were and still are treated like dirt all over America. But this is a story of redemption as we see Jerome’s death bringing in a new dawn when the youngsters join hands to better the world they live in.

Wave by Sonali Deraniyagala

In the tsunami of 2004, Deraniyagala loses her husband, her children, and her parents. Despite miraculously surviving herself, she finds it hard to be hopeful about her future. How does anyone deal with the trauma of losing all their loved ones at once? Stages of grief keep evolving and in this brave, highly poised memoir we see one woman’s fight against all odds to keep her family alive in her memory while trying desperately to keep living.

The Art Of Death: Writing The Final Story by Edwidge Danticat

Danticat dedicates her entire book to mortality and grief, without making her content mawkish. Her monumental loss — the death of her mother — and the creation of art from something so deeply distressing form the foundation of her book. She decodes the take various writers have on death and explores the philosophy behind the correlation between art and death and how the personal dissolves into the creative.

The Death Class: A True Story About Life by Erika Hayasaki

In this true story a kind professor, by teaching a course on death, shows her students how to live. An incredible book on healing and the perils of dying, this book is truly a reflection of life. She takes her students to morgues, cemeteries, hospitals, etc., to put their pain into perspective. She is asking them to go deep into their cycle of grief and tragedy to finally fully experience life. A beautiful, comforting read, this book is warmth and love combined in the form of words.

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

Thirty-six year old neurosurgeon Paul Kalanithi is diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer. Life takes a turn for the worse when suddenly he goes from a doctor treating patients to a patient struggling every day for dear life. He died in 2015, but not before immortalizing his words for the rest of the world to learn from. Even when the going gets tough and even when there’s an end in sight, we keep moving. That’s what life is about. To quote Samuel Beckett, “I can’t go on. I’ll go on.”