Mark Me Down as Scared and Sad: 8 Horror Novels About Grief
Horror about grief is my favorite kind of horror. I think part of that is because grief is so isolating, so unknowable, so difficult to put into words. Everyone experiences it in some form throughout their lives, and each person deals with it differently. No one ever knows quite what to say or how to help someone in the depths of it. No one can take that pain away, no matter how hard they try. There are no magic words, no action that can undo these feelings in someone. It just is there, in some form, forever.
Grief makes us withdrawn, desperate, helpless against the permanence of death or loss or the what-could-have-beens littering our past. It’s one of the few times that when a character in a novel or movie makes a rash decision or leaps to some grand conclusion, I can understand it. In fiction, it can turn someone towards the horrific: a monster in the basement, a ghost walking through their walls.
I can understand how desperate a character is for their wife to come back from the dead, how willing to believe in aliens or another world or magic spells if it means their son laughs at a silly joke again. Grief makes desperate creatures of us all.
Some people find catharsis in reading about characters going through the same thing they are. Grief can be isolating to an extreme, so reading a character having the same thoughts and feelings can combat some fraction of that.
For whatever reason you might be interested, here are eight horror novels about grief in its many different forms.
This Thing Between Us by Gus Moreno
It’s more funny than scary when their Itza, a smart speaker, starts acting up: music playing in the middle of the night, lights shining at all hours. But after an accident on the subway steps, Thiago is left reeling after the loss of his wife, Vera. Then, the speaker’s strange activity takes on a sinister meaning. Thiago flees to a remote cabin in the Colorado woods, but the grief and the horror can’t be escaped.
A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
Conor’s mom is sick, and the treatments don’t seem to be working. Nightmares plague his sleep. Then, outside his bedroom window, a monster calls his name. It will tell Conor three stories that are true, and then Conor must tell the truth about the events he sees each time he sleeps. This is a story about the grief of impending loss, an isolated childhood, and guilt.
Motherthing by Ainslie Hogarth (September 27, 2022)
Abby, a caretaker at a nursing home, has found the perfect husband after a tumultuous relationship with her mother as a child. She dreams of having a child of their own to dote on. But after her husband’s mother dies, Abby is desperate to keep her husband out of the clutches of grief. When he starts seeing the ghost of his mother in the basement, Abby and her perfect future are threatened. She must do what she can to get rid of anything and anyone standing in her way.
Summer Sons by Lee Mandelo
They were inseparable, Andrew and Eddie, with a bond that could have been called love if they gave it a name. Eddie moved to Vanderbilt and, six months later, Andrew was set on following him. But on the night before Andrew packs up his life to move, Eddie dies of what is assumed a suicide, leaving Andrew and his life in pieces. With strange scribblings in a notebook and a whole life at Vanderbilt left behind, Andrew sets out to find out what really happened to Eddie.
The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones
Lewis and three of his friends, all part of the Blackfeet tribe, went hunting one night on elder land, killing a herd of elk. Ten years later, Lewis is haunted by images of the killing, and soon Elk Head Woman is coming after them all, out for revenge. This is a bloody and violent take on what happens when the consequences of your actions come back to haunt, and kill, you.
Pet Sematary by Stephen King
The Creeds move into a little house in Maine near a highway. One night, after the family cat dies, a neighbor leads Louis Creed to an ancient burial ground and soon the cat is back, though a little stranger. Then, the family’s youngest son is hit by a truck, leaving the rest of the family spiraling. In his grief, Louis contemplates taking his son’s body to the burial ground, but what comes back to life might not give them the relief they were hoping for.
White is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi
The Silver twins, Miranda and Eliot, just lost their mother. Now, in their remote house, the family grieves. When Miranda starts to hear spirits in the walls, the house seemingly grieving too, she spirals. Then, Miranda goes missing, and her brother is left trying to find out what happened. A ghost story, a haunted house story: it’s all in this beautifully written story.
The Weight of Loss by Sally Oliver
Soon after losing her sister, Marianne finds strange hairs growing from her spine. Doctors say it’s just the way she’s dealing with grief. Or, not dealing with it. She thinks a retreat to the Welsh countryside might help her cope. But the treatments at the facility aren’t exactly run of the mill, and the hair along her spine keeps growing. Marianne turns to the other patients there, all with similar afflictions, to find a way out.
If you’re looking for more novels about grief, try these novels about grief and recovering from trauma or these YA novels about grief.