By Terri Schexnayder
Five new releases have landed in bookstores and audible programs recently. Each one delivers the topics of grief and loss through unflinching honesty with the author’s personal story—some even include moments of humor. We encourage you to read and share with bereaved family and friends these selected books.
Dina Gachman’s self-help book, So Sorry for Your Loss: How I Learned to Live with Grief and Other Grave Concerns, was released on April 11, 2023. Since losing her mother to cancer in 2018 and her sister to alcoholism less than three years later, the author and journalist has dedicated herself to understanding what it means to grieve, healing after loss, and the ways we stay connected to those we miss. Publisher’s Weekly called Gachman’s book “a poignant, personal exploration of grief.”
Regarding her esteem for Joyal Mulheron and the nonprofit she founded, Evermore, Gachman said, “after going through a traumatic in-home hospice experience with my mom, I was so happy to discover Evermore, and find out that there are people out there trying to reform bereavement care in the U.S. Until I went through it, I had no clue how emotionally, physically, and spiritually depleting and devastating it could be. I was so moved by Joyal’s story, and by the stories of others I spoke to for the book. So many of us out there are suffering through caregiving or the loss of a loved one, with little help, and Evermore’s mission is one I fully embrace. We need more help and more understanding around death, grief, and loss at home, at work, and as a society.”
In an excerpt from Gachman’s chapter about hospice, the reader learns more about Joyal Mulheron’s own struggles with the system after the loss of her infant daughter Eleanora:
Bereavement care in America is broken, if it even exists, says Joyal Mulheron, founder of Evermore, a nonprofit focused on improving the lives of bereaved families through research, policy, and education. … She saw firsthand how “broken” the system was when insurance companies would call her during her daughter’s pediatric in-home hospice and ask how many days or weeks it would be until her daughter passed away. Mulheron said she had twenty-three providers, but she was the one doing the caloric calculations, making sure her daughter was getting enough nutrition to keep her comfortable. … During that time, the company she worked for asked for her resignation, since she was caring for her daughter and could not devote herself to the job as she once had. Now, she is working to change those systems that were so broken for her, and for so many others.
After avoiding her grief from the loss of her father to bone cancer when Laurel Braitman was a child, the New York Times bestselling author eventually faced—and embraced—her pain in her thirties. What Looks Like Bravery: An Epic Journey Through Loss to Love, released by Simon & Schuster on March 14, 2023, is referred to as the “hero’s journey for our times.”
Her literal journey through mountainous regions, encountering life-threatening wildfires, and visiting with others about their grief along the way, Braitman’s powerful memoir “teaches us that hope is a form of courage, one that can work as an all- purpose key to the locked doors of your dreams.”
She shared how she, like so many of the children she met with, felt shame after their loss. “I became a facilitator to help grieving kids who lost siblings or who were ill … What I learned from them was that shame is really just another way to control the uncontrollable.”
Released on April 4, 2023, A Living Remedy: A Memoir by Nicole Chung, a Korean-American writer who was adopted by white parents is personal and addresses an important topic. Chung not only writes about the loss of both her father and mother to illness within the span of a few years but tackles the issues of class and the inequities of medical care in the United States. She witnessed this firsthand, especially when her father was dying, noting his death was “no doubt exacerbated by his lack of health insurance and limited access to care in the small Oregon town” where Chung grew up.
Chung shared an interview with LitHub journalist Hannah Bae. “I felt compelled to write about grief but also this common American experience, where so many people in this country who are not fantastically wealthy end up facing illness or loss without all the resources and support that we need.”
On Grief: Love, Loss, Memory by Jennifer Senior, released on April 4, 2023, is based on an intriguing story around the journal of a young man Bob who died on 9/11 at the World Trade Center. Atlantic writer Senior interviewed Bob’s parents after his death. Years later, she shared with NPR’s Rachel Martin her desire to find the truth behind why the journal ended up with Bob’s fiancé Jen rather than his mother. “[His mother] was so upset and said, ‘How can you give away the last thing our son ever wrote?’ It was – it is a chance to have – to hear his voice one more time, to, in a weird way, be in conversation with him …”
The nagging question for Senior became, why didn’t Jen give the journal back when Bob’s mother asked for it? On Grief answers that and provides a larger conversation about the book’s title.
The Archaeology of Loss: Life, Love and the Art of Dying by Sarah Tarlow, released on April 20, 2023, shares the archaeologist’s shock and grief when faced with the sudden loss of her husband Mark. Called “a fiercely honest and unique memoir,” it reveals how nothing could have prepared Tarlow, after years of studying death in her research, for the loss of someone she loved. About writing her memoir, Tarlow said:
“When you find your husband lying dead, you think you will not forget a single detail of that moment. As an archaeologist, I like to get my facts right … I am excavating my own unreliable memory. I cannot go back and check.”