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A reading list for mother’s day if your mother is dead

These are the things that help me feel human when I feel wobbly with grief.

For my newsletter this month, I wrote about the complexity of mother’s day as a motherless daughter. I wanted to share some of the best resources I’ve found for dealing with grief. I have a broad definition of ‘resources’ - articles, books, poetry, podcasts, music, videos etc. In essence, they are the things that help me feel human when I feel wobbly with grief. Some are specific to the loss of a mother, most are not. I hope you’ll find them useful. 

Dead mom essays:
There are a whole series of Dead Mom Essays. I’ll write one myself someday. For now, I recommend: 

Articles about grief:

  • “One morning in early June 2004, I peeked into the room where my 23-year-old daughter, Kate, was still curled up in the white wrought-iron bed she had slept in as a child. I paused for a moment and gazed at her lovely face, framed by wild, curly hair that spread out like seaweed across the pillow. Standing there, I said to myself, as I sometimes did, I could not draw another breath if anything happened to this child.” I read this 5 years ago, and it’s still with me. Dear Kate, by Nancy Comisky

  • “Since then, the days have darkened, and I, too, have been lost: adrift, disoriented, absent. Or perhaps it would be more apt to say that I have been at a loss—a strange turn of phrase, as if loss were a place in the physical world, a kind of reverse oasis or Bermuda Triangle where the spirit fails and the compass needle spins.” When Things Go Missing by Kathryn Schultz

  • “I still have days where I lie on the floor and miss him so terribly that I keep repeating, "I want you to come home." It does not happen as frequently as in year one or year two but it slays me just the same.” The Widowhood effect by Christina Fragou.

  • Unpregnant: An essay on the silent, secret grief of miscarriage by Alexandra Kimball

  • “I spent the morning on myspace looking at pictures of my dead ex-boyfriend. The phrase my dead ex-boyfriend is syntactically ambiguous you can’t tell from it whether this boyfriend and I were together when he died. We were not. We’d been broken up for about two years. We were together for three then apart for two then he died. He died in a car crash that’s how he died.” I Love You but I’ve Chosen Darkness by Claire Vaye Watkins

  • “He didn’t feel any pain. He died instantly. That was how my mother told me that my father was dead.” Before You Know It, Something’s Over by Riese.

  • “In that first year following the loss of our child and the end of our marriage, I found myself in a state of calm determination–solitary–in an eye-of-the-hurricane place.” If You’re Going Through Hell, Keep Going by Michelle Mirsky.

  • Things You Only Know When Both Your Parents Are Dead - this manages to be both funny and devastating.

  • “I’m busy living my life, despite walking around with a sinkhole inside me. I look at the people on the street and wonder how many of them have sinkholes inside them, too.” Is Eight Years Too Long To Still Be Grieving? by Emma Tessler. (No is my answer.)

  • Rob Delaney wrote about his son Henry, before he knew that he would die. Here’s a nice interview he did too.

Other things I recommend:

Books about grief:

I’ve read a lot of books about grief. I recommend the following:

Supporting people through grief:

I read someplace that the bereaved tend to loose a huge portion (up to 75%, according to this piece) of their support base. That was certainly true for me. If you want to stick around and support someone through grief, I recommend these pieces:

I love how these pieces share actionable tips for supporting people through grief. Sometimes you just need these complex emotional questions to be condensed into a ‘how to’ format.

If you want to laugh after all that, might I suggest these gifs? #8 is my favourite.