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Dad and me

At some stage we all expect our parents to die. Mostly, we expect this to happen in their senior years, after they have lived a good and long life. However, this is more often not the case. Your parents are those people your depend upon as a child, rebel against when you are a teenager, try to understand in your twenties and then eventually as you age and have your own children, begin to understand and identify with. The loss of one or both at any stage in your life is to redefine exactly who you are.

Books to help with parental grief

I am often asked what books to read to help cope with the death of a parent. I cannot speak from the loss of both parents, however, I have read and recommend the following books/authors.

1. Claire Bidwell Smith

Claire Bidwell Smith is an author and grief counsellor who lost both her parents by the age of twenty five. She has written two books about how their deaths have changed her life. The Rules of Inheritance is a memoir about the loss of both parents whereas After This is a follow up where Claire examines the question where do we go after we die?  Since her first book, Claire has become a mother and a grief counsellor. In this book Claire examines from a grief counsellor’s perspective the relevance of trying to answer this question as a way of coping with grief. She visits mediums and psychics and is involved in past life regressions to understand how they can help those who are grieving and wish to reach out to their lost loved ones. Naturally, the book is part memoir as Claire uses these experiences to cope with her ever present loss and also to reflect on life as a mother.

You can listen to an hour long interview with Claire Bidwell Smith with the ABC’s Richard Fidler, regarding Claire’s first book “The Rules of Inheritance”, which is about the death of both of her parents.

You can purchase Claire’s books by clicking on the images below.

My review of “After This”:

Claire, you made me laugh out loud (in a public place!) and you made me cry. The words that come immediately to mind are profound, and beautiful, tender and moving. Books about theories on the after life, reincarnation, mediums and all beliefs about what come next sometimes come across as either unbelievable, or lacking in emotional depth and credibility. None of those words apply to your book. It was a pleasure to read and it felt as though I was on the journey with you. I would recommend this to everyone who has ever asked the question of what happens after we die?

Most importantly for me, it reassured me that if anything ever happens to me, to end my days earlier than I would like, that my two little boys will always be ok, because love is never ending.

2. Hope Edelman

Widely acknowledged as “the” book to go to after the death of your mother.

3. My Mother, My Father edited by Susan Wyndham

This is a collection of essays curated by Susan Wyndham about the loss of a parent. When Susan’s mother died in 2011, she couldn’t make sense of her emotions and looked for books to guide her through her loss. She found text books and grief therapy books however, she was specifically looking for the personal stories of grief. When she couldn’t find them, she vowed to write her own book.This book is a result of this. Essays in this collection are written by well know Australian authors including Thomas Keneally, Susan Duncan and Helen Garner. I particularly identified with the essay by Thomas Keneally:

“The death of my father in the end was something that seemed to shatter the interior of the earth I stood on…when he went the loss proved so profound that I did not have the instruments on the surface to measure its impact”.

 4. The Orphaned Adult by Alexander Levy

Alexander Levy writes about what it is like to be an adult orphan; that is a “grown up” who has lost both parents. He wrote this book because he found difficulty in the transition from being an adult with parents (essentially a child) to that of being an orphan. He found this difficult because “little attention is devoted to the study of the death of parents surviving adult children because this is regarded as part of the natural order of universal dynamics”. This book is part memoir, part poetry and part practical exploration of grief and how to get through it.