Suggested Reading

The following is a list of books that may be helpful as you care for a loved one with a serious illness or to help you through the grieving process.

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  • "Why Do People Die?" Helping Your Child Understand – With Love and Illustrations

    Cynthia MacGregor

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    Why Do People Die? guides parents through the inevitable questions, emotions, and fears associated with death. Written in a friendly, reassuring tone, and with respect for the beliefs of different religions, this book comforts both parents and children. Understanding the thoughts and worries that plague children, this book offers answers to tough questions like: What is dying?; Is it normal to cry?; What happens at funerals?

  • 90 Minutes in Heaven: My True Story

    Don Piper

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    90 Minutes in Heaven is the runaway bestseller about one man's experience with death and life. When Don Piper's car collided with a semi-truck he was pronounced dead at the scene. For the next 90 minutes, he experienced the glories of heaven. Back on earth, a passing minister felt led to pray for the accident victim even though he was told Piper was dead. Miraculously, Piper came back to life, and the pleasure of heaven was replaced by a long and painful recovery. An inspiring account for people of all ages, 90 Minutes in Heaven is now poised to touch and comfort children in the same way it has offered encouragement and hope to millions of adults.

  • All Kinds of Love: Experiencing Hospice

    Carolyn Jaffe and Carol H Erhlich

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    Presents a view of hospice care through the eyes of a long-term hospice nurse. This title includes stories which are accompanied by discussion of end-of-life issues that arise among the families the hospice nurse has served. It is useful for health care and social workers and laypersons alike.

  • Being Mortal

    Atul Gawande

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    Medicine has triumphed in modern times, transforming the dangers of childbirth, injury, and disease from harrowing to manageable. But when it comes to the inescapable realities of aging and death, what medicine can do often runs counter to what it should.

    Through eye-opening research and gripping stories of his own patients and family, Gawande reveals the suffering this dynamic has produced. Nursing homes, devoted above all to safety, battle with residents over the food they are allowed to eat and the choices they are allowed to make. Doctors, uncomfortable discussing patients’ anxieties about death, fall back on false hopes and treatments that are actually shortening lives instead of improving them. And families go along with all of it.

  • Bereaved Children and Teens: A Support Guide for Parents and Professionals

    Earl Grollman

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    Bringing together 14 experts from across the United States and Canada, Bereaved Children and Teens is a comprehensive guide to helping children and adolescents cope with the emotional, religious, social, and physical consequences of a loved one's death. The result is an indispensable reference for parents, teachers, counselors, health-care professionals, and clergy.

  • Dying Well: Peace and Possibilities at the End of Life

    Ira Byock, M.D.

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    This is Ira Byock's dream, and he is dedicating his life to making it come true. Dying Well brings us to the homes and bedsides of families with whom Dr. Byock has worked, telling stories of love and reconciliation in the face of tragedy, pain, medical drama, and conflict. Through the true stories of patients, he shows us that a lot of important emotional work can be accomplished in the final months, weeks, and even days of life. It is a companion for families, showing them how to deal with doctors, how to talk to loved ones—and how to make the end of life as meaningful and enriching as the beginning.

  • Facing Death and Finding Hope: A Guide to the Emotional and Spiritual Care of the Dying

    Christine Longaker

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    Christine Longaker's experience with death and care of the dying began in 1976 when her husband was diagnosed with acute leukemia at the age of twenty-four. Since his death, she has devoted her life to easing the suffering of those facing death. In Facing Death and Finding Hope, she clearly and compassionately identifies the typical fears and struggles experienced by the dying and their families. The core of this book is presented in "Four Tasks of Living and Dying," using the Tibetan Buddhist perspective on death to provide a new framework of meaning. A book of great depth and grace, it is destined to become a classic in the literature on death and dying.

  • Fading Away: The Experience of Transition in Families with Terminal Illness

    B. Davies, et al

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    This book comes out of an in-depth, qualitative study of the experiences of twenty-three families in which one parent was dying of cancer. The study attempted to better understand the impact of terminal illness on the entire family system and sought to develop a theoretical framework that would guide the assessment of and services to such families. As a result of interviews with patients, spouses and their adult children over three phases of the study, the process of "fading away" was identified and conceptualized in terms of various phases which contributed to this process. The book is not a research report but rather presents more generally the ideas that developed from the study, with two purposes: to increase the reader's understanding of particular experiences that families encounter when dealing with terminal illness, specifically cancer. The intended readership also includes families themselves: to propose guidelines for care to be considered by practitioners working with such families.

  • Final Choices – Seeking the Good Death

    Michael Vitez

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    The death of a loved one is never easy to face. However, the many choices now available to critically ill patients and their families try to make the experience less mysterious and frightening by giving people more control over how and where they will die. Today's options include nursing homes, hospice care, and even assisted suicide.

    Yet the range of choices can also cause families more pain as they try to make the best decision with the fewest regrets. In this Pulitzer Prize-winning chronicle, Michael Vitez presents five options and the people who chose them. The courage and strength of the men and women portrayed in this book will undoubtedly lead readers to think and talk more about their own ideas and decisions regarding death.

  • Final Gifts: Understanding the Special Awareness, Needs, and Communications of the Dying

    Maggie Callanan and Patricia Kelley

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    In this moving and compassionate classic—now updated with new material from the authors—hospice nurses Maggie Callanan and Patricia Kelley share their intimate experiences with patients at the end of life, drawn from more than twenty years’ experience caring for the terminally ill.

  • Gentle Willow: A Story for Children about Dying

    Joyce Mills, Ph.D.

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    Written for children who may not survive their illness or for the children who know them, this tale helps address feelings of disbelief, anger, and sadness, along with love and compassion. Amanda and Little Tree discover that their friend Gentle Willow isn't feeling very well.

  • Handbook for Mortals: Guidance for People Facing Serious Illnesses

    Joanne Lynn, M.D. and Joan Harrold, M.D.

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    Modern medical technology has changed not only the way we live but also the way we die. Until two generations ago, people usually died suddenly, after an accident or serious illness. Now, most of us will live with chronic conditions, and our dying will usually take longer, require more care, and demand more planning than ever before.

    Handbook for Mortals is warmly addressed to all those who wish to approach the final years of life with greater awareness of what to expect and greater confidence about how to make the end of their lives a time of growth.

  • Heaven is for Real

    Todd Burpo

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    A young boy emerges from life-saving surgery with remarkable stories of his visit to heaven.

    Heaven Is for Real is the true story of the four-year-old son of a small-town Nebraska pastor who during emergency surgery slips from consciousness and enters heaven. He survives and begins talking about being able to look down and see the doctor operating and his dad praying in the waiting room. The family didn't know what to believe but soon the evidence of his visit “to the other side” was clear.

  • How to Go On Living When Someone You Love Dies

    Therese Rando

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    Mourning the death of a loved one is a process all of us will go through at one time or another.  But wherever the death is sudden or anticipated, few of us are prepared for it or for the grief it brings. There is no right or wrong way to grieve; each person's response to loss will be different.  Now, in this compassionate, comprehensive guide,  Therese A. Rando, Ph.D., bereavement specialist and  author of Loss And Anticipatory  Grief, leads you gently through the painful but  necessary process of grieving and helps you find  the best way for yourself.

  • How to Help Children Through...

    Kathleen McCue, M.S., C.C.L.S.

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    How to Help Children Through a Parent's Serious Illness has become the standard work on an important subject. A classic for more than 15 years, it continues to be a go-to book for supportive, practical advice, based on the lifetime experience and clinical practice of one of America 's leading child life practitioners.

    Fully revised and updated, this new edition also explores the major issues and developments from the last decade that affect children today, including the dangers and opportunities of the Internet, a deeper understanding of how hereditary diseases affect children, the impact of the nation's explosive growth in single-parent families and new insights into how family trauma and a parent's mental illness may affect children.

  • Into the Shadows: Caring for Your Seriously Ill Adult Child

    Patricia Ringos Beach and Beth E. White

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    Provides real-world stories from parents, their ill adult children, and professionals on the challenges associated with this complex situation. Ten chapters provide resources and  insight into such topics as parenting adult children, managing other important relationships, emotional responses to having an ill child, providing physical care to an ill child, financial concerns in serious illness, self-care, communication challenges when serious illness occurs, the role of spirituality, navigating the healthcare system and coping with your child's prognosis.

  • Life after Loss: A Practical Guide to Renewing Your Life after Experiencing Major Loss

    Robert Deits

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    One of the classics in the field of crisis intervention” (Dr. Earl Grollman), Life after Loss is the go-to resource for anyone who has suffered a significant life change. Loss can be overwhelming, and recovery often seems daunting, if not impossible. With great compassion and insight, Deits provides practical exercises for navigating the uncertain terrain of loss and grief, helping readers find positive ways to put together a life that is necessarily different, but equally meaningful. With two new chapters and significant changes throughout reflecting Deits’s ongoing experience in counseling, Life after Loss is an essential “roadmap for those in grief

  • Lifetimes

    Bryan Mellonie, Robert Ingpen

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    When the death of a relative, a friend, or a pet happens or is about to happen . . . how can we help a child to understand?

    Lifetimes is a moving book for children of all ages, even parents too. It lets us explain life and death in a sensitive, caring, beautiful way. Lifetimes tells us about beginnings. And about endings. And about living in between. With large, wonderful illustrations, it tells about plants. About animals. About people. It tells that dying is as much a part of living as being born. It helps us to remember. It helps us to understand.

  • Little Tree: A Story for Children with Serious Medical Problems

    Joyce Mills, Ph.D.

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    Written for children who have experienced life-challenging illnesses or accidents, this sensitive and healing story of a little tree that loses some of its branches in a storm should appeal to children facing many different challenges.

  • Living with Life-Threatening Illness: A Guide for Patients, Families and Caregivers

    K.J. Doka

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    A hands-on guide for patients, families, and caregivers on how to live an affirming existence while facing the physical and spiritual traumas of life-threatening illness.

    Every page of this book reveals the author's keen awareness of the challenges faced by patients, families, and caregivers dealing with life threatening illnesses. In page after page readers will discover clear, practical, and wise suggestions that are well grounded in personal experience.

  • Love You, Teddy: A Tail of Loss and Hope

    Virginia Ulch

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    Teddy is a young bear whose carefree, secure life is shattered when his father dies suddenly. Teddy and his family struggle through the grief process. He is finally able to find a balance between the memories of the past and having happiness in the present. The book includes a section for the child to write in “My Story” as well as resources, activities and advice for parents and professionals.

  • Midlife Orphan – Facing Life’s Changes Now That Your Parents Are Gone

    Jane Brooks

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    The word "orphan" may make us think of a child--but even self-sufficient adults can feel the pain of "orphanhood" when their parents are suddenly gone. Complicating the natural mourning process is the fact that this loss often occurs in our thirties, forties, or fifties--as we are raising our own children, watching them leave the nest, and facing other adjustments in our lives, from our jobs to our marriages to our health. This thoughtful exploration of a neglected subject explains the emotional impact of losing our parents in the midst of midlife--and why many underestimate it. Discussing such topics as changes in self-image, unresolved issues, guilt, sorrow, and anger, the emotional impact of inheritance, and the shifting of roles as a result of "midlife orphanhood," Jane Brooks shows us how to find new sources of strength, in both ourselves and others, after our parents are gone.

  • My Mother, Your Mother: Embracing "Slow Medicine," the Compassionate Approach to Caring for Your Aging Loved

    Dennis McCullough

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    Thanks to advances in science and medicine, our parents are living longer than ever before. But our health-care system doesn't perform as well when decline eventually sets in. We want to do our best as our loved ones face new complications—more diseases and disabilities—demanding further need for support and careful judgment, but the choices we have to make can seem overwhelming.

    Family doctor and geriatrician Dennis McCullough recommends a new approach: Slow Medicine. Shaped by common sense and kindness, it advocates for careful anticipatory "attending" to an elder's changing needs rather than waiting for crises that force acute medical interventions—thereby improving the quality of elders' extended late lives without bankrupting their families financially or emotionally. This is not a plan for preparing for death; it is a plan for understanding, for caring, and for helping those you love live well during their final years.

  • Proof of Heaven

    Eben Alexander, M.D.

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    Thousands of people have had near-death experiences, but scientists have argued that they are impossible. Dr. Eben Alexander was one of those scientists. A highly trained neurosurgeon, Alexander knew that NDEs feel real, but are simply fantasies produced by brains under extreme stress.

    Then, Dr. Alexander’s own brain was attacked by a rare illness. The part of the brain that controls thought and emotion—and in essence makes us human—shut down completely. For seven days he lay in a coma. Then, as his doctors considered stopping treatment, Alexander’s eyes popped open. He had come back.

    Alexander’s recovery is a medical miracle. But the real miracle of his story lies elsewhere. While his body lay in coma, Alexander journeyed beyond this world and encountered an angelic being who guided him into the deepest realms of super-physical existence. There he met, and spoke with, the Divine source of the universe itself.

  • She Came to Live Out Loud

    M. MacPherson

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    Acclaimed author and journalist Myra MacPherson takes the reader on a remarkably intimate journey into the world of Anna, a vibrant young woman, as she and her family live with dying. Threaded through this personal tapestry are vital information and guidance needed by each of us when struggling with great stress and grief. It teaches us all how to be stronger friends for those we love who have a limited time to live.

    Anna was wise and witty, brave and boisterous. MacPherson spent three years with her, her family and friends, you are there, experiencing the fun and laughter, anger and despair, remission and, yes, humor. Anna teaches us that a positive attitude can prolong life and how to live out loud until the last second.

  • Straight Talk About Death for Teenagers: How to Cope with Losing Someone You Love

    Earl Grollman

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    If you are a teenager whose friend or relative has died, this book was written for you. Earl A. Grollman, the award-winning author of Living When a Loved One Has Died, explains what to expect when you lose someone you love.

  • Swallowed By a Snake – The Gift of the Masculine Side of Healing

    Thomas Golden

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    Swallowed by a Snake is a book for men and women about the masculine side of healing from loss. Discover new and powerful ways to heal and how the genders differ in their healing; develop greater understanding between partners. This book provides examples of successful transformation of loss, new ways to understand your grief and how an individual's loss can impact the entire family. Swallowed by a Snake is meant to be a map and a guide through the experience of loss. It will help you move through the pain of loss and into a place of healing and transformation.

  • The Best Care Possible: A Physicians's Quest to Transform Care Through the End of Life

    Ira Byock, M.D.

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    It is harder to die in this country than ever before. Though the vast majority of Americans would prefer to die at home—which hospice care provides—many of us spend our last days fearful and in pain in a healthcare system ruled by high-tech procedures and a philosophy to “fight disease and illness at all cost.”

    Dr. Ira Byock, one of the foremost palliative care physicians in the country, argues that how we die represents a national crisis today. To ensure the best possible elder care, Dr. Byock explains that we must not only remake our healthcare system but also move beyond our cultural aversion to thinking about death. The Best Care Possible is a compelling meditation on medicine and ethics told through page-turning, life-or-death medical drama. It has the power to lead a new national conversation.

  • The Comfort of Home: An Illustrated Step-By-Step Guide for Caregivers

    Paula Derr and Maria Meyer

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    Winner of the 1999 Benjamin Franklin Award for Health Titles

    This guide promises to take the fear out of home care and brings confidence and peace of mind to caregivers. Simple and practical, it starts with the basics and is easy to read.

    Positive and empowering, this book contains all the information you need at your fingertips - both now and as new health care needs arise. Like a trusted friend, it will guide you every step of the way. It is full of money-saving ideas and emphasizes simple ways to prevent accidents and infections that lead to expensive hospital stays.

  • The Conversation

    Angelo Volandes

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    In The Conversation, Harvard Medical School physician Angelo Volandes offers a solution that is medicine’s oldest and least technological tool in the proverbial black bag: talking. If doctors explain options—including the choice to forgo countless medical interventions that are often of little benefit in patients with advanced illness—then patients can tell doctors how they wish to spend the remainder of their lives.

    Through the stories of seven patients and seven very different end-of-life experiences, Volandes explores the trajectory of events and treatments that occur with and without this essential conversation.

  • The Good Death

    M. Webb

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    The Good Death is the first full-scale examination of one of today's most complex issues: the profound change in the way Americans think about and confront death. Drawing on more than six years of firsthand research and reporting, noted journalist Marilyn Webb builds her account around intimate portraits of the dying themselves. She explains why some deaths become shockingly difficult, and needlessly painful, and how the struggles over end-of-life decisions can pit patient and family against hospitals, doctors, insurance companies, religious groups, and the law.

  • The Hospice Choice: In Pursuit of a Peaceful Death

    M.E. Lattanzi-Licht, et al

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    Hospice is the primary system to provide care for the terminally ill and their families. Warm, compassionate, and absolutely practical, this definitive resource from the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization will answer all your questions about hospice care and will show you how to make this comprehensive and flexible system work for you and your family.

    The Hospice Choice illustrates the gamut of situations dying people and their families may face and suggests ways to manage them.

  • The Last Dance: Encountering Death and Dying

    L.A. DeSpelder and A.L. Strickland

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    The Last Dance: Encountering Death and Dying provides a comprehensive, up to date, and readable introduction to the study of death and dying. It directs attention to the evolving understanding of death and dying in today's culturally diverse environment. In a straightforward, conversational style, with an extensively illustrated format, The Last Dance provides a solid grounding in theory and research as well as in methods for applying what is learned to readers' own circumstances, both personal and professional. No other textbook so successfully combines the research and theories of such diverse disciplines as anthropology, art, ethics, health science, literature, philosophy, psychology, public policy, religion, and sociology. The tenth edition of The Last Dance includes new coverage of key topics yet retains the focus, writing, and pedagogy instructors have come to expect from the best-selling text in death studies.

  • The Orphaned Adult – Understanding and Coping with Grief and Change After the Death of Our Parents

    Alexander Levy

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    Losing our parents when we ourselves are adults is in the natural order of things, a rite of passage into true adulthood. But whether we lose them suddenly or after a prolonged illness, and whether we were close to or estranged from them, this passage proves inevitably more difficult than we thought it would be. A much-needed and knowledgeable discussion of this adult phenomenon, The Orphaned Adult validates the wide array of disorienting emotions that can accompany the death of our parents by sharing both the author's heart-felt experience of loss and the moving stories of countless adults who have shared their losses with him. From the recognition of our own mortality and sudden child-like sorrow to a sometimes-subtle change in identity or shift of roles in the surviving family, The Orphaned Adult guides readers through the storm of change this passage brings and anchors them with its compassionate and reassuring wisdom.

  • The Orphaned Adult: Confronting the Death of a Parent

    Marc Angel

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    In this compassionate work, Rabbi Marc Angel addresses a universal but largely overlooked phenomenon: adult orphanhood. This book presents a thoughtful discussion of the processes of adult orphanhood, including anticipating the death of a parent, mourning the parent, and internalizing the reality of the parent's death.

  • The Wheel of Life: A Memoir of Living and Dying

    Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

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    A noted authority on death and dying offers a memoir of her lifetime of work, from war-ravaged Poland to her seminars at the University of Chicago, and details her final belief that there is life after death.

  • Transcending Loss: Understanding the Lifelong Impact of Grief and How to Make It Meaningful

    A. D. Bush

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    A new and inspiring approach to the process of grieving, this book helps those who have lost a loved one make meaning out of life and death.

  • Tuesdays with Morrie

    Mitch Albom

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    This true story about the love between a spiritual mentor and his pupil which soared to the bestseller list for many reasons. For starters: it reminds us of the affection and gratitude that many of us still feel for the significant mentors of our past. It also plays out a fantasy many of us have entertained: what would it be like to look those people up again, tell them how much they meant to us, maybe even resume the mentorship? Plus, we meet Morrie Schwartz--a one of a kind professor, whom the author describes as looking like a cross between a biblical prophet and Christmas elf. And finally we are privy to intimate moments of Morrie's final days as he lies dying from a terminal illness. Even on his deathbed, this twinkling-eyed mensch manages to teach us all about living robustly and fully. Kudos to author and acclaimed sports columnist Mitch Albom for telling this universally touching story with such grace and humility.

  • What’s Heaven?

    Maria Shriver

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    This treasure of a book, for people of all faiths, is a starting point for parents who must talk about the difficult topic of death with their children.

    What should parents say when a loved one dies? Heaven is a difficult subject that always comes up at tough times, and Maria Shriver has written a very special book precisely for these stressful moments. What's Heaven? is the story of Kate, a little girl whose great-grandma has just died. She seeks answers, and her mother helps her learn about Heaven. The many questions in this book are real, coming from Shriver's own children, nieces, and nephews when her grandmother Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy passed away. With 900,000 copies of the book now in print, the loving, confident, and ultimately uplifting answers Shriver provides are helping readers' families come together, feel closer to one another, and experience peace during the times when they need it most.

  • Who Will Feed My Goldfish?

    Denien Vittorio Wilde

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    Who Will Feed My Goldfish? is the story of a young girl who must face two different losses in her life; the loss of a beloved pet and the loss of a cherished younger brother. Lily finds that sometimes we do not always have answers to our questions. She discovers there is a place all creatures go after death where we are happy and have all we need; a place where we live with God. Lily learns that facing loss and expressing her grief are the first steps to healing her heart.

  • Winter Grief, Summer Grace: Returning to Life After a Loved One Dies

    James Miller

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    James Miller has written this book for those who are in the passage of grief. It is replete with poetry, reflection, and color photographs of nature scenes that communicate peace and quiet assurance. The promise is that God walks alongside the stricken.