There are many books that I’ve turned to time and again since Sacha’s death. Here are some of my favorites… Although, for a science-y person like me, used to thinking in terms of statistics and research outcomes, this Psych review article was the most useful thing in the first shock-y days and weeks after Sacha’s death. I found it by repeatedly googling “my baby died”… Which I still do, sometimes.


My descriptions, from bottom to top:

1. Frida Kahlo: The Paintings by Hayden Herrera.
Oh, my gosh, did you know that Frida Kahlo had several miscarriages and was unable to have a child? And that had all sorts of implications in terms of her social and cultural role, her relationships (with her family, her husband, herself, her culture and country, life itself)? And that she PAINTED all about it? If you’ve lost a baby, you will understand Frida Kahlo on a completely new, very therapeutic level. So highly recommended for any stage of grief (she painted her entire experience, so there’s something anyone can relate to). This particular book does an excellent job of tracing Frida’s biography and interviews, it’s fabulous. (My favorite painting is The Bus)

2. When the Bough Breaks by Judith Bernstein.

“This book will not talk of recovery. The premise of this book is that the word is a misnomer and creates a fictitious mind-set: that major loss is ultimately wrapped in a neat package and segregated from the rest of experience until it goes away. This, we know, does not happen without serious psychological consequences. Major loss needs not to be overcome but rather to be put into context. People don’t recover; they adapt. They alter their values, attitudes, perceptions, relationships and beliefs, with the result that they are substantially different from the people they once were.”

This is about loss of older children. It’s better for at least several months after loss, or whenever you’ve begun to experience that your child is really gone and your life is forever altered. Once I found a way to relate to people who had lost older children (ie. once I stopped completely breaking down at the thought that they had so many memories with their child, so many opportunities to know their child and show their child love, while I did not), this book became very helpful to me. Since I got divorced and know that Sacha won’t have a full sibling, and that any future children I have are unlikely to share Sacha’s ethnic and cultural heritage… this book has a lot of things to offer me, about how to bring Sacha’s presence with me into new life situations (I’m still working toward that).

3. An Exact Replica of a Figment of my Imagination by Elizabeth McCracken.

“I’m thinking of that Florida lady again, the one who wanted a book about the lighter side of a child’s death, and I know: all she wanted was permission to remember her child with pleasure instead of grief. To remember that he was dead, but to remember him without pain: he’s dead but of course she still loves him, and that love isn’t morbid or bloodstained or unsightly, it doesn’t need to be shoved away.”

This is a first-person account of stillbirth. I think it’s a great book for anyone to read, loss or no loss, with the caveat that it’s about just one individual’s experience. Great for friends and family members, great for anyone who is thinking about starting a family. (I first read this right after finishing The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion, so I got tired of reading the things that writers write about their own writerly lives… still, this is a wonderful book and a quick read.)

4. Light in Blue Shadows by Edie Hartshorne. I was incredibly fortunate to meet Edie Hartshorne in Berkeley and she led me through a wonderful healing ceremony. This is a tough and intense book about the loss of her 20-year-old son (with free audio excerpts on her website). I haven’t gotten through it yet, but I refer to it frequently because it reminds me of my beautiful afternoon with Edie. I think I struggle with this book because I know Edie personally, and it’s hard to accept that she had to go through such a brutal experience. That in itself is a very useful lesson for me, in beginning to understand how some of my friends and family members feel as they watch me try to cope with Sacha’s death.

5. to linger on hot coals compiled by Stephanie Paige Cole and Catherine Bayly. A great book of poetry for baby-loss moms at any stage, perfect to carry around in your car or purse. Often I’ll read a poem and use it as a launching point to journal.

6. The Art of Losing compiled by Kevin Young. Old and new poems about grieving all different kinds of death, with a few poems sprinkled in about miscarriage, stillbirth and neonatal loss. (Highlights for those who have lost babies: We Assume: On the Death of Our Sun, Reuben Masai Harper by Michael S. Harper, Written on the Due Date of a Son Never Born by David Wojahn, Stillbirth by Laure-Anne Bosselaar).

7. You are the Mother of all Mothers by Angela Miller. I think that anyone who has lost a pregnancy or an infant should have this short, simple, gorgeous book. If you know someone who has lost a pregnancy or a baby and would like to offer them something to show your love, I recommend this one. I wish nurses and doctors and therapists would read this (it takes less than 5 minutes!), and ensure that they’re sending these messages to their patients.