A Motherless Daughter on Mother’s Day Part Two: Why I Read Books Dealing With Grief/Loss

Back in 2011 I wrote the post “A Motherless Daughter on Mother’s Day” in which I talked a little bit about the mother/daughter relationship and gave some recommendations for books dealing with mother/daughter relationships. I’ve been feeling like writing this post for a while and Mother’s Day seemed like the perfect opportunity to do so since it has to do with my mom — but in a different way.


I recently made a Top Ten Tuesday list in which I talked about the 10 words/topics that will automatically pick up a book. Grief was on that list. I am ridiculously called to books that deal with grief as a teen — specifically of losing a parent. I can’t help it. Sometimes you have to read what you know. Sometimes it feels like I’m a glutton for punishment as I weep along with the book and my heart just decides to replay my own story over and over again. But sometimes it is amazingly healing. No matter what, I’m always a sobby mess.

20130511-230922.jpgI think the thing that fascinates me about YA books dealing with the loss of a parent in its many stages, besides the obvious that I relate all to well to it, is that at that age nobody really thinks about death or dying; especially not in relation to a parent. Your parents are the people who are the pain in your ass but are always there taking care of you. You don’t ever expect to see them revert back to a child because cancer is eating away at their brain. You don’t ever expect that they won’t be standing over you nagging someday. They aren’t supposed to go anywhere as much as sometimes you feel like you DO want them to just leave you alone. As much as people say that teens think they are invincible, which is true a lot of the times, I also think we don’t ever see our parents dying until they are old and grey. We think they are invincible.

And that’s why I treated my relationship with my mom the way I did. As a child she was my mom and I adored her. In middle school, I got frustrated with her for normal reasons and felt “embarrassed” but I also had complicated feelings because she was moving us four hours away from our dad (they had been divorced since I was 5). In high school, we had a really, really awful relationship. Hate was thrown out on both sides. Lots of screaming. Lots of fighting. I saw her as the enemy. I even moved out for a month because it got so bad. December 2003, my senior year in high school, was when my mom got diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor. They gave her 6 months to live. She lived until July 2nd of 2006. Those years were excruciating to watch her slowly die but also to deal with all of the anger and hurt from our relationship. Luckily, by the time she passed away, I really forgave her and started to understand her but it was hard.

I was 18 and all I knew was that my mom was going to die. It wasn’t “maybe someday when she was old and grey” but it was soon. And in my brain I couldn’t comprehend this. You always hear that people become best friends with their moms when they get older. It wasn’t fair. I wouldn’t get to do that. I would never get to understand my mom. If I would have known that THAT stage of my life would never get to happen maybe I would have treated her differently when I was growing up. Maybe I would have tried to learn from her, listen to her, love her, try to understand her. I think that is the hardest part of dealing with my mom’s death today — that I will never get that part of the mother/daughter relationship. I will NEVER get to be best friends with my mom. She was the superhero mom to me as a child — I experienced that nurturing. I had the fighting and slamming doors and I HATE YOU’S of a teen & their mom. But I never will get what happens when you get in your twenties and start to realize all the things your mom did and said were right; albeit sometimes misguided. When you become less selfish and start to appreciate her. The thing is I’ve realized all those things…I just can’t tell her that.

When you are 18 you never think that your mom won’t be there on your wedding day. Going through that this past August was definitely the biggest life moment where I really felt my mom’s absence. I tried to include her memory in small ways — roses on the alter and mirroring a picture I did after a really beautiful portrait of her staring out the window on her own wedding day. You never think that your parents won’t be there for your college graduation or to help you figure out what to do when your career isn’t going how you thought it would. You never, at 18, even imagine that your mom will never get to hold your child. I haven’t been through this but I felt this very strongly when my sister had Genevieve.


So why do I turn to books that deal with grief?

Because I feel like I’m not alone. They bring up things that help me work through it in ways I never could have thought without the stories these authors bring to life that make me deal with it from afar…yet so intimately. They help me to process things that I could not process as a scared 18 year old girl who part hated and part desperately loved her mother. I’ve come to be able to put these things into words and to use my experiences to be an ear for others going through the same thing that I went through. I’ve been able to talk to teens in my life and try to give them perspective about their moms.

And mostly reading YA that deal with this helps me to continue to work through it in a healthy way and to remember to not take forgranted other people in my life who I’m not guaranteed another day with. I don’t want to sit back and think I’ll have all the time in the world to have the most fulfilling relationships I can possibly have with them. I don’t think in somedays anymore. I think of now.

Now let’s get into some book recommendations — to, ya know, bring this back to books! These are books that deal with grief or a loss in different stages and different ways.

YA Books  Dealing With Grief



The obvious loss related to Mother’s Day will always be there but it is also a day to remember her, to celebrate a wonderful stepmom (and now also a mother-in-law) and to celebrate my sister who has proven already to be an amazing mom to Genevieve. There is a lot of good to this day. I’m happy to be feeling that way just by thinking about it a little differently even if that just means celebrating the people who are mom’s in my life or donating to a woman’s shelter. My mom might not be here with me but I know these things honor her memory.

Tell me about your mom! What are some of your favorite books about mothers and daughters or about grief? Are there any topics in books that you seek out because you relate all too well to it?

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About Jamie

Jamie is a 32 year old married lady (with a new baby!!) who is in denial that she's actually that old to be a married lady and a mom. When she's not reading you can find her doing Pilates followed by eating ice cream, belting out Hamilton (loud and offkey) and having adventures with her husband, daughter and rescue dog.


  1. What a great post! You had me tearing up over here. It must have been really hard for you to go through that, especially at 18, so I can definitely understand wanting to read books about grief.

    I haven’t ever thought about how my relationship with my mom has changed now that I’m 21, but it totally has. I was the same way as you all through middle school and high school, arguing and fighting. I feel really bad about it now, but it’s not something that we do intentionally. Teenagers are all like that, so it’s kind of a forgive and forget type of thing.

    I definitely appreciate her more now because we can talk about more things and I understand her more now that I’m older. I love everything you wrote and that you shared all of that. Even if your mom isn’t physically there with you, happy mother’s day to her! 🙂

  2. I can tell how much work you put into this post and I can’t imagine having to write this or go through what you did myself. I almost lost my dad when I was 13 so I can sympathize, but I know that it’s definitely not the same. Second Chance Summer is amazing and, based on the other books you posted, I think it would be right up your alley. I hope you have a wonderful day remembering your mother!

  3. What a wonderful, personal post. Thank you so much for sharing, Jamie. I have always seemed to gravitate towards books that deal with the loss of a parent. The Truth About Forever has been one of my favourite books for years, and I always seem to love and connect to similar stories, especially those Jessi Kirby and Morgan Matson ones. I don’t know what it is that draws me to these books. I, fortunately, have yet to deal with the loss of the parent, but I have witnessed close friends and family deal with it many times, which I think has caused it to be a big fear of mine. I honestly don’t think I could manage such a loss at a young age, and I guess maybe reading about it is a way playing out that fear in my head?

    I highly recommend The Survival Kit, it is great example of a story that deals with grief in a heartbreaking yet uplifting kind of way. I like books that make me feel, and so many of these books made me laugh and cry all together. I have read and re-read The Truth About Forever so many times, and each time I find something new to appreciate about it.

  4. Such a beautiful post. I am the same way, I find when I am sad, that torturing myself with sadness is helpful. I have yet to experience a death of a parent but when I was 18 my Grandma passed away. We were very close and it was very hard to deal with. Esp. since although my Grandma had been sick.. nobody told me HOW sick she was. I naively assumed she was sick, but would get better, because that is what happens. She wasn’t OLD yet. So.. I barely visited her. It was two weeks before HS Grad. I had Prom and Play Practice and other “important” things to do. She passed away on my Prom Night. Anyways, your post really hit it on the head. Hitting milestones in your life, almost reopens that wound and makes you experience it in a new way. .. WOW I just totally vented. Sorry, but great post Jamie.

  5. Your post made me tear up! I miss my mom a lot these days, especially when I encounter something in my day to day life that I’d like to get her thoughts on or when I just feel like calling her at random. I do get to chat with her on a regular basis, but it’s not quite the same as being able to physically be there with her on a regular basis — Skype calls and Facetime and constant text messages can never replace a hug, chatting over food or just being in the same room. I am, however, always grateful to know that I have her support and her love in my life — no conditions.

    Your thoughts towards your mom are so beautifully expressed. I can’t imagine what it was like going through all the things you did with her, and losing her at such a young age. But I’m sure she knows how much you love her and miss her and would love this post you’ve written celebrating her and the other mothers you know. You’re so brave for sharing this — and that’s incredibly inspiring.

  6. kai Charles says:

    I loved your post. My mother passed away years ago. We had an interesting relationship. As her personal issues became overwhelming her parenting skills were not always the best. I did not have the usual grief experiences but what helped me was a short story by Clive Barker called Coming to Grief. What helped me so much was the honest way Clive expressed the characters emotions, some not so pretty thoughts come up when dealing with a loss of a parent and that story really helped me feel ok about my emotions. Best to you!

  7. I just want to say that this post was truly beautiful. It has me tearing up! I don’t even know what it must have been like and I’m sorry that it happened. It reminds me that despite the tumultuous relationship I have with my mom, I really truly love her and need to show that before I can’t. Thanks for sharing something so personal with us!

  8. This post of yours, this beautifully written post, had me tearing up. My family went through a really dark stage back in 2007 because of my mother’s illness of an almost kidney failure slash GBS virus due to the kidney transfer that got cancelled at the last minute. I was still in high school. Some days it really felt like I’d be left without a mother because of her worsened condition. She got better, slowly, even now she has a lot of kidney problems and it is hard to be away from her. That point in my life really made me realize that my parents aren’t invincible and I shouldn’t treat them as such. It’s a very hard thing to do.

    One of the books that really resonated within me because of the protagonist issues was Take Me There by Carolee Dean. Parents especially the father plays a big role in the main character’s story and I really think you should read it. I really like the recommendations you gave and I’ll try some of them out soon.

    Thank you, Jamie for writing this post.

  9. You are so brave for writing this. Seriously, so so brave. This is an amazing post and I am here sobbing because it was almost as if you were writing about my life, my experiences, which are so similar. It’s like finding that book that you relate to so much, when someone else opens up about their own experiences and you relate, you feel as if you are being pulled together, you know?

    I too had that teenage hate, and I hated her for doing that to us, for leaving us like she did, and now I feel exactly the same as you – I will never have that relationship that other people do with their mothers and I regret and hate and miss that, you know? I know people tend to remember things in a rose tinted, nostalgic way and I know we fell out a lot, but the way I remember her is as a wonderful person and there are things every day that I wish I had asked her or was able to ask her now. I was nineteen, about to start university, and I often wonder how I might have gone into that experience differently if she had still been here, and over the years there have been so many things I’ve wanted to ask, wanted to know, or wondered how she would have reacted. She wasn’t there for my graduation, and that made me sad, and although I’m nowhere near getting married yet, like you say, it’s something you imagine your mother will be there for. It’s hard to think she won’t.

    I’ve read several of the books you recommend – I too seek out ones about grief, and get a strange sense of delight when I find one, because it’s like finding someone who understands you, you know? Second Chance Summer was AMAZING and definitely worth reading, it made me sob, but I really related to it. So wonderfully done too. And The Truth About Forever is one of my favourite books too. Have you read Motherless Daughters, a nonfiction book? I guess you might have because of the title of this post. Will definitely go seek out some of those you mention! Thanks 🙂

    Sending you lots of hugs and love today. You’re amazing xxxxxxxx

  10. Seriously, you are knocking these personal posts out of the water, which sounds extremely weird to say but you understand what I mean. I’m lucky I’m close with my mother, wasn’t always this way we went through a period of really hurtful things but thankfully we were able to get through it. You went through a lot in a short period of time, but your mom would be so proud of you because you’re amazing and patient and you are extremely good at looking on the bright side. <3

  11. Jamie, you are such an amazing person! You share so much of yourself through these posts and you totally made me tear up! I can’t imagine how hard it must have been to go through all of this and missing your mom on those special days, like your wedding.
    I never really fought with my mom as a teen, it was my dad who got most of the angry teenage angst directed at him. My mom is the person I call when I have news I need to share, I can’t imagine her not being just a phonecall away..
    Thanks for this beautiful post, I think your mom would be proud of the person you are now and I’m sending lots of virtual hugs your way!

  12. What a brave heartfelt post. Hugs! I will be w/you in heart today, as we celebrate the other mothers in our life, but are still missing our own. My mom died when I was fifteen of cancer, and even though I’m now twenty-eight, it still affects me in so many ways.

    As for books that deal w/grief, the most recent one I read was Bitterblue by Kristen Cashore. The mc thinks on her deceased mother a lot, and had me teary eyed more than once. But there’s a quote about mothers that I absolutely love from Beautiful Redemption. Sorry I can’t remember it exactly but it’s something like ‘feeling at home in your mother’s arms, because that’s the place where you come from’.

    Big tear fest on that one! =)

  13. (((hugs))) We’ve talked about this, so you know that my mom was diagnosed with cancer when I was 17 and died when I was 19. Mother’s Day is still hard, even after all these years. I can deal with the grief books (and I would recommend THE TIGER RISING by Kate DiCamillo and NOTHING BUT GHOSTS by Beth Kephart for your list) but I still can’t do the cancer books.

  14. I’m getting married next year and I feel my moms loss a lot more. My dad went dress shipping with me and my sister and my supportive friend but I still felt it and I know my wedding day I will be a wreck 🙁

  15. I really enjoyed this post. I appreciate you sharing that with us. I have not lost a parent, though it is inevitable. As a mother I’m very attracted to books where there’s loss of a child of a childhood illness or kidnapping, memoirs mostly. I guess because those things are a mother’s biggest fears so reading the journey of mother’s that has happened to and how they coped or dealt really is fascinating even though it’s very heartbreaking and very hard to read at times.

    I think my favorite books about the mother/daughter relationship are She’s Come Undone by Wally Lamb and White Oleander by Janet Fitch. Even though they represent troubled relationships, or how a mother’s poor choices affect their daughters.

  16. Amy Ackley’s SIGN LANGUAGE is a beautiful book about teen grief and losing a parent to cancer (in this case, her father).

    Speaking as a mother, we don’t imagine not being there for a long time either. If we could be invincible, it would be for our kids. When my mother-in-law learned about the cancer metastasis from which she passed away a few months later, she hated most all the things she would miss with her children–her youngest was still in high school. It’s hard now having a daughter who’ll never know her grandmother.

  17. Actually I think there are books that sometimes are hard for me to get through because of how close they are to home. I dealt with child abuse at home which made me realize that just because you had a child doesn’t mean you were meant to parent. The most recent book that was hard for me to read was Eleanor & Park. Great book but the home scenes made me cringe and left me unsettled. I was worried what the next page would bring for Eleanor.

  18. Oh Jamie, I cannot imagine how hard it is to lose somebody but I’m sending you many virtual hugs and must tell you how much I admie you for all those strong feelings you share with us on your blog. Thank you for trusting us all so much that you tell us your feelings, memories and emotions.
    I cannot imagine my mum not being here because she is and always was my best friend. My aunt often refered to us as Lorelai and Rory and it is one of the most awesome compliments I ever got. She is the one person I can tell everything to, I can laugh and giggle with, I can share my feelings, worries and sorrows with. I never had a best friend I could share everything with because I already had my mum. She is my rock and my safe haven and everytime I struggle with my life or major decisions I know she’s there for me.
    I am not good with dealing with grief since I haven’t dealt with my grandpa’s death until today and it happened almost three years ago but whenever I stumble across a book dealing with grief (usually recommended by you) like Amy&Roger’s Epic Detour I am always crying like a baby during reading.
    Since I have no idea how to end this comment in a way that’s not overly emotional, I will just leave it like this.

  19. What a beautiful post. This is my second mother’s day since my mom passed Feb. 7, 2012. I miss her like crazy but hold on to the memories. HS and college found us going back and forth from getting along to being angry. As I helped her through the 3yrs she was sick before she passed I realized how stupid some of our fights were. I think I’ve had a harder time dealing in this second yr.

  20. I feel the same way about books with grief– I’ve only read one from your list, The Truth About Forever, but I loved the parts about Macy dealing with her dad’s death. My mom & I went through quite a bit of a rough patch in middle school, but then we started getting really close in when I started high school. She got sick with cancer halfway through my freshman year, but had surgery and went into remission, but it came back as pancreatic cancer on my 16th birthday. The first time, I never really consider the possibility of her death, since her cancer was curable and was caught early, but the second time I realized I probably would not graduate high school with my mom alive, and that was SO hard. Like you said, you never think of a parent dying until they get really old and grey– certainly not when you’re sixteen and they’re fifty-five. The first “big” event to happen in my life after my mom died was my senior prom, which seems silly after high school, but was such a big deal at the time. It’s such a mother-daughter bonding thing– shopping for dresses, make-up, talking about dates, etc. I remember my best friend’s mom taking pictures of us on prom night and even though I had a blast that day as a whole, there’s always this ache when I feel like I’ll never get to truly celebrate any accomplishment in my life again 100%. Like I can be happy about graduations and jobs and BIG life things, but some part of me will ALWAYS recognize that my mom isn’t there and she should be. Like you, I’m sad I’ll never really get to have that ADULT relationship between & mother and a daughter.

    I really like reading books with grief now because I relate and it’s great catharsis, but for the longest time I actually COULDN’T read books like that because everything was so fresh. And I actually didn’t read much of anything, especially normal YA, since problems like boys and SATs seemed so trivial to me at the time. I worried about those things too, but mine was more to distract me from the things I was REALLY dealing with. But now I really appreciate novels that deal with grief in a really well-done, realistic way. Like you said, they remind me that I’m not alone, which I certainly feel like sometimes(like on days like today. I’m so glad all my friends are celebrating their mothers, but it can suck when you don’t get to celebrate yours).

  21. You are so brave. Seriously Jamie. Love you!!!

  22. This is an incredible post and I LOVE how you can be so personal on your blog. I cannot even imagine what this would be like, so I won’t try to say I understand, but this post just reminded me how thankful I am for my mother and that we don’t have that stereotypical teenage “I hate you and you don’t know anything” relationship.

    It is amazing how helpful books can be, though. I hear stories about teenagers turning to drinks, drugs, etc. to cope with loss, but books are so much better of a catharsis. They are safe; they are relatable; maybe best of all they are an escape. This is why the idea of book banning is so sickening, but we won’t get into that now.

    It takes a strong person to get through things like this. You, clearly, are one.

  23. Jamie, I just want to tell you from the bottom of my heart – this is a beautiful, heart-felt post, and it absolutely resonated with me. I admire you SO much already, and I love that you shared this with us.

    Saving June, by the way, is one of my all time favorite books. I hope you get to read it soon so that we can discuss.

    Love ya!

  24. This is a beautiful post. Thank you for being so willing to share.
    I am so lucky to still have my mom and dad, but my cousins lost their mom a few years ago. I wish I could give them these books to read.

  25. That was a beautiful post. Thank you so much for opening your heart to us this way; I am sorry you had to get through that at such a young age.
    My mom is my rock. She's always there for me. We had some difficult times when I was a teen, but now it's all good.

  26. As you know, this entire genre has taken on new meaning for me in the past year or so after losing my father-in-law. It’s still hard, it’s still raw…I got about one chapter in to Second Chance Summer before I started bawling and put it down…but it can be healing to read about it too. Love you for posts like this and thank you so much for being a strong part of my support system <3 <3 <3

  27. I lost my mom when I was 14. There are so many moments in life, marriage, buying a house, graduation, when I miss her so much. One of the best books I’ve read on a daughter’s grief is The Long Goodbye. It was really powerful.

  28. This is a beautiful post, Jamie. I’m constantly amazed by the amount of insight, maturity, and empathy you show in your personal posts. I am proud of you for sharing this, and thank you <3

    I think your desire to read books about grief makes a lot of sense. Sometimes just knowing that someone understands how you feel is deeply healing. I cannot wait for your review of SECOND CHANCE SUMMER–I know you'll love it.

  29. I never really thought a lot about grief until I got involved with a charity that gives grants to widows and widowers with children. I never really understood how individual grief was until then. I think maybe that’s why books about grief are so fascinating to me because while I want something to validate how I feel, I also want to peek at how someone else processes sadness.

    Thank you for sharing this with us…..

  30. Your mom lives through you as weird as it may sound (especially taking into account your uncanny resemblance!). I highly recommend you “Behind the Scenes at the Museum” by Kate Atkinson. It is not YA but it deals with four generation of women from the same family and the different and hyper-realistic ways in which they relate. The main character’s relationship with her own mother is full of hate, regret and a constant hope for another kind of relationship.

  31. michelle_etc says:

    Oh, Jamie, what a beautiful post. I can’t even begin to imagine what that was like for you, especially at an age when so much is changing. You are so strong for having gotten through it, for still dealing with it, and so brave for sharing it with us. Know that your mom is so, so proud of you for everything!

    I love that books help you cope. There’s nothing like reading a book and having that moment where the character or story just seem to GET you. When I read Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta, I felt like she’d written it just for me, that’s how much I related to it. It’s wonderful when that happens. And I’m so glad they’re of some comfort to you.

    Thank you for sharing this! xo

  32. this post ios absolutely amazing and so eloquently written <3

    also, i think you will LOVE the survival kit. it is SUCH a gorgeous story + has the cutest hockey player (SWOON)

  33. I’m writing this through tears. I went and gave my mom a hug after reading this. At the moment, I’m 18. I’ve had fights with my mom and some times I super angry with her but I can’t imagine my life without her! She’s about to get surgery because she’s got cells that could develop into cancer so it’s scary. But this post is beautiful. Thank you for being so open with us!

  34. Heather says:

    Thanks for this. I lost my mom at 15 and 19 years later I still feel the pain you’re talking about. She has missed so much. It’s something you carry with you and it makes you part of who you are.
    Reading helps me feel those emotions and brings a release at times. A reminder that it’s okay to be vulnerable and fragile. I do not have to be strong all the time.

    • So sorry for your loss as well <3 It definitely IS something that is part of who you are. Like you can't just shake that off you. It's there. Always.

      I love what you said here:

      "Reading helps me feel those emotions and brings a release at times. A reminder that it’s okay to be vulnerable and fragile. I do not have to be strong all the time." SO MUCH THIS.


  1. […] this list.  Grief/loss of a parent is a personal tough subject to me and I’d love for you to check out that post and those books as most of those could probably have been added to this list […]

  2. […] off (the same one you were with me for when I GOT) & those 3 weeks when Will lost his job – dealing with years of grief after losing my mom – planning a wedding (& gave kind words when somebody on a wedding board made me feel bad about […]

  3. […] of people love these highly emotional reads, and I’m not saying that is bad at all.  Jaime, the Perpetual Page-Turner, posted about why she reads books about grief and shared some really personal information with us. […]

  4. […] by Morgan Matson: This has both all the makings of a fun road trip but it heartfelt and deals with a teen losing a parent. It’s one of my all time favorite contemporary books and definitely my fave road trip book in […]

  5. […] Jersey loses everything in a powerful tornado — her family and her home — and she is sent to live with biological father and grandparents as she comes to terms with her grief. THIS SOUNDS SO GOOD. Love the family dynamics to be explored plus you know I’m a sucker for books dealing with grief. […]

  6. […] bare some of the deepest and most honest parts of myself with ease whether I’m talking about why I read books dealing with grief so much or books  that encourage me to LIVE or insecurities. All because of books. I’ve […]

  7. […] overcome hard things. It’s inspiring! I tried not to repeat books that I talked about in my why I read YA about grief/loss/death so check out all those because those characters have definitely been through a […]

  8. […] But if you want to want to hear my story + find out why I read books dealing with grief so much, read last year’s post. And then the year before I talked about being a motherless daughter on Mother’s […]