Sunday Book Review – On Grief & Grieving – Elisabeth Kubler-Ross & David Kessler

My Sunday Book Review is for Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross and David Kessler’s, On Grief & Grieving – Finding the Meaning of Grief Through the Five stages of Loss.

As many of you know, after losing my husband three months ago and moving very recently, I haven’t had a lot of time to read, and when I do read it’s comfort and information I crave to learn in this new journey of onehalfness I’m wading through. I know these books I’m trying to read right now may not be everyone’s genre, but it’s a bridge that we’ll all have to cross at some points of our lives, if we haven’t already, and it’s good for people to learn what to expect, find that you are not crazy, and even if you aren’t a griever, will learn what goes on with a loved one when they grieve.




Shortly before her death in 2004, Elisabeth Kübler-Ross and David Kessler, her collaborator, completed the manuscript for this, her final book. On Grief and Grieving is a fitting completion to her work. Thirty-six years and sixteen books ago, Kübler-Ross’s groundbreaking On Death and Dying changed the way we talk about the end of life. Now On Grief and Grieving will profoundly influence the way we experience the process of grief.
On Death and Dying began as a theoretical book, an interdisciplinary study of our fear of death and our inevitable acceptance of it. It introduced the world to the now-famous five stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. On Grief and Grieving applies these stages to the process of grieving and weaves together theory, inspiration, and practical advice, all based on Kübler-Ross’s and Kessler’s professional and personal experiences, and is filled with brief, topic-driven stories. It includes sections on sadness, hauntings, dreams, coping, children, healing, isolation, and even the subject of sex during grief.
“I know death is close,” Kübler-Ross says at the end of the book, “but not quite yet. I lie here like so many people over the years, in a bed surrounded by flowers and looking out a big window….I now know that the purpose of my life is more than these stages….It is not just about the life lost but also the life lived.”
In one of their final writing sessions, Kübler-Ross told Kessler, “The last nine years have taught me patience, and the weaker and more bed-bound I become, the more I’m learning about receiving love.”
On Grief and Grieving is Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’s final legacy, one that brings her life’s work profoundly full circle.


My 5 Star Review:

Anticipatory grief – knowing your loved one is going to die, and fearing in silence without wanting to talk to anyone in this mode.

I learned this ‘pre-grief’ grieving before I learned about the mourning grief aftermath. Kubler-Ross calls it anticipatory grief – “When a loved one has to go through anticipatory grief in order to prepare for the final separation from this world, we have to go through it too.” Only, we, the ones left behind have to live it twice. There is no one response to loss and grief that two people will share. Every grief is unique as the relationship the griever shared with their lost loved one.

This book was confirming as it goes through the stages of grieving, and more about grief, and how it forever changes us.

Maria Shriver wrote a most beautiful Foreword for the anniversary edition of this book. She states that in her lifetime she has come to know grief only too well coming from the Kennedy family, and says, “We are a grief-illiterate nation.” She continues by saying that Dr. Ross and Kessler teach us how to grieve in this book and goes on to tell us that where she came from, nobody outwardly showed or talked about their grief. She attests to Dr. Ross’s book helping her through, stating, “When you’re grieving, sometimes your only constant companion is a book.” Shriver continues to say, “We live in a society where everyone wants us to get back to normal as soon as possible. . . but it doesn’t work that way.” “We find hope in other people’s journeys.”

This book is a great companion to grief. In it, Dr. Ross shares her stories and stages of grief and goes into them with her own experiences and sharing stories of others she witnessed as she studied many people on their last journey before death. She takes us into specific losses and incidence and how the left loved ones endured the stages of grief. In working with the dying, Ross gave voice to all who couldn’t speak for themselves. But from this book, I choose to share a list of poignant sentences that rang true and comforting to me as I proceed through my own grief for the recent loss of my husband.

“There is a saying that if your writing doesn’t keep you up at night, it will never keep anyone else up at night either. In creating this book I often felt that if it didn’t make us cry, if it didn’t help us heal our own grief, it would never help anyone else.” ~ Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

Elisabeth always said, “Listen to the dying. They will tell you everything you need to know about when they are dying.”

“Denial and shock help us to cope and make survival possible. . . it’s nature’s way of letting in only as much as we can handle.” “These feelings are important; they are the psyche’s protective mechanisms.”

“The will to save a life is not the power to stop a death.”

Dr. Ross takes us through the five stages of grief: Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.

Loss: “An unimaginable, indescribable loss has taken place. It has inficted a wound so deep that numbness and excruciating pain are the material of which it is made.”

She goes on to talk about how grief overtakes us at a moment’s notice – and will continue to. And tells us that after our loss, the need to feel our loved one around is important. And the need to be able to talk about the lost loved one becomes dire for the one(s) left behind. Our stories of grief contain an enormous amount of pain, often too much for one person to carry. By sharing our stories, we ease the pain – just a little. Survivor’s guilt kicks in for many, (I can attest to this). Elisabeth tells us, once you have loved and lost, you will never be the same. I’m already there.

On Isolation: “You were with someone, now you’re not.”

“The only way out is through it.”

“The trouble is that in grief, a moment feels like a year, and a year feels like an eternity.”

“Why do we find nothing unusual about talking to an unborn child in utero, but if we talk to the deceased, people might think we’re crazy?”

The most difficult job of all was packing up my beloved’s belongings.

Dr. Ross goes into how difficult holidays become for mourners. Birthdays, anniversaries, death anniversaries, Christmas, and the like will never be the same and are often marked with sorrow instead.

She offers ideas to comfort, such as writing our feelings, writing to our loved one to express what’s left inside us. Writing is a therapy for many.

“You don’t ever bring the grief over a loved one to a close.”

“There is no better or worse death. Loss is loss and the grief that follows is a subjective pain that only we will know.”

“To avoid the pain and the loss would be to avoid the love and life we shared.”

“Death is a line, a heartbreaking dividing line between the world we and our loved one lived in and the world where they now are.”

“Grief is the intense emotional response to the pain of a loss. It is the reflection of a connection that has been broken. Most important, grief is an emotional, spiritual, and psychological journey to healing.”

“The reality is you will grieve forever.You will not ‘get over’ the loss of a loved one; you will learn to live with it. You will heal, and you will rebuild yourself around the loss you you have suffered.”

This book has been a comfort to many, as the almost 2000 reviews will state. Dr. Ross breaks down the process in bite-sized and life altering moments and helps us grasp all that’s involved in this grueling journey of grief in efforts to lay out what we can expect to endure, why, and how going through the stages take us into an eventual path to ‘healing’, which will never be a complete healing journey, but more about how to learn to live through and navigate the waves of grief that will continue to swell as long as we remain on this earth.







42 thoughts on “Sunday Book Review – On Grief & Grieving – Elisabeth Kubler-Ross & David Kessler

  1. I have heard a great deal about this book, yet I have not read it, Debbie. Unfortunately, as you well know, death is a part of life. This topic has been appearing in my radar more frequently. I wonder whether we are going through some form of “anticipatory grief” all of our lives.
    You may already know Liz Gauffreau in the blogging community. I look forward to reading her book “Grief Songs.” Many great reviews.

    Thank you for sharing your difficult journey with us, Debbie. You are making a difference. ❤️


    1. Thanks so much for visiting Erica. You make a good point about ‘anticipatory grief’. And yes, of course I know Liz, and have her book awaiting me. ❤


  2. It sounds like a book that is written with commonsense and the knowledge that comes from living out those final days and having the courage to write about it. It is something we should talk about more but most people distance themselves from their own grief and that of those around them. It makes people uncomforatable as if it is a jinx that might tempt providence. A terrific review Debby and I can tell it brought you comfort..♥♥


    1. Thank you Sal. Succinct comment. Nobody likes talking about death, heck, I avoided the ‘talk’ with my own husband for years, even about where we’d be buried. Not smart. But so easy to see how much we like to avoid such conversations. ❤


  3. I took a class on death and dying when I was in college. One of the textbooks for the class was written by Kubler-Ross. That was a long time ago, but I remember it being excellent.


  4. Thank you for sharing, Debby. I admire you for seeking help through these kinds of books. I probably would have benefited from doing that, if I’d only taken the time.


  5. A beautiful reviews, Debby – and so agonising to know that someone you’re going to lose someone you love. You’ve been through so much, my friend. Toni xx


  6. My unicorn buddy, this is a heartfelt review. Grief is untidy, messy and leaves us deeply vulnerable. All the things we naturally want to tidy up, mask and run away from. ❤ Elizabeth and David's book brings comfort to many and I am heartened you found it. I remember when I turned to it for comfort and realised, as I read about the five stages, that it is not a journey through the stages, but a zig-zag back and forth as we process and find a way to carry on living with the unthinkable. I love you. ❤ xXx ❤


    1. I’m so glad you read this book too. You’ve described it perfectly – it’s a total zigzag. Just when you think you’ve graduated up a step, we fall back again – several times. At least, that’s how it is for me. Some days I try to tune out to my new lonely life, others, the grief is just as fresh as it was in the beginning – a never ending merry-go-round. Thank you for you love and encouragement my Lovely, it means so very much to me. I love you my friend. ❤ ❤ xxx


    1. Thanks John. That’s my hope, to inform others through my own journey of grief. Yes, I think I read enough of them now, although, I do have 2 more books I’m curious to read, but now into ‘afterlife’ books to try and find out what’s going on the other side. 🙂


  7. Great review! I have learned a lot from those grieving. This sounds like a very good book to have on hand for in times of need. Thanks for sharing your vulnerable self. 🙏🏻💔❤️


  8. Thank you for sharing, Debby. I’m pleased you are finding some comfort in these words. You pulled out so many meaningful statements, but for me, the final one carries the most significance – ““The reality is you will grieve forever.You will not ‘get over’ the loss of a loved one; you will learn to live with it. You will heal, and you will rebuild yourself around the loss you you have suffered.” The healing is the difficult part. Be kind to yourself. 💖


  9. Thanks for the wonderful review, Debby. Thank goodness these kinds of books are there for people who have lost a loved one and are navigating the painful process. Bite size pieces of information seem manageable, and it’s good to know that the horrible feelings are normal… we aren’t losing our minds… we will find a way forward and heal. Take care, my friend.


  10. Another excellent book. I remember reading this after my Mom’s death from stroke. It was very helpful for me.
    I am glad you are finding comfort in their words.
    Many Blessings
    Lisa xoxo


  11. I have to agree with Erica’s statement about anticipatory grief. For some reason, I feel like I’ve been preparing my whole life – for good or for bad – for death, loss, and grief. I think about those topics a lot. Even as a kid! It makes me sad, yet it makes me appreciate the small things in life and being with my loved ones.

    Sometimes I wish I could just enjoy life as it is and being in the moment. On the surface, it seems like I am. Yet, your story, the loss of close family members over the years, and my deep “dark” thoughts touch me deeply. It’s like a push-me, pull-me, a yin and yang. Be aware of what can and will be, yet try to enjoy what is being right now, before finality takes place. I’m sure you are very familiar with this state of mind, Debby, and I send more love and hugs your way, to help “pull you through.”


    1. Omg Liesbet, yes I am very aware, and much of my life I worry about the same things when I shouldn’t even be focusing on such things. When you say you are ‘preparing your whole life’, it feels so familiar.
      Always welcome your thoughts and words of wisdom my dear friend. ❤ xx


  12. Hi Debby – thank you so much for this … I will be back to read thoroughly … I wish I’d known more and understood more – actually I think my mother did, but of course in those last few years it wasn’t something we discussed that often … I managed to check on a few facts … but the discussion points she’d have enjoyed – albeit she was the one going. There’s no guidance (per se). I’d have loved to have had Peter’s experience …

    It’s good to see you posting – though life is tearing by for you … I hope you’ll have time to relax into the recent changes … and come to terms with ‘the now’. Take care – and I often think of you – all the best – Hilary


  13. I can’t believe I have not read this book! I am going to get it immediately. It’s not just for those who are in the middle of grieving. It is for all of us since we all live in the ups and downs of “life.” Thank you and take care. ❤️


  14. Debby, a long time ago I read this book and since I always found it to be the definite book on grieving. I love all the quotes you put into this post. I was particularly struck with the idea of anticipatory grief and the last quote in your post:
    “The reality is you will grieve forever.You will not ‘get over’ the loss of a loved one; you will learn to live with it. You will heal, and you will rebuild yourself around the loss you you have suffered.”
    So true. xxx ❤


    1. Thank you Carol. I agree with you on the value of this book. Many things have rung true to me already, but it will be a long time to rebuilding around my loss. ❤


  15. Thanks for this wonderful review, Debby. What popped out for me is when you wrote how people are expected to get back to normal right away. Well, that’s just not possible when we lose loved ones. As you stated, we never “get over” losing someone close to us; we simply learn to live with the void. I also like what Pam wrote in that this book would be beneficial as we navigate through the ups and downs of life. I’ll definitely add it to my bookcase soon. Take good care. ❤️


    1. Thank you Lauren. And I’m glad you took a lot from my review. Yes, like I mentioned before the review, it is definitely a book that one would be happy to have on hand for that heavy time. Hugs ❤


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