Grieving the World We Have Lost, Finding Hope in What Remains

By Rebecca Colbert
Head of Collection and Bibliographic Services @ The Library District

Fall is here! We should be trading tailgate recipes and posting back to school pictures, but things are far from normal lately. If you’re feeling out of sorts about it, you are not alone. You might actually be grieving for things that aren’t what they once were.

Noted psychologist Elizabeth Kubler-Ross was an expert on this topic, and well known for guiding us through the five stages of grief: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and, finally, Acceptance. The stages are not always chronological and linear. You can begin with anger, move to depression, and end up in denial. Grief is individual and there are more twists and turns in this personal journey than in a game of Chutes and Ladders.

Our world has changed dramatically since the COVID-19 outbreak, and over the past months, I have observed that the five stages of grief apply to what we are going through. Even if you have been fortunate enough not to have lost someone you love to this virus, you still have experienced valid losses in your everyday life. 

On this note, I want to remind you that your library is always here to help. And in celebration of Library Highlights’ return, now in digital format, the selections I am recommending are all part of our eBooks collection, downloadable at with your library card. Need to renew your card? Just email us at Want to sign-up a family member? Just go to    

Stage One: Denial

What do you mean there are no sports? No school? No social gatherings? Oh, this is like the time out you give your kids when they are naughty, except none of us were! It’s a forced staycation, forcing us to clean out our closets while we work from home (or look for work) while also homeschooling our children. This can’t be real.  But at least the Library District branches are open.     

For solace, you might want to turn to Joan Didion’s classic A Year of Magical Thinking to see the power of denial.

The Year of Magical Thinking

Or for a dose of reality, check out How to Fake A Moon Landing: Exposing the Myths of Science Denial by Darryl Cunningham. This will snap you out of the hypnotic pleasures of denial.

How to Fake A Moon Landing

Stage Two: Anger

I can’t do anything, go anywhere, get anything done. I can’t grocery shop when I want, how I want, where I want. How can I pay the bills if I can’t work? How can I work if my kids aren’t in school? I can’t visit family. I can’t see friends.  I waited a half-hour in line at this stupid store to buy Clorox wipes and they’re sold out again?! Let me into the library! I need to use the computer!

To put this in perspective, try Age of Anger: A History of the Present by Pankaj Mishra, because these are angry times indeed.

Age of Anger

And for times when that anger starts to consume you, check out Gary Chapman’s series of books, starting with Anger: Handling a Powerful Emotion in a Healthy Way. 


I hope these lead you to understanding and serenity.

Stage Three: Bargaining

If I can just get through fall school online, spring will be better. If I can just master this sourdough recipe, I won’t need to grocery shop as often. If I can just stay home for 14 more days, I’ll be fine. If I can just find Clorox wipes, I’ll be safe. In the meantime, I’ll place holds on my library items and learn how to use ebooks at (you can email us for help with this or any other question at

Mastering the bargaining stage can feel like the first baby step toward acceptance.  Try Old Age: A Beginner’s Guide by Michael Kinsey to see how that journey can happen.

Old Age

Of course, accepting reality also means accepting yourself and the clever and heartwarming You’re a Miracle (And a Pain in the Ass) by Mike McHargue, which can reinstate some self-worth.

You're A Miracle (and A Pain in the Ass)

Stage Four: Depression

No summer vacation. No friends. No summer concerts. No water parks. No blockbuster movie openings. No job. No hope. This could last forever.  And still no Clorox wipes.

I warned that the progression of grief was not linear. Bargaining bottoms out in depression but luckily, this is the stage with the most help available. Start with Finding Comfort in Hard Times: A Guide to Healing After Disaster, Violence, and Other Community Trauma by Earl Johnson.

Finding Comfort During Hard Times

Move forward into Spiritual Practice for Crazy Times: Powerful Tools to Cultivate Calm, Clarity, and Courage by Philip Goldberg.

Spiritual Practice for Crazy Times

When you’re ready to lighten up, try the Hilarious World of Depression, a podcast series hosted by John Moe, which offers frank, moving, and yes, funny conversations with people who have dealt with this challenging condition.

The Hilarious World of Depression

Then finish off this stage of grief with a gentle reminder of how to move forward in Top Five Regrets of the Dying by Bonnie Ware. Spoiler alert: “I wish I had let myself be happier.”

The Top Five Regrets of the Dying

A great therapist once told me that depression looks backward with regret while anxiety looks forward with worry. They are two sides of the same coin, so for those whose fourth stage looks more worried, try The Worry Trick: How Your Brain Tricks You into Expecting the Worst & What You Can Do About It by David A. Carbonell, PhD.

The Worry Trick

And my personal favorite on this entire list The Shapeless Unease: A Year of Not Sleeping. You can read it while you are awake at 3 a.m.

The Shapeless Unease

Stage Five: Acceptance

Acceptance: I can Zoom chat or Skype or Facetime. I can curbside pickup at the grocery store. I can get Take & Make packs for the kids at the library and browse the shelves without fear. I can observe social distancing at a restaurant and meet my friends in small groups. I am doing the best that I can to keep myself and others safe. Turns out, I don’t actually need Clorox wipes.

When it Feels like the Sky is Falling: How to Find Hope in an Uncertain World by H. Norman Wright is a great place to begin this stage.

When It Feels Like the Sky Is Falling

Emphasis must be placed on what you can do instead of what you cannot. The Power of Small: Making Tiny But Powerful Changes When Everything Feels Too Much by Aisling & Trish Leonard-Curtin will help.

The Power of Small

I do believe the world will settle down to a kind of normal again, and to celebrate that inevitable transformation, I recommend From Shitshow to Afterglow: Putting Life Back Together When It Falls Apart by Ariel Meadow Stallings.

From Sh!tshow to Afterglow

But in the meantime, we really are here for you. Please come and visit us in our libraries, write to us online, or engage with us on our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram channels.  Look forward to seeing you in the afterglow!