A collection of recommended reading and other resources for grief and loss
Compiled by Cassie Jewell, M.Ed., LPC, LSATP
This resource guide is for clinicians as well as for anyone who is grieving. This grief and loss guide includes a list of recommended books (for both adults and children); free printable PDF workbooks and handouts; and links to education and support sites.
Ambiguous Loss: Learning to Live with Unresolved Grief (2000) by Pauline Boss, Ph.D. (176 pages)
Bearing the Unbearable: Love, Loss, and the Heartbreaking Path of Grief (2017) by Joanne Cacciatore, Ph.D. (248 pages)
The Grief Club: The Secret to Getting Through All Kinds of Change (2006) by Melody Beattie (368 pages)
Grief Day by Day: Simple Practices and Daily Guidance for Living with Loss (2018) by Jan Warner (272 pages)
The Grief Recovery Handbook, 20th Anniversary Expanded Edition: The Action Program for Moving Beyond Death, Divorce, and Other Losses including Health, Career, and Faith (2009) by John W. James & Russell Friedman (240 pages)
Healing a Teen’s Grieving Heart: 100 Practical Ideas for Families, Friends and Caregivers (Healing a Grieving Heart Series) (2001) by Alan D. Wolfelt, Ph.D. (128 pages)
How to Survive the Loss of a Love (2006) by Melba Colgrove, Ph.D., Harold H. Bloomfield, MD, & Peter McWilliams (208 pages)
It’s OK That You’re Not OK: Meeting Grief and Loss in a Culture That Doesn’t Understand (2017) by Megan Divine (280 pages)
I Wasn’t Ready to Say Goodbye: Surviving, Coping and Healing After the Sudden Death of a Loved One (2008) by Brook Noel & Pamela D. Blair, Ph.D. (292 pages)
No Time for Goodbyes: Coping with Sorrow, Anger, and Injustice After a Tragic Death, 7th ed. (2014) by Janice Harris Lord (240 pages)
Permission to Mourn: A New Way to Do Grief (2014) by Tom Zuba (121 pages)
Resilient Grieving: Finding Strength and Embracing Life After a Loss That Changes Everything (2017) by Lucy Hone, Ph.D. (256 pages)
Unattended Sorrow: Recovering from Loss and Reviving the Heart (2019) by Stephen Levine (240 pages)
When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times (2016) by Pema Chodron (176 pages)
The Wild Edge of Sorrow: Rituals of Renewal and the Sacred Work of Grief (2015) by Francis Weller (224 pages)
Recommended Books for Children & Adolescents
The Fall of Freddie the Leaf: A Story of Life for All Ages (1982) by Leo Buscaglia (32 pages, for ages 4-8)
Healing Your Grieving Heart for Kids: 100 Practical Ideas (Healing Your Grieving Heart Series) (2001) by Alan D. Wolfelt, Ph.D. (128 pages, for ages 12-14)
Healing Your Grieving Heart for Teens: 100 Practical Ideas (Healing Your Grieving Heart Series) (2001) by Alan D. Wolfelt, Ph.D. (128 pages, for ages 12-18)
The Invisible String (2018) by Patrice Karst (40 pages, for ages 4-8)
The Memory Box: A Book About Grief (2017) by Joanna Rowland (32 pages, for ages 4-8)
Tear Soup: A Recipe for Healing After Loss (2005) by Pat Schwiebert & Chuck DeKlyen (56 pages, for ages 8-12 years)
When Dinosaurs Die: A Guide to Understanding Death (Dino Tales: Life Guides for Families) (1998) by Laurie Krasny Brown (32 pages, for ages 4-8)
When Someone Very Special Dies: Children Can Learn to Cope with Grief (1996) by Marge Heegaard (32 pages, for ages 9-12)
When Something Terrible Happens: Children Can Learn to Cope with Grief (1992) by Marge Heegaard (32 pages, for ages 4-8)
Recommended Books for Clinicians
Creative Interventions for Bereaved Children (2006) by Liana Lowenstein (205 pages)
Grief Counseling and Grief Therapy, Fifth Edition: A Handbook for the Mental Health Practitioner (2018) by William Worden, Ph.D. (352 pages)
Grief Counseling Homework Planner (PracticePlanners) (2017) by Phil Rich (272 pages)
In the Presence of Grief: Helping Family Members Resolve Death, Dying, and Bereavement Issues (2003) by Dorothy S. Becvar (284 pages)
Transforming Grief & Loss Workbook: Activities, Exercises & Skills to Coach Your Client Through Life Transitions (2016) by Ligia Houben (264 pages)
Treating Traumatic Bereavement: A Practitioner’s Guide (2014) by Laurie Anne Pearlman, Ph.D., Camille B. Wortman, Ph.D., Catherine A. Feuer, Ph.D., Christine H. Farber, Ph.D., & Therese A. Rando, Ph.D. (358 pages)
(Updated 5/20/20) A list of movies about mental health and substance abuse – includes PDF printable discussion questions
By Cassie Jewell, M.Ed., LPC, LSATP
Movies About Addiction & Mental Illness
The following is a list of films about substance use and mental disorders that are appropriate to show in treatment settings. This post includes movie summaries and downloadable PDF handouts with questions for discussion. Please note that some of the films on this list are graphic and may not be appropriate for children or adolescents.
Hint: The handouts contain spoilers; do not provide until after the movie ends.
103 minutes (1 hour, 43 minutes), R-rating for language and drug use
Summary: Julia Roberts plays a mother, Holly, whose 19-year old son, Ben, surprises her by returning home for Christmas. Ben is newly in recovery; his addiction has placed a tremendous strain on the family in the past. Ben’s younger siblings are happy to see him, but Holly, fearing that he is not ready, is apprehensive. That evening, the family attends church. When they return, they find their home burglarized and the dog missing. Ben blames himself, believing someone from his past took the dog to get his attention; he leaves to look for the dog. Holly goes with him, but they’re later separated, and Holly attempts to track Ben. Eventually, she ends up at an abandoned barn where she finds her son on the floor, unresponsive. The movie ends with her administering Narcan to Ben.
127 minutes (2 hours, 7 minutes), R-rating for strong language and content relating to drugs, sexuality, and suicide
Summary: Winona Ryder plays Susanna, a young woman with borderline personality disorder, who is sent to a psychiatric hospital after a suicide attempt in the late 1960s. She befriends Lisa (Angelia Jolie), who carries a diagnosis of sociopathy (antisocial personality disorder). Initially, Susanna is in denial about her mental condition and is not open to treatment. However, she reaches a turning point after a tragedy.
123 minutes (2 hours, 3 minutes), PG-13 rating for mature thematic elements including substance abuse/recovery, some sexual situations, language, and brief violence
Summary: Trevor (Haley Joel Osment) starts a chain reaction of goodness for a social studies project with a plan to change the world for the better. In this film, Trevor is a high school student whose mother, Arlene (Helen Hunt), struggles with alcoholism and whose father is abusive. He rises above unfortunate circumstances with the kindhearted idea to do a good deed, but instead of requesting payback, asking the receiver to “pay it forward” to at least three people – and on and on. While the movie has a bittersweet end, the message is uplifting and powerful.
Summary: Charlie is an unpopular high school freshman, a “wallflower,” who is befriended by two seniors, Patrick and Sam (Emma Watson). The movie is about their friendship and Charlie’s personal struggles with the recent suicide of his friend and his own mental illness. Throughout the film, Charlie has flashbacks of his aunt, who died in a car accident when he was 7. It’s eventually revealed that Charlie’s aunt molested him; a sexual encounter with Sam triggers Charlie’s repressed memories. Charlie has a mental breakdown.
Other great resources for using clinical films as therapeutic interventions include the book Movies & Mental Illness: Using Films to Understand Psychopathy, 4th ed. (by Danny Wedding and Ryan M. Niemiec) and the site Teach With Movies.
(Updated 9/20/20) A list of sites with free printable resources for mental health clinicians and consumers
By Cassie Jewell, M.Ed., LPC, LSATP
Sites with Free Therapy Worksheets & Handouts
If you’re a counselor or therapist, you’re probably familiar with Therapist Aid, one of the most well-known sites providing free printable worksheets. PsychPoint and Get Self Help UK are also great resources for cost-free handouts, tools, etc. that can be used with clients or for self-help.
When I started blogging, I realized just how much the Internet has to offer when it comes to FREE! That being said, I’ve learned the term free is often misleading. There are gimmicky sites that require you to join an email list in order to receive a free e-book, PDF printables, etc.; I don’t consider that free since you’re making an exchange. I also dislike and generally avoid sites that bombard with ads. A third “free-resource” site that’s deceiving is the site with no gimmicks or ads, but turns out to be nothing more than a ploy to get you to buy something.
For this post, I avoided misleading sites and instead focused on government agencies, educational institutions, and nonprofits. I found some sites that offered a variety of broad-topic PDF resources and others that had fewer, but provided specialized tools. See below for links to over 50 sites with free therapy worksheets and handouts for both clinicians and consumers.
(Click here for free worksheets, handouts, and guides posted on this site.)
♡ Danger Assessment Screening Tool | Clinicians can download a PDF version of this assessment, which helps predict the level of danger in an abusive relationship; this screening tool was developed to predict violence and homicide.
A list of uncommon strategies for coping with stress, depression, and anxiety. Includes a free PDF version of the list to print and use as a handout.
By Cassie Jewell, M.Ed., LPC, LSATP
With Lauren Mills, MA, LPC-Intern (Contributor)
Effective coping skills make it possible to survive life’s stressors, obstacles, and hardships. Without coping strategies, life would be unmanageable. Dr. Constance Scharff described coping mechanisms as “skills we… have that allow us to make sense of our negative experiences and integrate them into a healthy, sustainable perspective of the world.” Healthy coping strategies promote resilience when experiencing minor stressors, such as getting a poor performance review at work, or major ones, such as the loss of a loved one.
Like any skill, coping is important to practice on a regular basis in order to be effective. Do this by maintaining daily self-care (at a minimum: adequate rest, healthy meals, exercise, staying hydrated, and avoiding drugs/alcohol.)
As an expert on you (and how you adapt to stressful situations), you may already know what helps the most when life seems out-of-control. (I like reading paranormal romance/fantasy-type books!) Maybe you meditate or run or rap along to loud rap music or have snuggle time with the cats or binge watch your favorite show on Netflix. Having insight into/awareness of your coping strategies primes you for unforeseeable tragedies in life.
“Life is not what it’s supposed to be. It’s what it is. The way you cope with it is what makes the difference.”
Virginia Satir, Therapist (June 26, 2019-September 10, 1988)
Healthy coping varies greatly from person to person; what matters is that your personal strategies work for you. For example, one person may find prayer helpful, but for someone who isn’t religious, prayer might be ineffective. Instead, they may swim laps at the gym when going through a difficult time. Another person may cope by crying and talking it out with a close friend.
Note: there are various mental health treatment approaches (i.e. DBT, trauma-focused CBT, etc.) that incorporate specialized, evidence-based coping techniques that are proven to work (by reducing symptoms and improving wellbeing) for certain disorders. The focus of this post is basic coping, not treatment interventions.
On the topic of coping skills, the research literature is vast (and beyond the scope of this post). While many factors influence coping (i.e. personality/temperament, stressors experienced, mental and physical health, etc.), evidence backs the following methods: problem-solving techniques, mindfulness/meditation, exercise, relaxation techniques, reframing, acceptance, humor, seeking support, and religion/spirituality. (Note that venting is not on the list!) Emotional intelligence may also play a role in the efficiency of coping skills.
A sport psychology study indicated that professional golfers who used positive self-talk, blocked negative thoughts, maintained focus, and remained in a relaxed state effectively coped with stress, keeping a positive mindset. Effective copers also sought advice as needed throughout the game. A 2015 study suggested that helping others, even strangers, helps mitigate the impact of stress.
Examples of coping skills include prayer, meditation, deep breathing, exercise, talking to a trusted person, journaling, cleaning, and creating art. However, the purpose of this post is to provide coping alternatives. Maybe meditation isn’t your thing or journaling leaves you feeling like crap. Coping is not one-size-fits-all. The best approach to coping is to find and try lots of different things!
The inspiration for this post came from Facebook. (Facebook is awesome for networking! I’m a member of several professional groups.) Lauren Mills sought ideas for unconventional strategies via Facebook… With permission, I’m sharing some of them here!
Unconventional Coping Strategies
1) Crack pistachio nuts
2) Fold warm towels
3) Smell your dog (Fun fact: dog paws smell like corn chips!) or watch them sleep
4) Peel dried glue off your hands
5) Break glass at the recycling center
6) Pop bubble wrap
7) Lie upside down
8) Watch slime or pimple popping videos on YouTube
9) Sort and build Lego’s
10) Write in cursive
11) Observe fish in an aquarium
12) Twirl/spin around
13) Solve math problems (by hand)
14) Use a voice-changing app (Snapchat works too) to repeat back your worry/critical thoughts in the voice of a silly character OR sing your worries/thoughts aloud to the tune of “Happy Birthday”
15) Listen to the radio in foreign languages
16) Chop vegetables
17) Go for a joy ride (Windows down!)
18) Watch YouTube videos of cute animals and/or giggling babies
19) Blow bubbles
20) Walk barefoot outside
21) Draw/paint on your skin
22) Play with (dry) rice
23) Do (secret) “random acts of kindness”
24) Play with warm (not hot) candle wax
25) Watch AMSR videos on YouTube
26) Shuffle cards
27) Recite family recipes
28) Find the nicest smelling flowers at a grocery store
29) Count things
30) Use an app to try different hairstyles and/or makeup
31) People-watch with a good friend and make up stories about everyone you see (Take it to the next level with voiceovers!)
32) Wash your face mindfully
33) Buy a karaoke machine and sing your heart out when you’re home alone
34) On Instagram, watch videos of a hydraulic press smash things, cake decorating, pottery/ceramics throwing, hand lettering, and/or woodwork
35) Shine tarnished silver
36) Create a glitter jar and enjoy
37) Tend to plants
38) Color in a vulgar coloring book for adults
Download a PDF version (free) of “Unconventional Coping Strategies” below. This handout can be printed, copied, and shared without the author’s permission, providing it’s not used for monetary gain. Please modify as needed.
(Updated 8/22/20) A resource list for mental health professionals and consumers. Free PDF manuals/workbooks/guides for group and individual therapy or self-help purposes.
Compiled by Cassie Jewell, M.Ed., LPC, LSATP
The following list is comprised of links to over 200 PDF workbooks, manuals, and guidebooks that are published online and free to use with clients and/or for self-help purposes. Some of the manuals, including Individual Resiliency Training and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for Psychotic Symptoms, are evidence-based.