The long goodbye : [a memoir]

Meghan O'Rourke, who has been published mostly as poet, has penned a memoir of her mother's death and her own grieving process that is simply remarkable. She has managed to take one of the most personal and painful moments in anyone's life and turn it into a wonderfully written examination of life, death, and all that comes with it.

O'Rourke's mother died of colorectal cancer at age 55 on Christmas Day in 2008. It was not easy on O'Rourke or the rest of her family. But, was the pain she felt different than what others go through? As it turns out, it was not. While grief may look different to different people, it does go through similar processes (although not as cut and dried as the Kubler-Ross five stages of grief).

O'Rourke wishes that American society had more ritualized grieving practices as other countries do. However, in American society, people are almost encouraged to "just get over it." It's as if grief were something that could be shaken off like a sprained ankle when in reality, it's more like a chronic illness that lasts, in some form, for nearly all of one's life.

The last chapter of the book, which ran online in Slate, is breathtakingly beautiful. O'Rourke examines herself and her mother, and what life without her is like. It's something she hoped she never would have to write.