Processing Grief Through Books, Films, and Art

By Molly Minturn | November 17, 2022

The University of Virginia Library joins the UVA community in grieving three students — second-year Devin Chandler, third-year Lavel Davis Jr., and fourth-year D’Sean Perry — victims of a mass shooting on Grounds Sunday night. Two other students were wounded.

“I weep for the parents, the grandparents, the siblings and friends of all the victims,” said Dean of Libraries John Unsworth in a message to Library employees. “Please take care of yourself and those around you.”

We asked several UVA librarians to recommend books, films, television shows, and art projects to help those who are struggling in the wake of this tragic, violent event. “In tough times we often turn to stories to help us process grief and loss,” said Ashley Hosbach, Education and Social Science Research Librarian, who will host a virtual community read aloud event featuring comforting books for children tonight at 7 p.m..

Take a look at our librarians’ recommendations below:

Recommended by Haley Gillilan, Undergraduate Student Success Librarian

“Modern Loss: Candid Conversation About Grief” Rebecca Soffer & Gabrielle Birkner (Harper Wave, 2018)

This is an interactive workshop book about grief and loss. Modern Loss is also an online community and on Instagram by the same name.

“Peace is a Practice” by Morgan Harper Nichols (Zondervan, 2022)

Nichols is an artist and poet (she also has an incredible Instagram account). Her book is about building towards peace as a discipline, both internally and communally, during troubled times and uncertainty.

“I Thought I’d Get to See My Mother Again. Then the Pandemic Hit” (Time Magazine, 2020)

Nicole Chung, whose memoir “All You Can Ever Know” explores the complexities of transracial adoption, writes beautifully about the loss of her parents in this article. “Since she died, many people have asked me if I feel a lack of ‘closure’ because of all the moments missed,” Chung writes. “My father died 2½ years ago, and I was at his funeral, and I still don’t feel anything like closure. It’s an open wound. It always will be.”

“No Cure for Being Human” by Kate Bowler (Random House, 2021)

Bowler’s memoir is about accepting how her life has changed since having cancer. She also has a magnificent podcast called “Everything Happens,” where she interviews people about loss and grief. She’s based at Duke University and has interviewed folks from our UVA community, including Taylor Harris and Katie Couric.

“After Yang” (A24, 2022)

A24 summary: When his young daughter’s beloved companion — an android named Yang — malfunctions, Jake (Colin Farrell) searches for a way to repair him. In the process, Jake discovers the life that has been passing in front of him, reconnecting with his wife (Jodie Turner-Smith) and daughter across a distance he didn’t know was there.

“Station Eleven” (HBO Max 2021)

HBO Max summary: A post-apocalyptic saga spanning multiple timelines, this limited drama series tells the stories of survivors of a devastating flu as they attempt to rebuild and reimagine the world anew while holding on to the best of what’s been lost. “Station Eleven” is based on the international bestseller of the same name by Emily St. John Mandel.

“Wind Telephone” (Itaru Sasaki, 2010)

Japanese artist Itaru Sasaki was mourning his deceased cousin and so he decided to create a telephone booth with a rotary phone to “call” him when he wanted to speak with him. This has sparked many communities to create their own wind phones; there are a couple on the Appalachian Trail and one in Priest Point Park in Olympia, Washington.


Recommended by Amy Hunsaker, Librarian for Music & the Performing Arts

“Helping the Bereaved College Student” by David E. Balk (Springer, 2011)

Publisher’s summary: Approximately one-fourth of all college students suffer the loss of a family member or friend during their college career, yet the prevalence of bereavement on the college campus is largely unrecognized — sometimes by even the bereaved students themselves. This is the only volume to comprehensively address the ways in which bereavement may affect the college student, and to guide mental health professionals in effectively treating this underserved population. Authored by an internationally known expert on bereavement, the book includes student narratives, treatment exercises and activities, and issues regarding self-disclosure.

“We Don’t ‘Move on’ From Grief. We Move Forward with It” by Nora McInerny (TED Talk, 2020)

TED summary: In a talk that’s by turns heartbreaking and hilarious, writer and podcaster Nora McInerny shares her hard-earned wisdom about life and death. Her candid approach to something that will, let’s face it, affect us all, is as liberating as it is gut-wrenching. Most powerfully, she encourages us to shift how we approach grief. “A grieving person is going to laugh again and smile again,” she says. “They’re going to move forward. But that doesn’t mean that they’ve moved on.”

Recommended by Ashley Hosbach, Education & Social Science Research Librarian

The following children’s books on processing grief, loss, and sadness are from our COVID collection.

“Why Do We Cry?” by Fran Pintadera (Kids Can Press, 2018)

Publisher’s summary: This sensitive, poetic picture book uses metaphors and beautiful imagery to explain the reasons for our tears, making it clear that everyone is allowed to cry, and that everyone does.


“When Sadness Is at Your Door” by Eva Eland (Random House Children’s Books, 2019)

Publisher’s summary: Sadness can be scary and confusing at any age. When we feel sad, especially for long periods of time, it can seem as if the sadness is a part of who we are — an overwhelming, invisible, and scary sensation. Eva Eland’s debut picture book is a great primer in mindfulness and emotional literacy, perfect for kids navigating these new feelings — and for adult readers tackling the feelings themselves!

“The Breaking News” by Sarah Lynne Reul (Roaring Brook Press, 2018)

Publisher’s summary: When devastating news rattles a young girl’s community, her normally attentive parents and neighbors are suddenly exhausted and distracted. At school, her teacher tells the class to look for the helpers — the good people working to make things better in big and small ways.

“Adrift” by Heidi Stemple (Crocodile Books, 2021)

Publisher’s summary: In this metaphor for the global pandemic and the power of community, a mouse in a small boat finds comfort and strength during a storm when he sees another boat and is joined by others, close enough to see each other, but not close enough to crash.

The full list of children’s books addressing grief and loss is on our guide, open to the public.


Register here for Ashley Hosbach’s Community Read Aloud event.

The University of Virginia will hold a public memorial service for Chandler, Davis, and Perry on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. at John Paul Jones Arena.