Reader Notes

This book deals with accidental death and trauma related to watching a loved one drown.

Recommended Audience

This book is recommended for adults, suicide loss survivors, overdose loss survivors, people affected by a mass-fatality event, parents who have experienced the death of a child and people supporting others who are grieving. It is not recommended as an early read after the loss of a loved one.


There is nothing wrong with grief - that is the main message embedded in Megan Devine's book, It's OK That You're Not OK (aptly subtitled: Meeting Grief and Loss in a Culture that Doesn't Understand). This message is greatly needed in our fix-it-quick culture where grief is often viewed as a problem to be solved within a particular time frame, rather than what it is: a normal, healthy response to profound loss and transition that has no set timeline or one-size-fits-all path forward or through. A therapist used to counseling people in grief, Devine wrote her book after watching her beloved life partner drown. This personal experience of great loss led Devine to a deeper and clearer understanding of grief not as something to be overcome but rather something that invites us to live in the reality of loss by building a new life within loss and alongside our feelings of grief. 

The book is well-written - something I always appreciate - and also well-organized, full of insights and practical advice. As a grief support specialist and stress resilience trainer, I particularly like Devine's hands-on, self-care tips for managing stress and anxiety and improving sleep during the bereavement period, as well as her science-based look at the biology of grief, including information on the whys of common grief-related symptoms such as difficulty concentrating, weight changes and more - something I've never before seen in a book on grief. 

One aspect of the book that gave me pause and something that some readers might find off-putting (even offensive) is Devine's attempt to rank losses in terms of a hierarchy of grief/loss. Because grief is inherently me-centered, I think this perspective - seemingly contradictory to what she says elsewhere regarding the individual nature of loss - can be attributed to Devine's continuing struggle to come to terms with the loss of her life partner and the trauma of having personally witnessed his death; the traumatic death of someone we care deeply about can be difficult to navigate no matter who we are.

Discussion Prompts

  1. What does Megan Devine mean when she says "it's OK that you're not OK" regarding grief? 
  2. How do cultural messages shape the way we respond to loss - our own and others'? 
  3. Do you agree with Devine's assessment that loss experiences can be ranked and comparatively categorized?

About the Reviewer

Elizabeth Lewis is a grief support specialist, stress resilience trainer and spiritual counselor. She is a frequent blog contributor to Remembering A Life.