Welcome to the Grief Club by Janine Kwoh

Because You Don't Have to Go Through It Alone

“This book is for anyone who has lost someone they care about. Consider this a welcome to the club that no one ever wants to join but so many of us end up needing.”


Welcome to the Grief Club—a place where one human who experienced a terrible loss, Janine Kwoh, is at the door to welcome other humans who are grieving. It is not an instruction manual, or a step-by-step playbook, or a memoir. It is, rather, a fresh, empathetic approach to all the surprising, confusing, brutal, funny, and downright bizarre parts of grief.

Combining her own experiences with grief—the author’s partner died when both were in their late 20s—with what she learned from others in her “grief club,” Kwoh uses brief writings and observations, hand-drawn illustrations, and diagrams to explore all the different ways grief happens. 

Plus, wisdom and understanding in every line—There is no right or wrong way to grieve—and permission to grieve in whichever ways you need, for however long you need to. What to do when the world is your grief trigger. Signs you have grief brain. And gentle assurances: Grief isn’t linear, but it does change and will soften over time.

What I thought

Unfortunately, one thing we must all face in life is loss. Whether that's the loss of a loved one, family member, friend, or a pet, loss is inevitable. And we each deal with it in our own unique ways. I personally didn't know what loss felt like until the passing of my grandfather almost ten years ago. I still feel the force of his death as though it was just yesterday. As well as my grandfather, I've lost two close friends in the past few years, and despite each one hitting me like a bus on a highway, I sometimes feel like I haven't processed their deaths. A part of me feels like I'm not grieving properly or going through whatever stages of grief I need to in order to get over it and move on.

So, my grief brought me to this special book by Janine Kwoh. I felt compelled to read it for a number of reasons. Mostly, I was hoping to feel less alone in my grief. Despite the inviting and warm cover design, I have to admit that I was intimidated to open this book for a while, unsure of where it would take me in my mind. I was pleasantly surprised by how comforting I found Welcome to the Grief Club. 

I've heard many times that we must allow ourselves to feel the pain and allow the grieving process to happen in order to move on, but through reading this book I've come to understand that rather than moving on and getting over it, we instead carry our grief with us, and as Janine states, it softens over time. 

Even though my grandfather's death still affects me so strongly, I no longer cry every day. And even though I still think about the friends I've lost, I no longer blame myself for not reaching out enough when they were alive. I'm still grieving, and I still feel the void where they should be, but I agree with Kwoh that my grief has softened as time has passed. 

I also really appreciated that the book touches how grief impacts the body both mentally and physically, and also self-care for when you're grieving. I found it helpful to read about the ways that others can help you deal with your grief, whether that's helping with your housework, dropping off dinners, or just plain companionship. As a natural caretaker myself, knowing these things will help me take better care of others who are grieving.

Kwoh has a unique way of writing that made me both cry and laugh out loud at times. For such a heavy topic, there's also a lightness to this book. Kwoh made me feel less alone in my grief, and made me understand that there is no one way to feel it, no special road map to follow in order to do it right. 

Overall, I adored the original illustrations and how this book was laid out. I like that the book can be read cover to cover or that the reader can choose to jump into whichever section they feel they could benefit from. Janine's prose felt like a pair of open arms inviting me in for a warm embrace, exactly what I needed when I was reading. 

Although the book doesn't cover all forms of grief, there's a list of suggested supports and contact information to help with topics Kwoh doesn't touch on. 

If you or someone in your life is grieving, this is book is a wonderful resource.

by Kate Allison

Janine Kwoh is the owner and designer of Kwohtations, a stationery company and letterpress print and design studio. Janine's hope is that others will recognize some of themselves in what she creates and feel a bit more seen, more connected, and less alone. When she’s not printing cards or writing about grief, you can often find her trying to keep her ducks in a row, but one of them is always wandering off in search of snacks. Janine currently lives in Brooklyn, NY, but considers home to be wherever her friends are.

Welcome to the Grief Club is available for pre-order (releasing February 1st) in hardcover format from Indigo and in e-book format from Kobo. Check GoodReads for additional retailers.

Thank you to Workman Publishing for my advanced reader's copy in exchange for this honest review.