A Review of IF ONLY by Carole Geithner

The story of a teenager navigating life after the death of her mom.

The cover of "If Only" by Carole Geithner.

I often feel very alone in my grief. Like I am the only person experiencing everything I’m going through, and no one in the world could possibly understand. Loneliness has been one of the worst parts of grief for me.


A few months ago, Carole Geithner reached out to me and sent me a copy of her book, If Only, about a teenager whose mom had just died. Before I read the book, I honestly had no clue what to expect. I read online about it a bit, and was interested to learn that this book was actually influenced by Geithner’s experience of losing her mother in her early 20’s and working with grieving teenagers as a social worker.


When I got the book, I read it, and then read it again. The biggest thing I can say is: Wow. She gets it.


The book starts out with the main character, Corinna, a 13 year old who just lost her mom, being annoyed by a person who thinks that they’re helping, but is really just making things worse. Then, Corinna goes back to school for the first time since her loss, and one of the first things she sees is a mom saying goodbye to their child, which reminds her of her grief. I reread these pages at first, in shock. It was like I was reading my own experiences in a book, just with different people. After reading those first few pages, I was hooked.


During the story, Corinna goes through the things I thought I was alone in experiencing. Struggling to maintain close friendships with people who haven’t been through a loss, observing that people avoid talking about the person who died, and experiencing difficulty going back to school are just a few.


It’s easy to feel alone in grief. Like you are the only one going through something. And then you come across something, like this book, and see what you are going through described almost perfectly, and are able to realize that maybe you aren’t as alone as you feel.


Even though If Only focuses on the life of an 8th grader who lost her mom, as a highschooler who lost her dad, it still resonated with me. While parts of the book are specific to losing a parent or guardian, many parts of it describe aspects of grief that are universal, such as seeing other people move on with their lives while you feel stuck. Geithner wrote a book that is relevant to all kids who have gone through a loss, and is an interesting read for anyone who wants to learn more about grief.


If you’re interested in learning more about this book, you can visit carolegeithner.com. Thank you, Mrs. Geithner, for sharing this exceptional read with me, and I hope anyone else that reads it finds as much comfort as I did.


Natalie Adams is the creator of Teenage Grief Sucks. Follow her on Twitter: @natalieladams.