I Promise It Won’t Always Hurt Like This : 18 Assurances on Grief – Clare Mackintosh | Book Review | #IPromiseItWontAlwaysHurtLikeThis | Non-Fiction

Grief is universal, but it’s also as unique to each of us as the person we’ve lost. It can be overwhelming, exhausting, lonely, unreasonable, there when we least expect it and seemingly never-ending. Wherever you are with your grief and whoever you’re grieving for, I Promise It Won’t Always Hurt Like This is here to support you. To tell you, until you believe it, that things will get easier.

When bestselling writer Clare Mackintosh lost her five-week-old son, she searched for help in books. All of them wanted to tell her what she should be feeling and when she should be feeling it, but the truth – as she soon found out – is that there are no neat, labelled stages for grief, or crash grief-diets to relieve us of our pain. What we need when we’re grieving is time and understanding. With 18 short assurances that are full of compassion – drawn from Clare’s experiences of losing her son and her father – I Promise it Won’t Always Hurt Like This is the book she needed then.

Publisher : Sphere
Format: Ebook, Audio, Hardback (7 March 2024)
288 pages
Source: Borrowed from Library


It must have taken an immense amount of courage to revisit so much heartbreak but Clare Mackintosh has written a brutally honest account of her own experiences of grief. 18 years ago she lost her son, one of twins, at only 5 weeks old. This book was written following the huge and ongoing response to an online post made by Clare in 2020 on the fourteenth anniversary of her son’s death. She realised she was ready to talk about her own situation in the hope that some of her words might help others.

Clare’s 18 assurances are listed at the beginning, each have their own chapter heading with contents such as that you won’t always lie awake at night, sobbing until you cannot breathe, you won’t always feel so angry or guilty, you won’t always be broken by anniversaries (those ‘firsts’ of everything are just awful), you will be happy again – and many more. She discusses how she copes with triggers, feelings of anger and guilt and the effect of those well meaning but sometimes unhelpful cliched sympathies, together with small kindnesses that make all the difference.

This is the most personal book review I’ve done. I’m 14 years along my own grief journey. In the past I’ve lost grandparents and loved ones but nothing hit me as hard as the loss of my parents – no matter how old you are, they are that constant in life and you never want to consider that you may lose them. My dad died of cancer which nobody knew he had until a hospital admission 6 weeks before his death revealed a secondary brain tumour. Five months later my mum died. That raw pain of loss is something that I wouldn’t wish on anyone. As an only child there were no siblings to share the loss, the memories or the responsibility of dealing with their deaths, everything fell to me and at times it was overwhelming.

Clare is not afraid to show the ugly side of grief and recounts her own feelings of anger and bitterness that she is not proud of. I can relate to this on some levels – believe me ‘parent envy’ is a thing. Seeing other people with their elderly parents when I’d lost mine at a relatively younger age (74 and 72) hurt so much. Although I have never wished my situation on anyone, I would have an inner rage about the unfairness of it all.

Clare acknowledges something that I have realised, everyone grieves differently and there is no right or wrong way. In my experience some people are stoic and just deal with things whilst others crumble under their grief. I think I fell somewhere inbetween these two extremes and it was adrenaline that kept me going in those first few months. I found myself nodding in agreement with so much of Clare’s observations and advice (there might also have been a few tears). In my view this is a book that everyone who has lost someone or is struggling with their grief can take reassurance from – even if that is just the realisation that what you are feeling is quite normal. In those awful early times of bereavement the last thing you want to hear is that time heals but for myself, all I can say is that time has lessened the impact of my loss. I no longer feel that intense pain that kept me awake at night and bursting into tears at every memory or reminder. I still have moments that can blindside me but although I will never forget, I have found a new way of living with the loss. Those unwelcome Mothers Day emails and adverts still get immediately deleted though!

There are many self help books available on grief (and to be honest I have avoided most of them) but by sharing her own experiences, Clare has produced a helpful series of reassurances for anyone going through bereavement. I borrowed my reading copy from the library but I will buy my own just to re-read at those times when I feel I need a hand on my shoulder. You don’t need to read the whole book from cover to cover (I did) but as Clare herself says you can skip pages that you don’t feel are relevant, or perhaps just draw courage from a single chapter.

I Promise it Won’t Always Hurt Like This is beautifully written with honest personal reflection, emotion and common sense and a sympathetic and non judgemental voice speaking directly to the reader. I wish this book had been available to me all those years ago.

I PROMISE IT WON’T ALWAYS HURT LIKE THIS is a conversation about grief, based on my experiences of navigating bereavement following the loss of my son eighteen years ago. It’s a book to offer hope when you feel as though there’s none to be had; a book to give to a friend when you don’t know what to say.

On the fiction side, my latest book is A GAME OF LIES, the instant Sunday Times bestseller, and the second in my crime series featuring Welsh detective Ffion Morgan, who we first meet in THE LAST PARTY. I’m hard at work now on the next in the series.

I’m the author of I LET YOU GO, I SEE YOU, LET ME LIE and HOSTAGE – page-turning thrillers that have sold more than two million copies across 40 countries, and hit bestseller lists including The Sunday Times and The New York Times. I also wrote the emotional rollercoaster, AFTER THE END: a family drama about an impossible choice that threatens to tear a couple apart. It’s the most personal book I’ve written, and I’ve loved hearing from readers who have connected with it.

With over 2 million copies of her books sold worldwide, number one bestseller Clare Mackintosh is the multi-award-winning author of I Let You Go, which was a Sunday Times and New York Times bestseller and the fastest-selling title by a new crime writer in 2015. It also won the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year in 2016. Both Clare’s second and third novels, I See You and Let Me Lie, were number one Sunday Times bestsellers. Her first three thrillers were selected for the Richard & Judy Book Club, and together have been translated into forty languages. After the End was published in 2019 and became an instant Sunday Times bestseller, and in 2021 Hostage flew straight into the top ten. Her new crime series, featuring Welsh detective DC Ffion Morgan, has been critically acclaimed, with both The Last Party and A Game of Lies hitting the Sunday Times top ten. Together, her books have spent more than sixty-five weeks in The Sunday Times bestseller lists. In 2024 she published a memoir, I Promise it Won’t Always Hurt Like This.

Clare is patron of the Silver Star Society, a charity based at the John Radcliffe hospital in Oxford, which supports parents experiencing high-risk or difficult pregnancies. She lives in North Wales with her husband and their three children.

Follow the author: Website | X/Twitter | Instagram | Facebook | Goodreads | Amazon


6 thoughts on “I Promise It Won’t Always Hurt Like This : 18 Assurances on Grief – Clare Mackintosh | Book Review | #IPromiseItWontAlwaysHurtLikeThis | Non-Fiction”

I do love to read any comments 😊

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.