When adults experience a loss they can often pull from past experiences to help with the grieving process. This is not always the case when a child experiences a loss, especially when they are very young or it is the first time.
What Happens When A Loved One Dies uses bright, simple and familiar illustrations to explain death to children. The book explains that death is a part of each life, be it an animal, a part of nature or a person. The book briefly discusses ceremonies, the ideas of a soul and the afterlife and how they can vary in different cultures. Regardless of age, culture or upbringing, every child should be able to find at least one relatable image and fact in this book. Although housed with our non-fiction materials, the book reads more like a story book and is part of the Just Enough book series by child psychologist Dr Jillian Roberts.
For the times when words fail, illustrations can be very powerful. Sometimes it can be comforting to sit with a book filled only with visuals, and in the silence create an individual story and peace. A Stone for Sascha by Aaron Becker begins with the burial of a beloved pet and using beautifully detailed paintings shows a grieving girl as her feelings mount and then suddenly take a turn as she finds comfort in a well traveled rock. Helen’s Birds by Sara Cassidy tells the story of a relationship through paneled illustrations between a child and a friendly neighbour; the seemingly unexpected passing of the neighbour and how the child grieves and then finds comfort in familiar hobbies. Both books are wordless but each have a unique feel and could be appreciated by children alone or shared with others.
It Must Hurt A Lot by Doris Sanford follows the journey of Joshua from the sudden death of his puppy, Muffins, to discovering his own special secrets, such as when I love lots I hurt lots, my friends want to help, they just don’t know how and that good memories always stay, just to name a few. Once the story comes to an end there is a note from the author to the adults in a child’s life which offers suggestions on how to handle different parts of the grieving process.
As a big city mourns the loss of Ida, readers are witness to the beautiful friendship between Gus and Ida. Gus wakes up one morning to find Ida is not there. After learning Ida is sick and dying Gus helps his friend the best he can with notes from friends, treats and most importantly time together. The two friends laugh, cry, spend time together and apart before Ida’s eyes close for the final time. In Ida, Always by Caron Levis, Gus finds it hard to carry on without his dear friend but remembers Ida’s important message “you don’t have to see it to feel it”.
Grieving a loss is never easy and each of us travels our own road at our own speed. If you know a child who is struggling to grieve, suspect they may soon experience a loss or are looking to introduce the topic of death, check out our collection for many more books. Thunder Bay Public Library also has materials to help with grieving and loss for teens and adults.
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Chelsea Cernjul-Marsonet – www.tbpl.ca. If you have a comment about today’s column, we would love to hear from you.