Seedlings: Helpful Books – By Amy Wall Lerman, Editor
We’re later moms so many of us have encountered death in some form or another. Most of us lost our grandparents a long time ago; many of us are facing, or have faced, the death of our own parents; and if you’ve been struggling to become a parent, you may have faced the loss of a child through miscarriage.
The biggest loss I’ve had in my life to date was the death of my father. He was only 62- years-old and died of cancer. My father was an incredible, brilliant, and loving man, and we were a tight-knit family. Some of my family members never really finished grieving my dad while others have learned to carry on pretty well with the loss despite the constant nagging sadness that missing someone brings.
I decided to dedicate this issue of Baby Bloomer to the topic of death because, well… it’s a part of life and a part of parenting. Death is a topic we all want to avoid but that’s not so easy to do as we get older. Of course it scares the crap out of me. Not so much my own death but the death of the people I love. Whether or not you have strong spiritual, religious, or scientific beliefs, loss is loss. The fact that a loved one will no longer be physically present is a reality we all face throughout our lives no matter what we believe – so how the heck do we explain the absence of a loved one to our children when we don’t really understand it ourselves?
I often think about how I will explain death to my son once has to face loss in his own world. I don’t want him to be afraid. I want him to find strength through the process of grieving. That’s why I’ve decided to pull my head out of the sand and start thinking about how I want to tackle this topic.
I have my own spiritual beliefs which will certainly be helpful but, when in doubt, my instinct is always to turn to books. So I went looking and discovered a few really helpful ones:
Grief is Like a Snowflake:
By Julia Cook
This book is about a little tree whose daddy is chopped down. The little tree has a lot of questions for his mother. The questions turn to sadness, the sadness to anger, and the anger to fear, and finally to acceptance and love. Meanwhile a former Christmas tree and a plain tree discuss life and love as pair of cardinals fly from one scene to another. The cardinals act as a beautiful connecting device between grief and understanding. The back of the book has tips for parents trying help their children cope with loss.
As a companion to the storybook, the author also provides a helpful activity book for groups as well as individuals. At the back there is a section where the child can draw a picture of what his/her family looked like before the death and what the family looks like now. The child can also list favorite memories or write a letter to the person they are missing. These are all very powerful coping devices that could even help some of us adults!
Where Do We Go?
By James F. Weinsier
This book is perfect for a younger child because it allows the child’s imagination to wander. We have all wondered what life after death might be like and this book gives different scenarios of what a child might imagine. I can’t think of a more soothing way (at least for my child and his wild imagination) to help my child envision what life may be like in another world. It also carries some powerful messages: Life is an adventure and love lives in our memories whether our loved ones are with us here on earth or in a magical world of rainbow slip n’ slides; the people who touch our lives never leave us because the love we have for them stays with us always. This book takes out the fear factor and emphasizes the element of wonder.
Two companion books I found to be inspirational were written by Josephine Nobisso: Grandma’s Scrapbook and Grandpa Loved. These books chronicle the lives of the author’s grandparents. In Grandma’s Scrapbook, a grandmother’s life is shared through the pages of her scrapbook. Here a young girl is able to touch and see her grandmother’s full and beautiful life through the older woman’s eyes. In Grandpa Loved, the author recreates the life of a grandfather she never knew through stories that were told to her throughout her life. When I discovered these books I thought it might be a good idea to use them as a guide to help explain the cycle of life. Not only is the touching way to keep memories alive but a helpful way to allow children to understand that love never dies. I’d say these books will have an impact on kids ages 10+.
While most of our grandparents probably didn’t keep a scrapbook, there are books you can give to your parents now – while they are still with us – that allow them to write down their memories. The books I’ve seen usually ask a question and leave a blank page for the response. What a beautiful gift that would make for generations to come and what a powerful way to keep their memory alive and available to your children.
Finally for us grownups, I discovered a book (or should I say the author discovered me) about a mother’s grief and journey to finding peace after the tragic death of her 12-year-old daughter while vacationing in Costa Rica. It’s called A Mother’s Journey: of Love, Loss and Life Beyond. Jennifer Scalise painstakingly, and bravely, recounts the death of her daughter, Brooke, and how various events both hindered and helped her deal with sudden loss and subsequent trauma. One of the biggest healing forces is Brooke herself through the messages she left behind and a powerful bond that connected mother and child beyond the grave. I would recommend this book to any grieving parent. Connecting to painful feelings that others have faced as well can be a powerful healing mechanism.
This is just a miniscule sampling of books and ideas that could be helpful when facing death and grief in its multitude of forms. I will keep my eye out for others because I’m pretty sure I am going to need all the help I can get as I continue my parenting journey through this glorious gift called life.
Amy Wall Lerman, Editor of the Motherhood Later Than Sooner eZine, Baby Bloomer, is a television news producer and writer. She is the author of several books including The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Critical Reading and The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Family Games. Her poetry has been published in an online literary journal and she maintains her own blog called Dodillydo. Amy lives in New Jersey with her husband and 4-year old son.