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Books

Death, Dying, and Grieving: Books for Kids

Death, dying, and grieving are the main topics of the news lately. It seems we just can’t get away from it. And as much as we try to shield our little ones from tragedy, sometimes there are issues you must face. Death is a common situation in life and while you can usually filter what your children are exposed to, the deaths of pets, grandparents, or sick friends, will eventually crop up. If you’re like me, you want a book to turn to to support your child’s emotional understanding of death.

There are a surprising number of books available that discuss death. Kids don’t need or want a heavy handed book discussing the ins and out of death and dying. Save that for biology class or for church, depending on your beliefs. What kids want in books is to understand that it’s ok to have certain feelings and that other people have similar feelings as yours and also probably that things will get better. Following are books for kids of varying ages that discuss death, dying, and grief in ways that they will be able to handle.

1. CHARLOTTE’S WEB BY E.B. WHITE

I have two words for you: “Some pig.”  Is there anyone born in the past half century who hasn’t been moved to tears by this beloved title?charlotte's web

Everyone cheers for our favorite pig and his friends. Not only do we learn the meaning of friendship from Charlotte’s Web, we also learn the value of the brevity of life on a farm and we learn about death and grief. Sure there’s a death in the book, but there is also the invaluable lesson of how to grieve when someone you love has died. This little gem can teach even the youngest of readers about life and death.

2.  BRIDGE TO TERABITHIA BY KATHERINE PATERSON

bridgetoterabithia

Here’s another classic that inadvertently teaches middle graders the value of friendship and the process of grief. I love this story because at this age kids don’t care whether their friends are boys or girls. They just want a friend. Jess and Leslie become friends and during their time together they help the other one become better people. The magical land they’ve created helps them deal with the issues they each face. In the end when one of them dies, the remaining child must confront their fears, the loss of a friend, and learn how to move on.

3. NANA UPSTAIRS & NANA DOWNSTAIRS, BY TOMIE DE PAOLA

 

Tomie dePaola writes such good books, there’s practically a book for every situation. Grandparenting seems to be his specialty, though. Little Tommy loves his grandmothers: he has a grandmother upstairs and a great grandmother downstairs. You know where this is going, right? Naturally the grandmothers die and Tommy has to learn how to grieve. There’s a bit about a falling star that will have you in tears remembering your own grandmother’s kisses.

4. TIGER EYES BY JUDY BLUME

It’s a Judy Blume book. Do I need to say anymore? The woman who has helped every young girl grow up  in the past 50 years? Yeah, her. This time, Blume discusses a very sensitive issue at the time; the death of a parent.  Not only does Davey lose her father, but he is killed in a violent crime. Books about this topic were unheard of in its day. But somehow, shockingly, kids today are experiencing this type of tragic loss and will need help getting through it. The book also discusses the dysfunction that’s left behind when a family member dies tragically: depression, alcoholism, family instability; it’s all there.

5. FOURTEENTH GOLDFISH BY JENNIFER L. HOLM

A magical realism story about a girl whose goldfish dies and is reincarnated as her grandfather dressed as a bespectacled new friend. At first i thought perhaps the lesson might be too “out there” to catch; but I love this story and I’m sure someone will too.

 

6. THE BOY IN THE BLACK SUIT BY JASON REYNOLDS

Matt wears a black suit every day. No, not because his mom died—although she did, and it sucks. But he wears the suit for his gig at the local funeral home, which pays way better than the Cluck Bucket, and he needs the income since his dad can’t handle the bills (or anything, really) on his own. So while Dad’s snagging bottles of whiskey, Matt’s snagging fifteen bucks an hour. Not bad. But everything else? Not good. Then Matt meets Lovey. She’s got a crazy name, and she’s been through more crazy than he can imagine. Yet Lovey never cries. She’s tough. Really tough. Tough in the way Matt wishes he could be. Which is maybe why he’s drawn to her, and definitely why he can’t seem to shake her. Because there’s nothing more hopeful than finding a person who understands your loneliness—and who can maybe even help take it away.

Here’s one you might not of heard of. It’s by the always fab Jason Reynolds. Here you’ll see that people cope differently with death and you might get some insight into what it’s like to work at a funeral home. Hint: more dignity than creepy.

 

Isn’t it great that there are so many books on this topic says that kids never have to go through any situation alone, that there is always a book available to lend an ear, lean on or to provide other ways of support?

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Books

How to talk to kids during times of tragedy: 3 books to help

In light of yet another horrific hate crime, this time in my hometown of Pittsburgh against the Jewish community in Squirrel Hill, I thought this was a particularly good time to revisit how we discuss tragedy, violence, death, and dying with our kids. This is a conversation no parent dreams of having but more often we are faced with. What are we to do when wanting to comfort a scared or grieving child? We are struggling to process it in our own minds; the last thing we want to do is explain tragedy to our little ones. When I am faced with my own tragedy, I turn to books.

To be sure, books don’t have all of the answers but they are a start. Books are an excellent resource when you don’t know what to say, where to go, or how to begin. Books can comfort you and let you know that you’re not alone. The following are three books that have helped me during a difficult time in my life.

1. HEALING A CHILD’S GRIEVING HEART: 100 PRACTICAL IDEAS FOR FAMILIES, FRIENDS AND CAREGIVERS BY ALAN D. WOLFELT

“A grieving child’s life is like a piece of paper upon which every passerby leaves a mark. What kind of mark would you like to leave on the life of the child whose heart and soul have been touched by the death of someone loved?”

I found this book to be amazingly helpful. Inside it contained more than 100 helpful activities for dealing with grief and mourning. Tip 12 is an example: “Consider the child’s relationship to the person who died…Each child’s response to a death depends largely upon the relationship she had with the person who died…Set aside your own thoughts and feelings and enter her world as you consider this point.” See what I mean? Useful stuff. A child’s grief is not the same as your grief and must be treated differently than yours. Once I grasped that concept, I was able to move through the other practicalities of the book and construct a strategy that worked for each of my children separately.

 

2. THE GRIEVING CHILD: A PARENT’S GUIDE BY HELEN FITZGERALD

Fitzgerald helped me understand my own death history and confront my feelings about death. “Before you begin talking to your child about the death of a loved one or about death in general, be sure you know where you stand.” The author reasons that “the more you understand yourself, the easier it will be to avoid letting those feelings influence your child.” This, too, was helpful. You don’t want to muck up your child’s understanding of death with your own conflicted feelings. Throughout the book, Fitzgerald offers honest and useful ways handle such situations as whether or not to take the child to the funeral, or deciding when it’s time to seek professional help.

3. TALKING WITH YOUNG CHILDREN ABOUT DEATH BY FRED ROGERS

Talking with Young Children about Death is a brochure I received from a children’s grief therapist. As a long time fan of Mister Rogers, it is not surprising that I would turn to him to help me understand a child’s point of view while dealing with grief. “Children’s sensitivity to ‘vibes’ is extremely keen. At a time of sadness in a family there are so many facial cues, so many disrupted schedules, new people coming and going, lots of conversations to overhear, and a general aura that clearly states that something important is going on.” When you think about it that way, is it any wonder children act out? They know something is going on but no one will tell them in a way that they can understand. That must be incredibly frustrating and scary.

I’ve discovered that by turning to books for any occasion, even tragedy and dying, I can find what I need. Sometimes I find answers to questions, sometimes I find inspiration, sometimes I find a comforting poem or story. Talking with children about tragedy isn’t easy, but if you’re not sure where to begin, why not open a book?

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Books Children

Need to talk to kids about death? Try Life and I by Elisabeth Helland Larsen & Marine Schneider

Life and I by Elisabeth Helland Larsen & Marine Schneider

lifeandi_side_rgb

There’s something about talking to children about death that leaves even the strongest of parents stuttering, mumbling, or reaching for euphemisms. I’ve learned through experience that sometimes kids need the truth. Maybe a basic truth, but the truth. Some kids need a bit of a story to help them understand. If you’re in a situation in which  you have to speak to a little one about death and your little one needs a story to connect with but you don’t want to go the religious or anthropomorphous route of talking animals, Little Gestalten brings us an interesting view.

It’s called Life and I, A Story About Death. Death is depicted as an impish, waifish  watercolor little girl sort-of-being who talks about all the things that death is part of.

I pay visits to small animals with soft fur and to big animals with trunks or sharp teeth…

Death also discusses how she visits many people at one time, old and young. Death has to exist, the book says, in order for new babies to make their way in this world. The best part of the book is near the end when Death says that Love doesn’t die even when something  you love does.

There are some great bits in the book. Perhaps it will make discussing death easier with little ones. This is a keepsake book that would be nice if talked about every year on a grandmother’s birthday or something.

Talking with kids about death is difficult. I’ve had to do it myself many times. I hope more books become available that are as beautifully illustrated as Life and I.

How have you talked to your little ones about death?

 

 

Categories
Books Young Adult

What’s on My Radar: The Boy in the Black Suit by Jason Reynolds

The Boy in the Black Suit by Jason Reynolds

The Boy in the Black Suit by Jason Reynolds

 

Just when seventeen-year-old Matt thinks he can’t handle one more piece of terrible news, he meets a girl who’s dealt with a lot more—and who just might be able to clue him in on how to rise up when life keeps knocking him down—in this wry, gritty novel from the author of When I Was the Greatest.

Matt wears a black suit every day. No, not because his mom died—although she did, and it sucks. But he wears the suit for his gig at the local funeral home, which pays way better than the Cluck Bucket, and he needs the income since his dad can’t handle the bills (or anything, really) on his own. So while Dad’s snagging bottles of whiskey, Matt’s snagging fifteen bucks an hour. Not bad. But everything else? Not good. Then Matt meets Lovey. She’s got a crazy name, and she’s been through more crazy than he can imagine. Yet Lovey never cries. She’s tough. Really tough. Tough in the way Matt wishes he could be. Which is maybe why he’s drawn to her, and definitely why he can’t seem to shake her. Because there’s nothing more hopeful than finding a person who understands your loneliness—and who can maybe even help take it away.

 

Can’t wait to get my hands on this one!

Categories
Adult Fiction

Towne Book Center and Cafe Book Club Pick: Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson

Get additional 10% OFF the already discounted prices in the Outlet Section at iHomeAudio.com by using Coupon Code: OUTLET plus FREE shipping. This coupon is valid through August 31st.

This month’s pick is a book I enjoyed approximately a year ago.

Let’s Pretend this Never Happened by Jenny Lawson

Let's Pretend This Never Happened

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s my original post.

You know what though? When you’re facing a dire situation, sometimes it’s nice to have some comic relief. I haven’t laughed this hard at a silly life since David Sedaris. The two could be siblings their lives are so ridiculous. David’s might be partially his own fault, but Jenny’s is ridiculous mostly because of her strange father.  When you hear the tales of the ways Dad wakes her up in the middle of the night (no it’s not sordid or anything) it’s a wonder she can form a complete sentence!

Wait until you get to the part about the puppet. Then you’ll know what I’m talking about.

Did you read it? What did you think? Love it or Hate it?

 

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information

Stop All the Clocks…W.H. Auden’s Funeral Poem

Friends, Pammy Pam had a busy weekend. A beloved relative died and I traveled to my second hometown of Austin, Texas to celebrate her homegoing and her life. Depending on your spiritual beliefs, funerals can either be sad or happy.  My initial reaction upon hearing of my dear cousin’s passing was one of sadness.  I found this poem by W.H. Auden to describe my feelings well.

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,

Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come. 

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message He Is Dead,
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves. 

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last for ever: I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

 

You might be familiar with this poem from Four Weddings and a Funeral.  After the funeral services, however,  we participated in a balloon release to signify releasing our grief.

balloon release.jpg

 

It was a beautiful and moving end to an emotional weekend. What unique ways have you said goodbye to loved ones?

Categories
Adult Fiction Books

Towne Book Center Book Club December Pick: This is Where I leave You by Jonathan Tropper

There is something wrong with Jonathan Tropper.

 

this is where

There is something very wrong with Jonathan Tropper.  But I like it.

This month at Towne Book Center & Cafe we’re discussing This is Where I leave You by Tropper. This past year we’ve read two or more books about death, dying, and funerals, and I was spent.  So when it was time to read this, I was slightly peevish about its prospects.

Turns out I was freakishly incorrect.

To be sure, someone dies in the book, there’s a funeral, and there’s crying.  Aside from those aspects, this title is nothing, I repeat NOTHING like a typical burying a parent type of book.

Why?

Because there is something wrong with Jonathan Tropper.  Tropper is kind of the male Jewish Jenny Lawson type of person: if something can go freakishly awry, it will.  And you (the main character) won’t be the least bit surprised by it.

Where do I begin?

The main character’s father dies and all of the adult siblings must meet up to attend the funeral and all of the accompanying social situations that brings.  What you don’t expect is for Judd to be cuckolded and for everyone to know about it.  You don’t expect the presiding rabbi’s name to be Rabbi Boner.

Get where I’m going with this?

Yep. It gets CRAZIER.  But NO SPOILERS FOR YOU!!

I just found out that the movie version of this crazy (cray cray as my 16 yr old says) book comes out next September.

The irony of the situation on Planet Pam is that I read Jenny Lawson’s book, Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, on the train last winter to attend my father in law’s funeral.  I giggled the whole way through the book.  It lightened my spirits and I shared some of the wackier bits with my bereft husband during our quieter moments in the hotel.  It felt sacrilegious and slightly dirty.

That’s how I felt reading This is Where I Leave You: sacrilegious and slightly dirty.

There’s something wrong with Jonathan Tropper.

I love it.