Categories
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?

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.

 

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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.

Categories
Adult Fiction Clever Friends

Clever Heather reviews: The Divorce Girl by Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg

I’d like to preface this fabulous review by introducing Clever Reviewer Heather. She’s one of my local besties and a really awesome reviewer.  Check it out!

Stark, poignant, tumultuous – all words that describe The Divorce Girl by Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg. When I first glanced at the title I thought it represented a complete lack of creativity. But wait, before you cringe, I decided to give it a shot. After all, it is just a book. I can always shut it. I didn’t. I took it to the gym almost every morning, my only real downtime. The name is perfect. It sets the mood of this real to life story.

Many times throughout the pages I wondered if it was a real life story. We start in the young teenage life of a budding photographer, Deborah Shapiro, growing up in the unrest of a time when life wasn’t roses but everyone was searching for them. Her family in disarray, and ending in divorce, she resorts to seeing life through her camera lens. As a heartbreaking tale is spun, I find myself relating more with her mother than Deborah, the main character.

Deborah makes the choice to live with her father, choosing a life that leads to more heartache and pain than any kid should have to grow up in. She becomes a pawn in her father’s twisted game of life. Working a flea market, being along for the ride while immigration chases them, helping juvenile delinquents escape, she lives an excitingly dull life. Caught in lies of her father’s making, and feeling invisible to those around her, she sees no value in her life. This child woman is forced to run a house for her father, self-alienated from her mother. Her only outlet is photography class, and temple youth meetings, complete with a radical rabbi.

Finally, as we near the end of the book, she sees hope. She has a boyfriend who loves her. She has a plan to fast track her way to college – the chance to get out, to live her dreams, and take care of herself if her father signs his permission.

Will she ever see her mother loved her all along? Will she break free of the life her father has kept her prisoner to? Is her boyfriend really going to love her forever? Will she go to college or stay, stuck in her small town, an invisible person?

The last paragraph of the acknowledgements leaves you wondering just how much of this heart wrenching story is real.

I give this book 3 paws.

Unconventional Librarian 3 paws

 

So…whaddya think? Clever Heather is awesome, huh??? Here’s a little bit about Clever Heather:

In a normal week you can find Heather blogging about life at Real: The Kitchen and Beyond.

Growing up as the oldest of 7, and now being a wife and mother, homeschooling mama with a part time job and writing for two blogs, reading is her escape.

Her absolute favorite series of all time is Adventures in Narnia. About the only books she doesn’t devour are paranormal, sci fi, and self help books, although she has made exceptions in even those categories.

 

I love how Heather will make exceptions to her reading categories; isn’t that what the joy of reading is all about, finding something new??

So…go show Clever Heather some love on her food blog.  But DON’T lick the screen.  I’m just sayin…

Don’t forget to follow Heather on Twitter @heatherlm4 Tell her PammyPam sent ya!

Did I mention the author is the POET LAUREATE of Kansas?? How cool is that???

 

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