Talking about loss
How do we tell little people about loss? How do we convey our longing for those who’ve passed on, in a way that makes children feel uplifted rather than scared?
This is something I struggle with sometimes. I lost my dad when I was 6 and, while I’d love to tell my daughter about him, I don’t remember any details. Not his voice, his personality or his eccentricities. (I’m aware that this total mental block may be residual childhood trauma, but that’s another discussion for another time.)
Bottom line? I can’t share any Grandpa specifics with her, and yet I want her to know a) about him and b) that life doesn’t always give us endless time with those we love.
An artist/writer/counsellor friend of mine (yes, that’s a disclaimer) recently illustrated and wrote a beautiful tribute to her father, dedicated to her little daughter, and it’s become a magnificent children’s book that I’m thrilled to review for you today.
The actual review
Titled Wish You Were Here – a book about missing someone, Andy Cohen’s story begins with a pregnant lady awaiting her baby and yet missing her late dad.
In a dream, she talks to him about things she wishes he could share with his grandchild.
He comforts her, explaining that his gifts will reach her little one as an inheritance that comes from their shared family essence:
‘Humour, insight and a nature kind. Health and beauty and a curious mind. / Knowledge, courage and an imagination. An exceptional life, with no limitation. / Warmth and strength and talents, too. A long, full life with her dad and you.’
These are far greater than any toy or game, he says.
And far greater than any words I can write are the illustrations in this book. Seriously – I don’t have the vocabulary to express the level of detail, personality, whimsy and sheer prettiness on these pages, which constitute the heartfelt art of a real talent.
A couple of details
This gorgeous book is ideal for all ages: littlies who are still having stories read to them, primary schoolers who are beginning to read for themselves, and pre-teens who are dealing with issues of loss. It also features a page of therapeutic advice and helpful projects to assist children in talking about and processing bereavement.
About the author
Andy Cohen, the author, is an artist and counsellor, currently completing her Masters Degree in Fine Art and investigating the therapeutic application of art in everyday life.
“We never get over losing someone. The nature of grief is that we revisit that loss at different times in our lives, in new roles and from fresh perspectives. [With this book], I decided to help my child get to know my father through my memories. This has helped me process my grief and introduced my daughter to her late Grampa. Somewhere in all of that, she will be eased into understanding how life works. My wish for this book is that it helps families, caregivers, teachers and mental health practitioners to address loss with children in constructive, proactive and loving ways.”
This article was originally written for Jozikids by Tiffany Markman in 2015.
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