Talking to Children About Death -- What I've Been Reading
By Melinda Gustafson Gervasi
January 8, 2021
Grief during the current pandemic is unlike anything most of us have experienced during our lifetimes. Gathering, hugs, sharing a meal are not recommended. Instead Zoom Memorial Services or limited attendance at the grave site puts a twist on our grieving process. In the middle of it all, we are raising children. Inevitably the adults will need to talk about death and dying. This past year I was introduced to two different illustrated children's books that may smooth the path for discussing the path of a loved one with young children.
Badger's Parting Gifts by Susan Varley was introduced to me by the Rev. Kelly Crocker of the First Unitarian Society of Madison last Memorial Day weekend. Discussing death with children is never an easy duty, but it will be with us forever. In Badger's Parting Gifts the readers meet Badger, who is quite old, tired, and ready to go down the "long tunnel". After his passing, the woodland friends he left behind found comfort in the memories each had from an experience gift Badger had gave them during his life: how to tie a tie; how to bake gingerbread cookies; and how to ice skate. Badger's Parting Gifts also has a message for the adult reader -- the shared experiences you leave behind with young people will remain alive after your earthly presence has ended. The book is simple, straightforward, and secular.
More recently, I received an email from a northern Wisconsin librarian who suggested I read Home in the Woods by Eliza Wheeler. It is now part of our home library collection. Home in the Woods gives voice to a young child during the Great Depression who moves to a shack in the north woods of Wisconsin following her father's death. Based on a true story, the book is structured by the four seasons. With each passing season the child grows and heals from new experiences and the earth's renewal. This book may be helpful for a child who has experienced the death of a parent and subsequent changes in their life. I would have liked to see 2 or 3 more statements connecting the natural renewal depicted to the child's grief process. An added bonus to this book is the glimpse it offers into life during the Great Depression.
|One of my "to-read" stacks of books.|
M. Gustafson Gervasi, 2021