If you were to look at my Amazon order history, you would see two books that have been bought over and over again.
I hate buying them.
I’ve tucked them into care baskets for mothers who have lost children. I’ve brought them into homes along with casseroles for the bereaved. I’ve shipped several copies across the country to bedsides and far too empty living rooms.
They’re my two favorite children’s books about death and grief.
Grief is hard. It’s complicated- intertwined with happy memories, confusion, hope, and emptiness all at the same time. I read somewhere that a person needs to tell their story at least twenty times to begin healing. But what if you’re a child, and you don’t have the words to tell it? What if the story is one you’ve never heard, and you don’t know what to say?
My favorite internet counselors/authors, David Thomas and Sissy Goff over at Daystar in Nashville, have spoken and written at length about the need to give children the gift of emotional vocabulary. You can’t think thoughts without first having the words to think them in. You can’t process without language. These books give can a child the gift of the vocabulary they may desperately need.
The first, Someone I Love Died, is one I leaned on when my own family experienced a traumatic loss when my oldest child was only five years old.
There are places for the child to write, draw pictures, and reflect on memories and feelings. It gives the child permission to feel whatever emotion they experience in the moment, and gives them the emotional vocabulary to name what they are feeling. The story begins in the Garden of Eden when God breathes the Breath of Life into man, and reaches to the hope of Heaven through Jesus, the Resurrection and the Life Himself. It’s my favorite “non-fiction” go-to for those children who want to know how something works, and is a beautiful synopsis of the hope we have in Christ, coupled with age-appropriate language on grief and processing.
For the story-hearted and metaphorical children among us, Voyage to the Star Kingdom is the dearest gift I can give. After all these years, I still cannot make it through this book without ugly-crying.
When a terrible storm descends upon a family, the Star King begins to send his people to surround the home with love and support. Soon His messengers arrive: luna moths to wrap them with warmth and fireflies to push back the darkness. The family rests in His comfort and provision, until at last the Star King sends a messenger to bring two of the children on a voyage to the Star Kingdom without the rest of the family. The family mourns the separation, but this hopeful refrain echoes throughout the book: “You will be together sooner than you think. The Star King is not bound by time.” The girls pass through a dark shadow, guided by an angelfish, who beckons them to call upon the King’s name, as it weakens the shadow even more. I won’t give away much more, but, spoiler alert, at the end, everything sad comes untrue. This book gives children a beautiful picture of the way the Lord loves so deeply, even through the shadow of death. With such a tender whimsy, it holds those broken places up to only light that can truly banish darkness away.
All too often, children who have experienced trauma are told not to talk about it. We’re afraid of upsetting others. We’re afraid of the child upsetting themself. Let them tell their stories. And if you need help, these books can give you the words you need.
Featured image by Freepik