By senior year in high school one in twenty children will experience the death of a parent, according to author Judy Strong. Many more will lose grandparents. Children who do not suffer the loss of a loved one personally are likely at some time to have a friend who is grieving. This is why, Strong argues, it is important to educate all children about death and grieving.
Ours is a culture that avoids talking about death. Lacking any model, children are unable to express their feelings after the loss of a parent. Strong argues that talking about the loss is a crucial part of moving through the grieving process. Children must feel safe and comfortable in order to share their feelings. A Child's Grief begins this conversation.
Strong writes that to avoid grieving is to “not say goodbye. The final expression of love and need toward the deceased never takes place. There is no letting go, and the griever remains suspended in irresolution, unable or unwilling to acknowledge that the dead person is gone forever.”
In her book, A Child's Grief, Judy Strong hopes to convince the reader that it is important to let children grieve. Children know that others are uncomfortable with their sadness and learn to put on a happy face. This may lead adults to believe that the grieving child has moved on when, in fact, the child is still dealing with a lot of emotion.
Strong urges adults to allow children to express their sadness while helping readers understand the feelings grieving children might have at different ages. Using vignettes, some fictional, and some based on the experience of her own children, Strong describes the experience of losing a parent through a child's eyes. She also discusses some of the practical difficulties of becoming a single parent and their impact on children.
Though Strong hopes that adults will educate children about death and grieving before they actually lose a family member, this book would be very accessible to a parent who is grieving the loss of his or her partner. It is gentle, encouraging, and easy to follow. The length would be just right for someone who is seeking guidance but is also overwhelmed with managing day-to-day tasks after suddenly becoming a single parent.
Strong feels that people who lose a parent in childhood will grieve for the rest of their lives, but A Child's Grief is still an optimistic book. Grieving, Strong says, is an expression of love. She believes that children, if given a chance to grieve properly, can live happy lives and have healthy relationships. They are likely to become more sensitive to the pain of others and to instinctively recognize when others need someone who will listen.
Though Strong is realistic about the hardships that a grieving family will face throughout the process, her vignettes take us through each stage of grieving to its successful resolution. Rather than a list of pitfalls to avoid, it is a model of healthy grieving from which parents can draw inspiration. Strong is hopeful that we can help children internalize this model before they lose a loved one. Children educated about death will become better at listening to and comforting their friends and will be better prepared when, either as children or adults, they need to say goodbye to a parent.
Quill says: A gentle, optimistic book about the resolution that is possible when we lead children through the grieving process.
For more information on A Child's Grief, please visit the book's website at: AChildsGrief.com