These Widow's Shoes

Reading with Sas about death

3 Comments

Not long after Ben died I started searching around online for books for children about death and bereavement. I found a few books that I ordered but nothing was quite right. For a long time I didn’t bother with any more, but recently, after conversations with friends who are keen to know what’s out there for them and their children (as they’re kind of in this with me – they need to answer their two or three year old’s questions about where Saskia’s Daddy is), I decided to do a bit more research and get hold of some more.

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I now have quite a stash (rundown of these to follow in my next post). Of course, as curious as I am to see what Saskia makes of them, it’s not right to inundate her. With reading, as with our conversations, I want to draw on the books in response to what she says and what’s going on in our lives, rather than force the topic on her. I actually see them more as a resource than anything – books to introduce when the need arises and pages to refer to for ideas about how to explain a certain thing. After all, unlike most books for children of her age, there’s inevitably a lot of sadness in them – why dwell on this if she’s ok and happy?

This is a bit of dilemma for me with one particular aspect of the books: the fact that most of them are told from the point of view of characters (some are animals, some are young children) who are grieving: suffering sadness, guilt, fear, anger. Saskia is happy – her very young age when Ben died (only 16 months) and the fact that he didn’t disappear suddenly, but slipped gradually from her life due to his illness – means that she hasn’t as yet suffered the typical feelings associated with grief.

So to an extent I’m concerned that these stories might give her the impression that she should be feeling sad, that this is the normal or right way for a child to feel. On the other I think, well if she ever did begin to feel feelings of grief, at least through reading the books we would have opened up doors for talking about it.

As usual, I’m probably over thinking and common sense is all that’s needed. I certainly won’t force the books down her throat, but I won’t hide them away either. They’ll be on the book shelf with all the others, and if she wants to read one then great, and I guess we can talk about the feelings that the characters are going through and chat about what she feels or doesn’t feel. It’s me that goes through all the angst about this after all – she tends to just proclaim ‘Next! or ‘Again!’ without a slither of apparent emotion!

I’ll write more in my next post about the books we’ve got and which ones I recommend.

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3 thoughts on “Reading with Sas about death

  1. I know my experience of being a single parent arose from non-comparable reasons with your’s, but, looking back at the questions I faced, I think Saskia will take the ‘lead’ with this, asking questions, when you least expect them, and probably over the next few years…. Don’t worry too much, Sally. It sounds as if you’re doing a great job, bringing up a little girl who is well-adjusted, lively and happy. Added to this, you appear to have a large circle of supportive friends, as well as your loving and caring parents and David, plus Ben’s family, who will be with you both every step of the way.

    • Thanks Jenny. It’s interesting that our situation reminds you of yours when Daniel was growing up – I hadn’t thought of it from that point of view. Of course you’re dead right about Saskia taking the lead, and that is what I tend to do – I just love a bit of research, book-buying and over-thinking. Can’t help myself! XX

  2. Pingback: ‘When Dinosaurs Die’ and other tales: Eight children’s books about death and bereavement | These Widow's Shoes

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