When one grows older, one experiences grief in many ways, at many times, for many people and pets. It never gets easier. Children don’t have as much familiarity with severe illness, death, or mourning. They have questions and aren’t sure how to ask. When the adults in their lives are sad, it’s hard for them. This week, I’m recommending two books that will help adults and children find paths into discussions about this part of life, Sitting Shiva and Walking Grandma Home.
In Sitting Shiva, we observe the mourning of a Jewish household. Steeped in centuries of tradition, this young girl and her father show us their grief for their mother and wife. Neither of them wants to invite people into their home.
“He covered all the mirrors.
“He won’t shave for a month. It helps him think about how he feels instead of how he looks. Already his cheeks are scratchy, like sand.”
A yahrzeit candle is lit to observe the passing of a life. It will eventually go out on its own.
Sitting shiva is a seven-day period of mourning. It is traditional for people to come and sit with the family, bringing food and hugs and remembrances.
There is crying. Tears help. Blankets of comfort help. The tears in this book won’t be the only tears shed.
In her author’s note, Erin Silver concludes, “What every faith has in common is the idea of community. When someone dies, people bring food, they talk, they gather. People have a need to care for each other, and the mourning process gives people that chance to share.”
Although the traditions in your own family may be different, it is the coming together that honors the passage of a loved one and begins the healing.
Walking Grandma Home is a cleansing read. As many of you know, once you’ve felt deep grief, it lives on inside you. Once in a while, reading a book like this helps you look at the pain and come to terms with it.
The book was written by Nancy Bo Flood, who worked as a child psychologist and counselor. On her website, she shares a letter to her readers that describes her own childhood experience of grief. She was seven when her five-year-old sister died in an accident. So many children experience loss of some kind. This book is ideal for reading together and looking at the myriad of questions.
In this book, Lee’s grandma tells him, “I’m going away soon, going home.” Lee doesn’t understand because, of course, Grandma is home.
Lee’s large family gathers. They share their remembrances. They share food. They comfort each other. And the adults do their best to answer the children’s questions.
The author includes an information page at the end of the book enumerating ways to talk with children about grief as well as activities you can do individually or together to honor your loved one’s memory.
It’s a lovely book, practical, but ethereal. Ellen Shi’s illustrations are graced by a flowering meadow throughout … it’s peaceful, calming, and hopeful. Her color palette is soothing. The friendly, diverse family members, and the cat, all add to the sense of comfort.