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Missing Paul

Broken Heart PlateIt had only been a month since my two year old brother Paul had died as I padded down the stairs for my daily evening cry in my parents arms. Paul and I were best buddies. Since I was the big girl of the family, a fourth grader, I was often given the responsibility of watching him. We would hang out on my parent’s bed. Paul would giggle in hysterics as I bounced the bed below him. Paul was born with disabilities. He was two years and hadn’t learned how to sit up. Often he would have seizures that frightened me and my siblings. Having four germy older brothers and sisters would unfortunately cause the pneumonia that took his life.

When I reflect on those days and my reaction to Paul’s death, I have such compassion for my parents. They were dealing with their own grief, but they were constantly barraged by mine. I swear it was months that I would make my trek downstairs to sob. I don’t believe there is an antidote for someone’s grief no matter what age, but the Children’s Department has many books that may help parents and children cope with its ravages. There are titles that address the process of funerals and cremation. What Happened to Daddy’s Body by Elke and Alex Barber explains what happens to the physical body after death. A Place in My Heart by Annette Aubrey helps children to learn how to hold onto a loved one’s memories. Something Very Sad Happened: A Toddler’s Guide to Understanding Death by Bonnie Zucker provides parents of younger children assistant in explaining this life change. Children often face the death of a pet before a family member. Titles like Good Bye Jeeper:What to Expect When Your Pet Dies by Nancy Loewen are a good choice. There are many fictional picture books that present ways for children to work through grief. Jim’s Dog Muffins by Miriam Cohen and Cat Heaven by Cynthia Rylant tackle this issue in a meaningful manner.

Dealing with difficult issues through books is called bibliotherapy. Having the ability to read to a child about death provides parents with the opportunity to separate from their own grief in order to further explain and acknowledge the child’s experience. We are all have to cope with grief whether an adult or child and the library provide Please do not hesitate to ask a librarian to help you wade through a difficult time.

Jean Todesca is the Head of Youth Services at the Morrill Memorial Library in Norwood, Massachusetts.  Read Jean’s article in the January 19, 2017 issue of the Norwood Transcript and Bulletin.


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