This book addresses death and grief from a child’s perspective. It is unique in that it has been co-authored by a twelve year old ‘expert’ and a professional counselor in the field of death and grief. The text suggests unique and effective ways to handle the crisis that death can bring by focusing on developing a process of remembering. It does not rely on the usual clichés of grief counseling. Instead, it offers a life-affirming approach that assists children to navigate through challenging times when a loved one dies.
My Grandmother is Always With Me is intended for children aged six to twelve with ages seven, eight and nine being the optimal age group. The book is a guide for children in this age range, but is also useful as a resource for parents and adults who are supporting children who have experienced the death of a loved one. It is a story of a child remembering a loved one who has died. Although it is specific to one child’s story of her grandmother whom she never met, the text and illustrations offer constructive suggestions for many other children to step into the process of remembering a loved one who has died. The book is also intended to be a stimulus for parents to initiate helpful conversations with their children about their grandparents, or others, who are dying or have died. Such conversations are often sensitive ones that parents struggle to know how to initiate. This book gives them an easy way to do so through the medium of story.
The Concept of My Grandmother is Always With Me:
Even though this book is written for children, there is an implicit critical edge to the words and the illustrations. The text embodies some practices that challenge dominant assumptions in grief theory and render them, in many cases, largely redundant. Typical daily conversations that parents and adults engage in with children about death can limit a child’s meaning about death and bereavement. Conversations that might encourage a child to feel sad or say good bye to a dying loved one, for example, might even stunt the growth of a child’s understanding of the multiple layers of meaning that death can bring. These conversations can, we believe, take a different course if we approach them from a storied sense. This children’s book will highlight the benefits of this approach in a way that children and adults who read the book can access easily. The text is accompanied by beautiful collages to highlight how remembering practices can have a strong impact in people’s lives by easing people’s passage through times of transition that death brings.
My Grandmother is Always With Me is about the importance of maintaining relationship with a person after they have died through remembering. The book is intended to complement the professional literature and act as a conduit for lay people to benefit from new ideas that have recently been developed in the grief counseling field. . This book is not, however, about any old idea of remembering. It is not, for example, about reminiscing. Rather, it is about the deliberate re-construction of ongoing ‘membership’. Even after death, a deceased person’s membership in a child’s life can be “re-membered” in ways that children find comforting and sustaining. Current dominant psychological and medical ideas about death, dying and grief can be argued to emphasize and even prolong suffering. They appear to create perplexing, and potentially harmful, positions for a child attempting to make sense out of death. The stress on speaking about sadness leaves children to often wallow in an emotional quagmire much longer than is necessary. The text of My Grandmother is Always With Me offers new opportunity for parents and children to effectively create ways of interacting without placing undue emphasis on feelings of sadness following the death of a loved one. The focus on remembering opens up opportuni
Lorraine Hedtke has worked with death and bereavement since 1986 and has taught her unique approach in the USA, New Zealand, England and Australia. Her writing has appeared in numerous professional journals and she is the co-author, along with John Winslade, of Re-membering Lives: Conversations with The Dying and The Bereaved (2004, Baywood Publishing). Addison Yost, Lorraine’s daughter, is an enthusiastic twelve year old and loves music, art and animals. Working under Annette’s tutelage, Addison assisted Annette to create some of the collages. Annette Olson’s beautiful work, Just Jugs, recently won the 2005 The Mountain Artists Guild poster contest.