By Megan Lord
ABOUT THE COLUMNIST
I am the mother of an adventurous and exhausting but amazing toddler boy that runs my life. I spend a ridiculous amount of time reading mind numbing children’s books over and over again because he has his select favorites… But when I do get time to read (or listen) I love reading and listening to a variety of genres. I get the most time to indulge in books of my choice during what I like to call “wind-down baths” once a week.
I know this issue is focused on Global Authors and Books – but I’m going to get a little more personal with you readers this time around – death/loss.
A very good friend of mine lost their 6-year-old son early July of this year. It was unexpected with a 4 day stay in the hospital in a medically induced coma before the ultimate heartbreak. By day 2, my friend was at a loss for words. She wanted to keep talking to him, but she didn’t know what else to say. So, she asked me to bring some books to the hospital that she could read to him. Knowing I have a 4-year-old son with similar interests, she knew I would be able to send some of my son’s books on topics like dinosaurs and science. Choosing the books was so hard knowing the circumstance but sharing books with them was the least we could do. I was happy to be able to do just anything to help. When you can’t find words but need to fill silence – read.
My family has experienced a lot of loss in the past 3 years – meaning my son had experienced it all with us. We lost my grandfather, a huge part of mine and therefor my sons’ life, late 2018. During the unforgettable year of 2020, we lost our family cat, Donald Driver, my son’s favorite animal in the entire world, very unexpectedly. We lost my grandmother that summer, and then we lost a close cousin, again very unexpectedly, that fall. We followed this rough year with one of the hardest losses of them all, young, sweet Finley, in 2021.
In order to help my son process and understand the loss of my grandpa whom he was very close with – we purchased a book called “Something Very Sad Happened: A Toddler’s Guide to Understanding Death” by Bonnie Zucker. When we purchased the book, we had no idea how often it would be read and how important it would become as a tool to get through the hard questions and days to come. The book had the words we didn’t. It was able to explain the parts that hurt too bad to try to explain on our own. We were still processing grief ourselves each time – but we knew it wasn’t fair to try to shelter and no answer the questions a smart, inquisitive, perceptive little boy had. He was learning about death and loss so much earlier then we ever wanted him to, but he needed to understand what it meant. And this book was able to navigate us through those trenches with him.
During the mid 3’s (I like to call it my son’s three-nager stage), we got the book “I Am Stronger Than Anger” by Elizabeth Cole for our son. This book helped us open the conversation about processing emotions and dealing with tantrums. I’d be lying if I said it was a miracle cure for the mood swings – but it helped him understand when he was starting to feel mad. He would take deep breaths and say “I am Stronger than Anger” sometimes when he would feel himself building up to a meltdown. While the emotions of our now 4 year old seem to be overpowering that now, at least we know he understands the feeling and the concept of choosing how he reacts, even if how he chooses to react isn’t always the calmest.
All in all, the point I’m trying to make is life gets hard sometimes, and when it does it can be very difficult to find the right words for the littles in your life. Books can help fill that void. Books can help navigate conversations and emotions and direct healthy processes. There are books for kids for nearly any subject, any circumstance, any event you may have a hard time with otherwise. Let books be your parental resource through the trenches. Let them be the masterpiece they are when you can’t find the words to say in the dark.
Article originally published in the October / November 2021 Issue: Read Global.