by Lory Britain, Ph.D.
How do you talk to very young children about death? How do you reassure them that the pain of grief is normal? How do you show them–and their parents–ways to work through the grieving process?
These are the questions that Lory Britain wanted to answer when she began My Grandma Died: A Child's Story about Grief and Loss, just published by Parenting Press ($7.95, Seattle, ParentingPress.com, (800) 992-6657).
From almost a decade directing therapeutic early childhood and family support programs and years of earlier work in early childhood education, Dr. Britain knew that few books had been written for the preschool audience on death and grieving. The children's books that do discuss death are often developmentally inappropriate for the very young: they assume more advanced cognitive and emotional levels, they present too many different concepts or they present more complex concepts than the very young can understand. Some of the existing books are based on religious beliefs or try to explain life after death.
No stranger to difficult issues, Dr. Britain wrote her first book on sexual abuse during her very first teaching job, when her own children were very young.
"I attended a presentation by Janie Hart-Rossi (the late author of Parenting Press's Protect Your Child from Sexual Abuse: A Parent's Guide) on talking to your children about abuse and heard many of the other participants say they didn't know where to start."
That, prompted by a look at the only books then available on the topic, spurred Dr. Britain into writing.
"I wanted parents and kids to have something that wasn't shame-based, that addressed the issue in a bias-free manner."
It's MY Body (written as Lory Freeman) was an instant success and, two decades after its initial publication, continues to be popular. It sells as many copies in a year as many books sell in their lifetime, reports the Parenting Press staff. Dr. Britain's other book for children on personal safety, Loving Touches, is also a classic. Both are written from the perspective of a young child talking about physical touch.
By contrast, Dr. Britain drew on her family tradition of story-telling for My Grandma Died. Told in a child's voice like her other books, this is a story about how much a recently bereaved family misses the child's grandmother. The gentle fiction is based on Dr. Britain's own experience as a story-teller–from as early as her first job as a Monroe, Wash., co-op preschool teacher, and on the many stories told by her father when Dr. Britain was growing up.
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