Grief is a complex process for adults to go through, and even more so for children . . . and being an adult trying to teach children about how to handle their grief? Well, most of us don't even know where to begin. For me, this is when I turn to books.
Angela Campagnoni is a local writer and blogger (among many other things!). Last year she published her first picture book to help children deal with grief. It is called I Want To See My Papa.
At the time I wrote an article for Atlantic Books Today with some reading extension activities that families can do together. They're connected to this book so after reading it with your child, the activities provide a natural way to continue the process of healing.
The one-year anniversary of the book's publication prompted me to do a Q&A with Angela about her inspiration behind the book. I was also delighted to discover that this book is the first in a series with Little Bear and the second book is already in the works.
What was your inspiration for writing this book?
Like so many people who have gone through loss, we carry with us a lot of stored sad energy. For me I had 18 years’ worth of sadness over the loss of my Dad and I decided to take a new approach to put that energy to a new use. Something that would be a legacy to my father instead of something that felt helpless. I also know I wanted to somehow include the Children’s Wish Foundation as they are an organisation close to my family’s heart after the loss of my husband’s niece who was a wish child. With that in mind I originally started out to have a story published that my father had written, something I still plan to do, however one night while I was sleeping I literally woke up and grabbed my phone and dictated the original draft of this book into it. When I finished, I said out loud, “That’s it, that’s how I will honour my dad. I will help other children with their loss” and I never looked back… and with each book sold a dollar will go to the Children’s Wish Foundation.
What did you learn about how children process grief while writing this book?
As a parent to three girls I know that every person has their own personality, so dealing with grief and loss is a very individual experience. What I try to most be aware of is what I do to respond to the loss. It is how we deal with it that will put children on the path to how they will deal with things throughout their life. I look at my mother’s generation for example. She doesn’t talk about it as openly, because it was never talked about to them as children. As a parent now I think it's important to know that loss to a child is not just death, it could be a three year little child crying over the balloon that just flew away, they are sad and crying and how we deal with it in that moment is important, if we rush out to replace it, then they deal with loss as something to be replaced, but if we talk more openly about how they feel in the moment and the fun that they had with it or the joy that it brought it can let the child know their feelings are being heard and validated.
How do you think your book can help in the grieving process?
I have had so many parents tell me that they didn’t know how to start the conversations with their little ones and that really is what this book is for; a tool to help parents open up the conversation. They can read about Little Bear's process and talk to their kids about what they think and just have our little ones know that it is okay to be sad and that it is okay to share their feelings. The big part that is important to know about this book is that I did not use any form of religion within the book as I wanted this book to be inclusive for anyone’s spiritual or non-spiritual beliefs to benefit. It truly is about the love and memories we carry in our heart.
How has the publication of this book impacted your life?
One thing that has happened to me since this book has been written that I never really thought about was the impact of those that have reached out to me after getting this book and sharing their stories of loss and grief. To have people share with me what they have been going through has been so humbling and rewarding. I have had families of fallen soldiers, mothers who have lost their babies, families that have lost parents and grandparent . . . I once would have thought that I would not have been able to handle those stories. But now I see it as such a blessing, because people are talking about it, talking about their losses, and that is truly the path to healing.
I am also now working with a 300 year old family owned bereavement company in the UK that has just brought in their first 500 copies of the book to share with children going through the grief process. It is now available all over the world through Amazon’s various international channels. Knowing this is touching children across the globe is very surreal and heart-warming.
So , I encourage those that want to reach out to me to share their stories to message me through my Author page on Facebook as I read them all and respond to all of the letters myself as I get through them.