Children’s Grief Awareness Week: Grief Pulls People Together

Children's Grief Awareness

The arrival of Children’s Grief Awareness Week sees author Emmi Smid reflect on some memorable feedback to her ambitious book – Luna’s Red Hat. The beautiful book helps children cope with loss and suicide, and here Emmi shares some of the insights gained from creating and sharing the book with the world.

A few months after Luna’s Red Hat had been published, I received a letter in the post, which included a booklet made out of several A4 sheets of paper, stapled together. The cover of the booklet showed an interpretation of the cover of Luna’s Red Hat, drawn with colour pencils and way more colourful and playful than my own version. I was very intrigued. I opened the booklet and found more copies of drawings from the book. They were drawings from a child, I could see that, but I found it hard to guess their age, as they were really good. I remember being very touched at this stage. To think that someone had spent time observing my drawings and copying them so precisely – very sweet!Children's Grief Awareness

On the next page in the booklet I found a letter. It turned out that I wasn’t looking at one artist’s work, but at two! The letter was written by two girls whose words touched me deeply. I decided to contact their teacher assistant, Sharon Wills, who had sent me the booklet on behalf of her students, to ask about the girls’ inspiration to write to me, and how old they were. What she told me made my heart melt even more. The girls were both 11 at the time, and they were trying to support their friend, whose mother was dying from cancer.

Children's Grief AwarenessWhen I sat in my bedroom behind my little desk three years ago, writing a picture book about loss and suicide, I did not know what reactions I was going to receive, if any at all. I knew that my heart was in it, and that I had good intentions, but it was that letter from these lovely girls that made me realise that what I had made was making an actual impact. I suppose one does what feels right and needed, but to receive affirmation in the shape of such a loving, colourful letter, from such a young audience, made me cry then, and it makes me cry as I am writing this now. They may not realise it, but in turn these girls have been a big inspiration to me continuing to work on picture books about topics that I feel strongly about, because my gut tells me that this is something that I can add to the world to encourage compassion between people. So Eleanor and Chloe, if you happen to read this: Mrs Wills tells me you are very loving, supportive friends. I don’t know you, but you are very inspiring, and you should know that. Thank you!

With regards to serious illnesses, I would like to mention a book title I had the honour to translate to English this summer: Big Tree is Sick. It is written by Nathalie Slosse and illustrated by Rocio Del Moral. The story guides children and parents through dealing with serious illnesses such as cancer, in such a loving, gentle way, that I feel like I need to share this book with everyone who is going through something similar. It has a guide at the back packed with beautiful ideas to support the grieving process, such as a grievance box and other craft projects to work on together. A very heart warming book!

To conclude, I think that, despite the fact that grief hurts, it is important to remember that it also pulls people together, and there is a lot of beauty and strength in that.

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