PREECEVILLE - Carla Mitchell, originally from the Preeceville area has a new children’s book out.
The book; ‘I Am Here For You: A Story to Support Your Grieving Child Through Death From Suicide’ has been self-published under the business name Puddle Jumper Publishing.
The story is available in three pronoun options to discuss the person who died: he/she/they.
“The story is designed to open a conversation between a grieving child and their caring adult; parent, other family member, teacher, counsellor, etc.,” explained Mitchell who now lives in Brandon.
“The story uses nature elements and child friendly rhymes to guide a direct, concrete and supportive conversation about death from suicide and feelings of grief.”
For the story Mitchell relies on her training to help create a helpful book including a Children's Grief Certificate through Andrea Warnick Consulting.
“I am a social worker and end of life doula,” she explained. “In my clinical practice I specialize in providing bereavement support services to individuals and families through resource navigation and programming.”
“The story is based on the five Cs of children's grief and provides a framework for the reader to address the five most common concerns of grieving children: Did I cause it? Can I catch it? Can I cure it? Who will care for me? How will I stay connected?
“The story includes information about children's grief, suggestions to support a grieving child, resources for caring adults to link into and a place for the child to capture their favourite memories/photos.”
The books are appropriate for children 4-12, this is the age groups where children need help understanding what death is, that it is permanent, that they did not cause it to happen.
While not being formally trained as a writer, Mitchell said it has always been an interest.
“As a youth, I participated in the Saskatchewan Writer Guild Teen Writing Experience. I have always enjoyed creative writing and public speaking,” she said.
With that interest Mitchell said she felt the book was one she had to tackle.
“It is very difficult to talk about death with children,” she said.
“As adults we want to protect kids from hard things and try to shield them from death.
“But, one-in-14 children will experience the death of a parent or sibling before the age of 18 -- not including grandparents, other family members, friends, neighbors, pets, etc. -- so it is a reality that many parents must face.
“In our society, we try hard to avoid talking about death and like to use a lot of euphuisms ‘he went to sleep’, ‘we lost him’, etc. For kids this can be incredibly confusing and they often do not get the information they need to help them process death. When kids clearly understand what happened, that death is permanent and that their feelings are normal; they are better able to move forward with their grief experience. The books help bring a shared language to the child and their caring adult, allowing them to have conversations about their experience and feelings.”
Asked about the book, Mitchell said it is hoped to be only the first of a series she has planned.
“This story is the first in a collection of storybooks coming to the Puddle Jumper Publishing collection,” she said. “Future topics will include: death from substance use, death from natural causes, death from stillbirth and death from medical assistance in dying.
“I was inspired to write these stories when we experienced a death in my own family and I needed to inform my young children what happened. I looked for a children's book that would address death in concrete, direct, yet child friendly terms and I couldn't find anything. So I set out to write my own.
“I am very passionate about increasing death literacy -- the language skills to allow people to talk about and engage with death and grief -- so storybooks seems like a natural progression.”
In spite of what might be seen as a difficult topic, Mitchell said the story actually came together quite smoothly.
“I really enjoy writing and creating,” she said. “The pictures in the book are real life things, made from trees, stickers, playdough, etc. Things that kids know, recognize and can engage with -- my own children helped in the creating process! I felt this was important because the purpose of the books is to be real and concrete, so this theme is present in the words and the pictures.
“The writing is playful and fun, but also based on grief theory and best practice approaches.
“The content was reviewed by grief experts in the field as well as real families who have been in the position of explaining death from suicide to a child. This peer review process is very important to me when I am designing the books.”
So, what was the most challenging aspect of the project?
“Finding the balance between being direct and honest, but also child-friendly and approachable,” said Mitchell. “Death from suicide is a difficult topic and it important to write in a way that honours the truth, but does not make assumptions about what happened.
“The story defines what suicidal thoughts are and death from suicide is -- suicide is when someone causes their own body to stop working -- it is up to the caring adult to flush out the details.
“There are prompts and guidance within the story to help the reader along with that.
“Having families review and critique the content was very helpful in achieving this balance.
“The best aspect of the book is having a tangible tool that can be used to open up these difficult conversations between a grieving child and their caring adult. The book is really saying to the child that you will be included, your feelings matter and we can talk about this together. It can be so hard to find the words to start this conversation, books are a beautiful way to connect.”
The books are written in first person so that the reader can guide the conversation, for example: the opening lines ‘A sad thing has happened, come sit by my side, when you want to talk, about your person who died. The reader can sub out the words ‘your person’ for the deceased persons name or title. The books are designed to be read by someone without specific grief training, such as parents, other family members teachers, counsellors, etc. - inside of the books they will find a reader’s guide, conversational prompts on each page and a listing of resources where they can learn more about kid’s grief.
Mitchell said she has had many requests for future topic, including death from natural causes and death from substance use.
“I am presently working on these two titles as the next books in the collection,” she said.
The books are currently available for world-wide distribution on Amazon or by visiting www.puddlejumperpublishing.com A donation from each story will go towards support children's grief programs.