Helping kids process when they or someone they love is terminally ill and dying
Quick Things You Need To Know:
- These are good books to know about so you can plan ahead when someone in your kid’s life has a terminal illness.
- These are meant to be read while the person who is ill is still alive.
- I’ve been screening and collecting books like this in the event that someone they love (or heaven forbid, they themselves) are in a situation where they need to process the emotions that come with saying goodbye to someone during a terminal illness.
- My partner’s mother was just diagnosed with a massive, inoperable brain tumor. So I guess now is the time to collect these books and handle this in real-time.
- No idea if these help or not, but it’s worth a try to prepare them for this and let them know they’re not alone.
- ::Deep breath::
Quick & Messy Book List:
When someone we love is terminally ill
- Zayde Comes to live – (Sinykin) “Zayde comes to live with us. It’s because he is dying.” Focuses on how dying is not the same as being dead – to be present in the moment right now. girl wants to know where her grandfather will go when he dies, in that weird liminal space when we are consciously waiting for death. Addresses different perspectives on post-death experience depending on personal faith, “Megan says Zayde will go to Heaven, a happy city in the clouds wiht pearly gates and diamond streets and more light than we can imagine. First Zayde must believe in Jesus, but we do not. Hakim says Zayde will go to Paradise, where milk-and-honey rivers flow in gardens of pomegranates and dates. First, he must believe in Allah, but we do not. That’s because we are Jewish.” / “Is Zayde dying?” I ask him, because rabbis do not lie. ‘He is living, Rachel, until the moment he dies.’”/ “He’ll take one last breath,’ Rabbi Lev says, ‘ Then his energy will live on with your ancestors in the World to Come — what we call Olam Ha-Ba.” talks about what will happen to the outside part of him (return to the earth) and the inside part of him (live on, his love will stay and so will her memories). This is helpful for us even as agnostics. Does not end with his death, but them breathing in and out together, which is perfect. be here now, being present, mindfulness. grandparents, elders, interfaith families.
- Help me say goodbye (Silverman) – This one is an art therapy workbook. It’s been on my list of ‘books to get in an emergency’ and sadly I had to just order two copies. So, I’ll let you know how it goes in practice. Depending on how calm/artistic your kid is (roughly 3+), this art-therapy workbook deals with the emotions of a loved one going through the process of illness, death, and the grieving process before and after. It includes exercises intended to be worked through over the course of weeks or months, including many art projects (on the pages themselves as a way to deal with the feelings). It’d be tough for more hyperactive, younger kids, but you might find it helpful to cherry-pick exercises to suit your child. – best for kids who are able to draw somewhat representational images. best for people who are dealing with someone who is going through a terminal illness, as the first part of the book talks about brainstorming what you can bring to visit them, etc and things they can still do. goes through the entire process from when you are dealing with the fear during the time they are ill through the funeral, onward to afterward when you can draw memories and things you learned from them.
- ida always -levis – gorgeous and beautiful and and just so heartbreakingly sad. gus’s partner ida together “Then the two friends flopped onto thier favorite rock while the city pulsed around them. ‘I wish we could see it,’ Gus sighed. ‘You don’t have to see it to feel it,” said Ida. ‘listen,’” and later that comes around as gus grieves for ida, remembering that he doesn’t have to see her to feel her. as she is dying, they address that stretch of days as she gets weaker, as they have “There were growling days and laughing days and days that mixed them up. Sometimes Ida needed a moment alone. And sometimes Gus did too.” 3+ NYC (central park zoo)
- Cry, Heart, But Never Break
With kids who are terminally ill
‘Gentle Willow’ written for children facing chronic, terminal illness, but it works for loved-ones as well. Willow (a tree) is allowed to feel sad and upset – and her friends do what they can to comfort her with respect and love. really sweet book, perfect for 4+ through elementary. could use some editing to cut down on the words. The process of diagnosis, getting sicker & accepting terminal illness & death.
- Sadako – coerr – picture book version of the thousand paper cranes. we see how hard she works to get on relay race team (strong and healthy) how she had plans before illness disrupted them and everything changed. how annual memorial at peace park (Peace Day) was just another a holiday for her (bomb dropped when she was 2, grandmother died), and has little meaning beyond fireworks, crowds, music. developed leukemia at 12. During her illness, we see 9yo friend, orphaned, who was an infant(fetus?) when the bomb hit. he dies, and we see her mourn his loss, and then mourn her own impending death. also see how she gets better, then worse, all that rollercoaster of it. doesn’t finish cranes. terrible things, fallout of war, Asian/japanese history. In the story, they don’t mention WHO dropped the bomb, but we talked ( 4.5 & 6.5) about why someone bombed them and what kind of country would do such a thing. I had to tell them it was us (cried) they pointed out that it wasn’t us, personally, and I had to explain what it means to feel ashamed as a part of our national identity to be complicit in something, against our will, to benefit from that kind of violence, before we were even born. Which is a good intro into white guilt and privilege. good intro to anti-japanese sentiment in the US, internment and anti-asian racism. AAPI maker (Young), war. leukemia, cancer, war, hiroshima. I don’t know if this would be validating or helpful – but maybe seeing that they aren’t alone, they’re not the only kids who go through this, and that there are kids who die young but still make an impact, maybe that would give a sense of comfort?
- The Fall of Freddie The Leaf