Monday, October 3, 2011

Parting is Such Sweet Sorrow

Things you can never recover:

A word...after it is said.

An occasion...after it's missed.

The time...after it's gone.

A person...after they die.

This weekend was my son's first memorial service (his great-grandma), so lots of questions were posed the week leading up to it and afterward.

Questions like, "Will she feel better now?" "How do people turn to ash?" "Will I ever see her again?"

So if I thought the "how are babies are made" question was tough, this definitely trumps that. Because so badly did I want to reassure my child, to take away his fear and pain. To make sure there was no missed opportunity or regret--on either side!

The topic of death is popular in lots of YA (and MG) books. When writing about a child's turmoil surrounding this theme, remember that adults are conditioned to know those answers (or at least an idea of them, based on their beliefs).

As adults, we understand how visceral that sorrow can be in the very hollow of our hearts. The kind that chips away at our souls.

But kids experiences are brand spanking new. They need help understanding the finer points. Only now do they begin to feel things on a larger scale. Every disappointment--every death--represents a chink in their armor. The same armor that once glinted bright as the sun.

So, remember that innocent child's perspective when writing about it.

(images: national geographic, we heart it)


Natalie Aguirre said...

Yes, death is hard for kids. But they do bounce back. My daughter has already lost her grandfather and her aunt (my sister) and seen my husband very, very ill in the hospital. I'm sure it's all affected her but she continues to be a positive, happy kid. I think more sensitive kids would have a harder time with this.

Unknown said...

Those are quite the questions. I often underestimate the questions they come up with!

This weekend I went to the Austin Teen Book Festival and the kids reading all the YA asked some AMAZING questions that would have never crossed my mind!

PS - I love the photo, so powerful and filled with sadness.

Christine Danek said...

Oh those questions. Yep, not easy. I looked at everything I've written and most of it is about death or deals with death. Strange. Great topic and the photos are wonderful.

S.A. Larsenッ said...

Firstly, so sorry about your loss.

There are numerous topics that are difficult to talk about with younger children. The best policy I find is "honestly at their maturity level." What can they handle? What can I communicate on said subject that will leave them open to chatting more about it as they grow older and mature?

It is so important when we write the keep this in mind. Heart your post, Christina.

Kelly Polark said...

Hugs to your family, Christina.

My children have not attended a memorial yet (thankfully), but when that time comes, I can't imagine how hard it will be to explain things to them.

Joanne said...

It's interesting how the very same situations can look so different from different perspectives. It's an important point to remember in our writing.

Sarah said...

It's so easy to forget the perspective of a young person once we're not young anymore. Thanks for the reminder, Christina, and my condolences to you and your family.

Stina said...

Thanks, Christina, for reminding us that kids don't think like adults. You only hurt your story when you think like an adult and your character isn't one. It takes the reader out of the story because the actions/thoughts aren't necessarily believable.

Sorry for your loss. *hugs*

Stefanie Wass said...

Thanks for reminding us to always write from a child's perspective.
So sorry for your loss. *hugs*

MG Higgins said...

What a beautiful, thoughtful post. Every loss truly is a chink in a child's armor because they have fewer coping tools.

Ben Spendlove said...

Thanks, Christina. Kids also live so much in the moment, they can't console themselves with the knowledge that grief will fade over time.

Bethany Elizabeth said...

A beautiful, heartbreaking post. I wish so badly that we could all stay as kids, that deaths just... didn't happen. But the world is crazy, sad, and beautiful the way it is.

Lourie said...

Those are very hard questions. I believe that when we die our pain and suffering is gone. All of it. I believe we are greeted by those who have gone before us. That it is not scary and dark. It's beautiful and filled with love. I can't tell you how I believe it, just that I do. Hugs to you and yours.

Matthew MacNish said...

This is hard for me, because although I experienced a lot of loss when I was a boy, my perspective on it has been blurred by the years. I do write about it, but I don't know how accurate it is.

Meredith said...

I'm so, so sorry for your loss. I hope you and your family are healing. You're right--we process death so much differently when we are kids.

K. M. Walton said...

So sorry for your loss, Christina.

You make some very important points here.

Little Ms J said...

I can't imagine having those conversations... Big hugs to you and your little one!


Liz Mays said...

You spoke about this so beautifully, and the way you described the difference in an adult and child's view of death was just so accurate. I'm very sorry for your family's loss.

Angela Ackerman said...

Aw that picture with the butterflies makes me so sad. :(

Good reminder to be careful and write it from the unknown and inexperienced end of things. As adults we want to protect our kids from death, but it's a very real thing that unfortunately some have to experience too soon. Keeping the 'adult' outlook out of it ensures authentic emotional reactions.

Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

Slamdunk said...

I am late on this one, but sorry for your loss Christina.

This is a relevant post for me as I have been researching interviewing children who have lost loved ones and were present at a crime scene.

They certainly do have a different perspective and it should be respected.