SYDNEY: A book is out that tackles a complex subject for young people.
I Lost Someone I Love: Explaining the Mystery of Death to the Youngest Among Us, by Rosemary Godin-Keith, is now available online.
Aimed at children three to eight years of age, the author said she wanted to produce an interactive children’s book to help families deal with the loss of people or pets they love.
Godin, who served in the clergy for 10 years, said she was often asked for books aimed at children experiencing grief while attending memorial services.
“I noticed that families with young children were always asking for resources to explain what was happening to the youngest children,” she said. “They seemed to be able to find resources for teenagers and older children, pre-teens, but for the very youngest among us, it was very difficult.”
The former journalist then started to research for resources but couldn’t find relevant material so she used the “quiet time” during the pandemic to create a book of her own.
“Mostly I could just find resources from other countries, notably the States,” Godin recalled. “I found that the theology didn’t quite match-up with mainstream religion in Canada. Because I had a background as a writer, I thought it just made sense that I should sit down and try to make something myself.”
Godin said the story, as told by a six-year-old named Jamie, is intended to comfort children and start a dialogue. In the book, she said children are asked questions about the person or pet who died, and a discussion is introduced about death and a place called heaven. She said this is a book meant for adults to sit and read along with the child, and there is space for the children to write in their answers or draw pictures.
“The pre-schoolers don’t really have an understanding of death, they certainly don’t understand that it’s permanent,” she noted. “The only thing you get to see about death is how the adults around them treat it. Often, they just pick up on the fear and sadness. For children in general, what they know about death, they get from cartoons, movies and video games. And then there’s the school-aged child, which is five to eight. They begin to understand that death is permanent, because they get that at school when they study about plants and animals. They’re more curious about the process of death, and what happens after a person dies.”
According to statistics from the Children’s Grief Foundation of Canada, one in five Canadian children under the age of 18 will experience the death of someone close to them.
The author said her book tries to take away the fear surrounding death by introducing the concept of heaven. She said even those who are not religious believe in some form of after-life.
“We emphasize that children are always still connected to the person through the memories that they have of them,” she said.
Godin partnered with Patuo’kn Illustration & Design in We’koqma’q First Nation, which is owned by Kaylyn and Kassidy Bernard.
Wanting to create a book based in Cape Breton, Godin said she went looking for local artists. She said the Bernards shared her vision of a gentle book with child-like drawings.
“I was very pleased that they picked up immediately on my own vision of what I thought the book should be, and a lot of that had to do with the fact that Kaylyn herself is the mother of a four-year-old,” she noted. “She had her son in mind when she was doing the illustrations.”
Godin said they are inclusive drawings that depict kids of many colours and cultures. Even narrator Jamie is non-gender-specific in order that all children can relate to them, she noted.
“They made the illustrations as simple as possible so that a child could look at them and say, ‘oh I can draw that,’” she explained. “They’re very soft as if they were done in crayon. But also an important thing to the three of us was that they be inclusive. The sisters did a wonderful job of having people of all colours in the books, all shapes of people, and different cultures are represented by the children and the adults in the book.”
Godin said the sisters added their own bits of whimsy all throughout the pages, with Kaylyn Bernard describing the drawings as “loose and playful.”
“Because they are Indigenous, it was delightful for me to see that, in a Canadian book, that they also represented their own culture in the book,” she noted.
The book is available through Amazon and Chapters/Indigo or through Godin’s website at: thankgoodness.ca. In Sydney, it is available at the Membertou Heritage Park Petroglyphs Gift Shop and the Cape Breton Curiosity Shop.