Children’s Grief Awareness Month

When sitting down to write about this very important topic, I hesitated. Where do I start? What should I focus on? There’s so many feelings that come with grief. And that’s when I knew, it’s important to acknowledge them all….starting with our own emotions and reactions.

To help children, we must first be honest with ourselves and how we feel. Without first exploring this, we can’t truly see any walls we may put up when it comes to helping children. We need to be honest with ourselves and take a look at the wave of emotions, thoughts, and realizations that we go through when someone we know dies. Seeing ourselves more clearly will allow us to enter into conversations with children who do not possess the coping mechanisms or ability to decipher their emotions.

Because when children lose someone they love, they need our support, our love, and our help. They need us to be honest with our word choices about death, but compassionate and gentle with our approach. No adult wants to have children experience grief, but it happens. Their tears and heart ache will trade places with anger, fear, loneliness, and perhaps even self blame at any moment.

It’s important to note that even though they are stages to grief, they do not go in any specific order. Once again, grief has no order. Grief hits unexpectedly, and the “stages” come and go, interchange, and jumble with however someone is feeling at that moment.

Every child is different with how they experience grief. The best thing we can do is to be present, support them, and love them.

Why I Write

Thinking about this topic actually brings tears to my eyes. I love children’s books. The magic that happens when a child is read a story….seeing them go on an adventure, or learn to cope with something difficult, or begin to learn more about life, love and themselves in those few pages….it can only be described as magic.

I write because I want to help children and caregivers connect. I want story time to be something special, whether it’s heartfelt moment, or a learning opportunity told in a gentle manner. I think childhood is such a special and fragile time, and I would love to be even just a twinkle of positivity – and a reminder that imagination is a wonderful thing.

I’m not famous, or published. But I continue to write because these stories continue to call my name. And with the help from my wonderful critique partners/friends and writing group, I keep trying. I keep entering writing contests, and pitch parties. I’ve recently entered a contest to win a critique from a very amazing kid literature author. If you’re interested in entering, here is the link to the page. This link will take you to the contest.

I keep trying because there’s something inside me that says, “Keep going.” Writing is part of who I am, and hopefully one day, I’ll be able to share my stories in book form. Because that my friends, would really make my heart happy.

Best wishes!

MIXED: A COLORFUL STORY by Arree Chung is what we all need to read

Published: 2018

Age: 3-7

Themes: Accepting differences, love, understanding, community

Let me first say, I just discovered this book and it is WONDERFUL! I read it to both my 7 and 5, and they both enjoyed it for similar and different reasons. One, it’s a colorful tale that starts with the primary colors living in harmony until RED decides they are the best. The other colors disagree and then segregate. Until one day, a yellow takes a liking to blue, they MIX and make a new color they call GREEN. The story unfolds and new colors start mixing with non like colors and in doing so, make a more beautiful colorful world.

Why I like this story: To start, it can teach young children colors. For the older children in the picture book age group, there are opportunities for educating children about diversity and love. The first learning lesson is that the story is about loving someone despite the color of their skin in a way they can understand. I made sure ask questions as I read to my children.

For example, when the colors are segregated, I asked them how they looked. They both responded sad. Yes! The colors were happier together. Then in the story where yellow and blue mix, they make a new beautiful green color. I told my kids the color of our skin doesn’t matter. It’s what’s inside, how kind, loving and caring a person is that’s important. I gave them a real life example of my friend’s sister who married a man with a different skin color than hers. They had a baby with a beautiful new skin color all his own. This made sense. So not only does this book provide a cute colorful story, it provides an opportunity for parents to discuss the theme of love and diversity.

I highly recommend this book. Happy reading!

So we’re getting a puppy…

Shhhh….don’t tell my kids! That’s the first thing you need to know before reading on. And yes, after 7 years of not having a dog, we’re taking the plunge…because…take a look at this picture I call Exhibit A.

These fluffies belong to my kids. They took this after the dog finished their OLYMPIC GAMES. Yes, this is them…on the podium stand… receiving their “medals”. Now let’s move along to Exhibit B.

Here, the dogs are being taken for a walk. Yep, in a baby stroller because that’s the only way to walk a STUFFED ANIMAL. They love their dogs, and make sure that even in cold,winter like weather, their dogs get some fresh air.

These dogs are definitely loved, and luckily we live on a street with lots of dogs. My kids have pretty much adopted every dog as their own. This has tided them over for many years. But that only works for so long.

Seeing their love for animals, how kind and gentle they are with other dogs, AND and the fact that my husband and I have always wanted a dog led us to cdfinally deciding to get one of our own. Is this a good idea? Well, puppies/dogs are a lot of work, need a lot of care, but….they’re also really wonderful. I’m excited to see where this trail takes us and will post pictures when we pick up our new member in August (if everything goes according to plan).

I wanted to share something fun and light-hearted during this trying times. And what could be more light-hearted than getting a puppy!?!

We could use some love right about now

Hi everyone. I’m not going to sugar coat this, these times are tough. Whether your juggling children and work, or sick family members, or just trying to safely wrap your head around the state of our world, the word “challenge” comes to mind. If I’m being honest, I’m not feeling 100% sunny either. You can only block out so much of the negative before it starts impacting you. It did that to me yesterday and I found myself short on patience. (Which is when I feel the worst about how I act.)

So I’m trying to dig myself out. I baked banana bread yesterday and that helped a little, but sadly it wasn’t a cure. So what else? What else can I do to make myself feel better? What do you do when you feel lower than normal?

Exercise does come to mind, but eh. I do plan on taking my kids for a walk, which is always an adventure. They’re 7 and 5 and still get excited over how many worms they can find on the sidewalk after it rains, or pointing out cool things they see. Seeing the world through their eyes helps me, and even writing this tweaks at my heart. See, I can’t just crawl into bed and give up for the day. There are two beautiful beings, my two hearts, that walk around on this world….a world that has been turned upside down.

I’ve explained why we have to stay home from school and from their friends. I’ve told them that there’s a virus making people sick and to keep from getting sick or spreading it to our friends and family, we need to stay home. I told them that we want to keep Gigi (they’re 96 year old great grandma) healthy. They’ve accepted this and occasionally ask questions. But for the most part, they’re happy to play at home and do their school work.

I do know this isn’t always how it is. There are fears and anxiety children feel. These are real and shouldn’t be taken lightly. Children need us to help them figure out their emotions, and we need to be there for them. We are their protectors, we are the adults in this relationship. I will pray for everyone out their and send thoughts of support. I can’t do much more than that, and I know it doesn’t really help, but I hope just knowing someone is thinking of you, rooting for you, wishing you peace and calmness maybe gives you a little extra strength. We all could use a little love right now. Let’s try to do our best to be kind to one another because we’re all in this together.

The Phone Booth in Mr. Hirosta’s Garden by: Heather Smith and Rachel Wada

Themes: grief, loss, love, healing

Publication: 2019

Age group: it’s a picture book but I feel it could work for grade school aged kids because of the topic

This is a beautiful story based on real life events. The story follows Maiko, a young boy, and his neighbor, Mr. Hirota. One day, a tsunami washes away the loved ones in Maiko’s village. The entire community is shadowed in sadness. Wanting to talk to his daughter again, Mr. Hirota builds a telephone booth and places an unconnected phone inside. He sits in the phone booth and talks to his daughter, hoping his words are carried to her by the wind. Soon, others visit the booth to talk to their loved ones. Eventually, Maiko talks to his father and begins the process of grieving and healing.

This story touches my heart. I think it’s a great example of how a void is created when we lose people we love. Mr. Hirota’s phone booth allows the villagers to stay connected to those they’ve lost. It doesn’t quickly solve the pain and sadness the villagers feel, but gives them an opportunity to start the healing process. When Maiko does talk to his dad, he tells him he misses him. I think this can show children that it’s okay to say you miss the person you’ve lost.

I recommend this read and hope you’ll give it a chance.

Book Review: PEARL by Molly Idle

Age group: 4-8

Themes: Perseverance, beauty and belief in hard work

This book was a lovely surprise! I don’t like to read the inside flap of picture books because I love the adventure they take me and my children on. The cover shows the reader the story is about a mermaid….and so much more!

Pearl is a young mermaid who longs to have an important ocean task like her fellow mermaids. Her mom decides it’s time, takes Pearl to the surface and entrusts her to care for a single grain of sand. Completely disheartened by this small task, her mother reminds Pearl, “The smallest of things can make a great difference”. (How amazing and lovely is that line!? I think we all need to hear the wisdom in this book.) Pearl cares for the sand and over time it grows, and grows and then glows. It becomes light and lifts Pearl up to the surface where her once grain of sand rises into the sky, becoming the moon! (So incredible!)

The illustrations are light, airy, and filled with great character and feeling. To me, the book itself glows. I completely recommend this book to read to your child. There’s a wonderful lesson about taking care of something even when you don’t want to, and seeing beauty and promise where you wouldn’t have thought to look.

Holiday Story Contest: The Christmas Hike

Hi everyone! I’m entering a holiday writing contest hosted by Susanna Leonard Hill. The rules are: the story must be 250 words or less, for children ages 12 and younger, and revolve around a holiday treat. I was inspired by the power of memories and the love that still exists even though someone is no longer with us. The holidays have a way of tugging at our hearts, and flushing our minds with memories so vivid and beautiful. My story focuses on this concept. I posted it below and hope you enjoy it.

The Christmas Hike
By Kelly Swemba (243 words)

On Christmas Eve, wrapped in warm scarves and fuzzy mittens, my family heads into the night. Our boots crunch the fresh, thick, snow as we climb the hill. I follow my big brother’s tracks, my boot fitting inside his print.

“Wait up!” I yell, and race to catch up. He holds my hand, and we enjoy each step of this special Christmas treat.     

“Wow!” I gasp seeing the brilliant stars twinkle in the heavens. My parents tie a red ribbon around a pine tree to remember our Grandma. She started this tradition, and we will continue it.

I wish on a star as the wind brings water to my eyes and drops snowflake kisses to my cheeks. It’s almost as if Grandma’s here with us.

I fall into the bed of snow with a thump! Laughing, I swish my arms and legs out and in.  
“I’m making a snow angel for Grandma,” I say to my brother, who joins in.

My parents hug and say it’s time to go. Taking one last look at the stars, I smile, blow a kiss, and say, “I miss you Grandma”.  

I know she hears me, for I feel it in my heart.  
With tingling toes, we race back home, fueled by thoughts of hot chocolate and puffy white marshmallows. Inside, we sit together in peaceful silence. Warmed by the fire and the warmth in our hearts, we remember what’s most important on Christmas. Love and family.

A soldier, a hero, my Grandpa

On this Veterans’ Day, I feel so thankful to everyone who has served and is serving our country. I cannot even fathom the sacrifice, or the loss of time with family and friends. It’s such a SELFLESS act, to protect one’s country and to give up as much as they do.

My Grandpa served in the Army and was in the second fleet that stormed Normandy. He was 21 years old. I can’t imagine what that would have been like. To have been young, scared, not knowing if you would live, and then see Normandy and its horrific scene.

As a child, I didn’t know what his sacrifice meant. He never talked about his time in the Army. Instead, he worked at GM on their line and never complained. He was a hard worker, a provider, and so so funny. He was the best joke teller ever, with a wit and humor that was unmatched.

In addition to his humor, he was charming and a good dancer. He always had a kind word or nice thing to say to the person he was talking with. At family weddings, or whenever the mood struck him, he’d break out his signature dance move that can only be described as a little bit Grandpa Ray and a little bit Elvis.

When we’d go to visit my grandparents, his face would light up and he’d say “Hi ya sweetheart!” His was forever my cheerleader and supporter. As I got older and went to college, the visits became less frequent. Then one day, I met the man I was going to marry. I introduced my now husband to my Grandpa. I’m so thankful that my husband got to know my Grandpa. We got engaged and told our family…it was around Thanksgiving. A month later, my Grandpa was diagnosed with stage IV pancreatic cancer. He was given 3 months. By February, he was gone. I never got to dance with him at my wedding, and my children never got to meet this man, who was larger than life. I still can’t believe how quickly he was taken from me.

So on this Veterans’ Day, my heart aches for my Grandpa….a soldier, a husband, a father, a Grandpa, and my hero.

How to take bad news

Sometimes we’re told something that’s bad and unexpected. I realize that I go into “containment” nurse mode, which basically means I instantly figure out how bad the “bad” is and see the upside. I dive into research and figure out the cause if it’s medical, what’s being done, what can be done, and focus on that instead of the feeling. Why? Because the feeling is hard to deal with.

Reality doesn’t set in til later, and that’s when the tearful emotion of sadness begins. No longer thinking, but feeling the emotions that I initially didn’t give a chance to surface. Letting ourselves feel is hard! But it’s also part of being human. Sometimes having a good cry can get us more in touch with our feelings. The positive side is now that the floodgate of emotion is open, maybe we can tap into the loving, caring side more. We can offer support to others, or extend an offer to help out whatever way we can.

Have you ever been told bad news about someone? How did you take it?

I wish everyone well!