Would you like to shield your kids, grandkids, nieces and nephews from life’s not-so-happy times? I bet you would … we all would!
Our kids are so precious and innocent to us. We want to keep them safe and out of harm’s way. We want to protect them from the grief caused by losing loved ones, or the pain and sadness brought on by illness, abuse, and violence.
Unfortunately, tragic events can happen at any age. And while we can’t always protect our precious little ones from life’s not-so-happy times, we can give them the love and support they need to cope with their feelings.
One of the easiest ways to support our children is through books and reading, which can be a big help in explaining tragic events to our children. Seeing others who have experienced loss or trauma helps kids feel less alone. And that’s exactly why I started the Tulvia Lane book series.
I’m Nakeshia Nickerson and I write children’s books to help parents, guardians, grandparents, aunties, uncles, and other loved ones talk openly with kids about death, abuse, violence, and other tragedies.
Anger, depression, and anxiety are common emotions when a child suffers through a traumatic incident. Depending on the availability of support and the way that they cope with the stress, these events can change the way a child views the world. And even though this is so important, few of us talk about these feelings or lend the proper emotional support to our youth.
On our way back to Ally’s house, Tyler asks a lot of questions. “Who will live in Gammie’s house and water her flowers? Mommy, where will we go for Thanksgiving and Christmas? Who’s going to make Grandma’s special cookies for me?” He keeps asking so many questions so fast that his mom doesn’t have a chance to answer any of them. He stops long enough to get air and then asks,” Mommy, why did Gammie die?” Ally’s Mom is quiet for a while before she answers. “Gammie was really sick and her body could not do the things on its own like yours and mine can anymore. Now, Gammie doesn’t feel pain, she doesn’t feel sick; she doesn’t breathe in and out, eat or speak anymore. The part of Gammie that did those things, we won’t see again. In the circle of life all living things die.
“Oh,” says Tyler, biting his nail.
Ally says, “Well, I’m glad I wasn’t too scared to go over to Gammie. I would have missed my last chance to say good-bye.”
“No, Alaina, you will see Gammie again at the funeral.”
“Funeral? What’s that?” Tyler asks.
“It’s where everyone will come to celebrate Gammie’s life and memory; to say good-bye to her. There will be many people there and some will be very sad. Gammie will be laying very still in a special bed with a pillow, carrying handles and a top that closes called a casket.” Ally’s mom tells us all about funerals to make sure we aren’t scared during Mrs. Evelyn’s. “Is that why Mr. Waters took her? I don’t think he should have done that. It really hurt my feelings,” Tyler says after his mom finishes. “Yes, Mr. Waters came to take Gammie to the funeral home to get her ready for the funeral. I will take Gammie’s favorite dress and jewelry to the funeral home soon; we can go see her before the funeral if you want.
“I know it’s hard, but I am here any time you guys want to talk about anything.”
“Well, I don’t want to talk,” says Ally.
“That’s okay, Alaina. I’m here when you’re ready.”
“Mommy, can Gammie still see us? Can she hear us? Will she still come to my birthday parties?” says Tyler, starting again with all his questions….
….Later that night, after having made up with the rest of our friends, Ally sits on the porch alone. Only this time, she doesn’t sit in the rocking chair. She is waiting for her mom to make popcorn for their girls’ movie night. Lying with her head back in the seat looking up at the stars, Ally began to think of Gammie. On summer nights, Gammie and Ally would stay on the porch until it got dark to watch the fireflies and stars light up. It would be so quiet out there. Ally would fall asleep, but Gammie always woke her up after she finished her glass of Pepsi. “Alaina, the movie is starting.” Ally’s mom calls.“Okay, here I come, Mom.”
Ally went to her room, changes into her pajamas, and grabs her favorite pillow before heading into her parents’ room to join her mom. Watching the movie makes her feel a little better, but after it is over, Ally can’t help but get sad again. “Mom, I really miss Gammie. Do you?”
“Yes, I miss her a lot, Alaina. I think about her all the time. I even forget she is gone sometimes and pick up the phone to call her. It makes me so sad.”
“Really, Mom? Is it okay to cry?” Alaina asks.
“Yes, Alaina, it’s all right to be sad.” Her mom picked up a ring from nightstand and places it on Ally’s finger. “This is Gammie’s ring. I know she would have wanted you to have it. Put it in a safe place. Whenever you think of her, take it out and she will always be close.” Her mom squeezed her tight, gave her a kiss, and says,
It’s all right to be sad, but don’t stay sad for long,
Because Grandma isn’t far, it’s like she’s still at home.
She lives in your heart and is always by your side.
Though you can’t see her, she watches over you with pride.
You’ll miss her forever because forever she’ll be in your heart.
Don’t be afraid to let her go, for with you she will never part
“Gammie told me that poem when my Gammie died, and I know she would want you to hear it too.” Ally’s mom wipes her tears away and wraps her arms around Ally until she fell asleep. The next morning, Ally looks for the perfect place for Gammie’s ring. She tries putting in her jewelry box, then in her dresser drawer, and then under her bed. But Ally felt no place is safe enough. She continues to search until she put the ring on a necklace and around her neck. Ally knew the perfect place for Gammie could only be close to her heart.