‘My book lets people know that you can find ways to celebrate the people you lost in an honest way for children.’
“I was devastated when I lost my grandfather in the sixth grade. I didn’t handle his death well. Now that I teach sixth grade, I realize that it’s confusing if no one is talking to you about the process. I lost my other grandfather when I was in 10th grade and I wasn’t sent to his funeral; I had no closure.
“When I was 19, my grandmother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. She helped raise me because my mom had Guillain-Barre syndrome and was crippled. My grandmother changed my thoughts on death.
“She said, ‘This is my time, and I’m not scared because I know I’m going to a better place.’ I was in college and had lost one of the people closest in the world to me. I remember her saying, ‘Someday you’re going to tell your story.’ She planted a seed.
“When my mom passed, I had two young children, and my older daughter had questions. Many books on grieving use metaphors, but children don’t understand metaphors. I was simple and honest with them.
“Later on, I thought I’d therapeutically write my story for my family. I was connected with an illustrator, but I knew it was going to be difficult to get a publisher. I thought I’d self-publish. It took us a long time. There came a point where I gave up.
“In the height of COVID, I checked my email by chance, and there was a note from Amazon saying, ‘Your book has been published!’ A colleague caught on at school and ‘Little Lucy May’s Loss’ got even bigger.
“Now I have sold copies in Europe and the U.K., which is surreal. Sometimes as adults we want to fix everything. It’s OK to react because emotions are normal. I’ve learned that we need to teach children to feel all the feels, but you can’t hold on to feelings forever. I’m finding that these small wounds shape who we are and how we react as we get older.
“It’s important to let children know that it’s OK to be sad. My story goes through talking about the person to keep them in your memory. The book lets people know that you can find ways to celebrate the people you lost in an honest way for children.
“No matter how big or small your grief, it doesn’t need to be compared to anybody else’s. Everybody’s heart is different. It’s also important to listen to kids. They have big things to say.”
Interviewed by Iris Wiener