I’m often asked if I can recommend a children’s book for a family who is grieving. Losing someone you love is more than difficult, and trying to find words to describe it, or to capture a story about grief is a challenging thing. It’s too easy to slip into sentimentality or get so specific that you miss the mark. Grief is different for everyone, just as the people we are grieving for are different. Australian author Karen Brough’s picture book, I can’t believe they’re gone, attempts to meet this need and I believe she does so with gentle understanding and compassion.
The book, illustrated by Hiruni Kariyawasam, tells the story of a family of mice faced with the loss of someone they love. The book gets its title from the opening line: ‘“I can’t believe they’re gone” everyone said as they walked around in a daze’. But that is where the one size-fits-all assumption of grief ends. Brough invites readers, adult and child alike, to listen as each person in the mouse family responds to their loss; some by thinking, others by talking or doing. One by one, each of the characters seek the advice of Old Bear. “Why do I feel so flat?” asks Papa, “Why do I feel so angry?” asks Big Mouse. Old Bear responds with acceptance and kindness and the repeated phrase “emotions aren’t good or bad, right or wrong - they just are”.
What I love about this book is the way it speaks about grief and loss in a way that invites empathy and acceptance. We find ourselves reflected in the characters of the story, each processing our hurt in a different way. However, the story doesn’t stop at validating emotions. It hints at healing, helping those in pain know that there will be - one day - a time for joy again even alongside the heartbreak.
I can’t believe they're gone is a tender story providing language for times when words will never be enough. Recommended.
All the details you need:
Title: I can’t believe they’re gone.
Written by: Karen Brough
Illustrated by: Hiruni Kaiyawasam
Publisher: Karen Brough
Available from the author’s webstore.
The Penny Drops
In high school I used to write what I'd call 'thinks' - little bits of writing about whatever topic or issue I was mulling over at the time. I still write these little pieces.
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