A St. James author is helping children tackle a heavy topic through a new activity book.
Out of the Storm: A Therapeutic Activity Book for Kids Who Have Lost a Sibling is a hands-on experience that helps children navigate through the turmoil of losing a sibling. Joanne Marks, 62, self-published the book two months ago, and he received positive feedback and requests from organizations, councilors, death doulas and funeral homes across the city.
“I was searcing for resources from children when I started working with grief and children in the ’80s,” said Marks, who has since become a thanatologist (someone who examines death, dying and bereveament from different perspectives).
“I was looking for any kind of books for kids and grieving, and I noticed there was nothing specifically for kids who have lost a sibling.”
Children experiencing sibling loss have “very specific” challenges, Marks added, like understanding the finality of death, coping with how their family has changed and how they should be acting around their grieving parents. To prepare for the book, Marks interviewed around a dozen people who had lost a sibling when they were younger.
“It’s a book that also reassures the child that the whole family is grieving and they need to act for themselves and be honest with their parents,” Marks said. “Kids also tend to take things very personally, so a lot of them will feel like, ‘What did I do to cause the death?’ Siblings is a very unique relationship. That child may have had an argument with their sibling, so they have this tendency to feel like they caused the death. ”
Out of the Storm starts with background information on what it means when someone dies, the three Cs (“Can I catch it? Can I cure it? Did I cause it?”) and gets the child to talk about how their sibling died before moving onto the topic of funerals.
“It helps them to mourn, and gives them a plan on things they can do to get through it,” Marks said. “Younger kids will feel it more physically, and we talk about that. We talk about different feelings and that it’s OK to feel. There’s even an angry page they can rip out or scribble on. ”
Marks discusses what happens after death, unhelpful things people may say and ways to approach any other questions the child may have.
“One of the biggest parts of grief is forming a new relationship with their sibling,” Marks said. That could be continuing with something they shared, having a memory box or just talking about their sibling to keep them alive in their hearts. ”
Since the child’s outlook will change and the grief process progresses, Marks’ hope is that they can continue to return to the book to re-evaluate their feelings.
Marks’ next project is a similar book geared towards teens.
Out of the Storm is available for purchase at various online bookstores in Canada, the US, the UK and Australia.
Kelsey James is a reporter / photographer for the Free Press Community Review. She graduated from Red River College’s creative communications program in 2018 as a journalism major and holds a bachelor’s degree in rhetoric, writing and communications from the University of Winnipeg. A lifelong Winnipegger who grew up in southwest Winnipeg, Kelsey is thrilled to be covering the neighborhoods she still calls “home.”
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