Saturday, May 08, 2010
Mini-Review: "After You Lose Someone You Love" as told by Amy, Allie & David Dennison
When my friend, David, was four years old and his twin sisters were eight, their father died in his sleep. The Dennison's dad was a successful young physician who succumbed to a previously undiagnosed arrhythmia. As the three siblings dealt with the range of emotions that accompany such a sudden and tragic loss, they were encouraged to write down their thoughts and feelings. David, not yet able to read and write, did his sharing verbally and his mother transcribed what he had shared. David, Amy and Allie continued to chronicle their journeys through grieving and healing for the next five years.
When the terrorist attacks of 9/11 left scores of youngsters in New York and Washington in a similar situation of having had a parent die suddenly, the Dennison children decided to make copies of their grief journal and make them available to New York area families who had lost parents at the World Trade Center. The journal was subsequently published in several forms, including the present volume that I read, entitled: "After You Lose Someone You Love - Advice and Insights from the Diaries of Three Kids Who've Been There" as told by Amy, Allie & David Dennison. this edition includes a foreword from Rabbi Harold S. Kushner.
The thoughts and feelings of the three children are disarmingly moving - simple and straightforward, revealing in unapologetic language times of deep sorrow, anger, confusion, fear as well as moments of joy and celebration. The book is structured so that after each set of diary entries, there is an update section called "Looking Back" in which the children - a few years removed from their loss - comment on what they wish they could have done differently or wish others might have done differently at each stage of the grieving process.
Here is an example in a section in which the children talk about how difficult it was for them when their mother had to increase her work hours in order to pay family bills:
"When a family goes from having two parents to having one parent, there's a lot more stress on the parent who's still around. They have to work harder and earn more money, they have to make all the plans and do all the driving, and they have to be responsible all the time for the kids. So we try to remember that Mom is having a tough time, too, and help her out.
If you still have one parent and if you can just do one little thing for your parent each day, it would be a huge help. Of if you can do one thing for whoever you live with now, it would make them feel really great that you're being considerate and thinking of them. And you'll feel good, too." (Page 76)
This book is a wonderful tool to be shared with any family that has suffered a loss. I encourage you to acquaint yourself with it. The book is an inspiration, as are the three children who have grown into young adults that have contributed in several ways to making the world a better place. In addition to penning this book, the children initiated a campaign to improve the environment by discouraging people from disposing of cigarette butts carelessly. The campaign, "No Butts About It," has been replicated in other places beyond their home in Connecticut, and earned the family a Presidential Environmental Youth Award.