The Kids’ Book That Helped Me Cope with Grief – Kveller
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The Kids’ Book That Helped Me Cope with Grief

I’m at the library with my kids on a recent rainy Sunday, and like every time I’m in a library or book store, I’m completely overwhelmed–and thrilled–by the sea of books in front of me. Strolling the aisles, I see books I’ve read, books I want to read, books I pick up and put down for later, books I want my kids to read, books I think my mom would love, and so on. Though I know it’d be impossible to read them all in a lifetime, I still have the urge to try.

I love that my kids (6 and 3) seem to share the same thirst for reading, and that they, too, love the hunt for “the perfect book.” They each find four take-home-worthy books and then lead me to their favorite spot in our local library: the preschool room.

Once inside they grab headphones and park themselves in front of two computers to play a game, leaving me to roam the room for a few moments. As an aspiring author myself, I stare longingly at the shelves, imagining my own name in print, standing tall and proud on display. I let my fingers graze the spines of book after book, taking note of the variance in size and length; the cover designs; the credits. I wonder what magic makes some books turn into New York Times best-sellers, which become series and then films, while others remain on the shelf, collecting dust and begging for someone to take them home. Lost in reverie, I’m brought back to reality by my 3-year-old son tugging on the hem of my cardigan, crying that the mouse won’t work and he has to go potty (again). It’s clearly time to check out.

At bedtime that night, I offer up each kid one of their new library books, thinking for sure they’ll bite and we can add some variety to the routine, but no dice. They’re creatures of habit, and no matter how hard we try, they keep coming back to the same few bedtime stories (which our daughter can now read to our son): “Goodnight Moon,” “Llama Llama Red Pajama,” “Good Night Construction Site,” “Bear Says Thank,” “Hop on Pop.” And their ultimate favorite, “The Invisible String.”

Have you read this gem? If not, I recommend you head to the bookstore, library or order it online, stat.

Few books have moved me the way “The Invisible String” has. Through beautiful illustrations by Geoff Stevenson and heart-warming storytelling by Patrice Karst, we learn of a set of twins, Jeremy and Liza, who discover the power of what their mom calls “the invisible string”–which connects us at all times to those we love who may not be close by … or even who have passed away. My mom sent it to me after one of my best friends died suddenly two years ago–my daughter was four at the time, and she knew Rachel very well. The book paved a way to approach death with a young child, and I found it extremely therapeutic for myself, too: we’re all connected by an invisible string, even when a loved one is in heaven.

Though this book could surely help families dealing with grief or loss, “The Invisible String” is not a particularly sad book; death is only subtly addressed on one page. Its magic is the focus on the connectivity between the twins and their family and friends, no matter how great the distance.

We live in Michigan, so for kids like ours–whose grandparents live in New Jersey and El Salvador and whose aunts and uncles are in California, El Salvador and New York–the invisible string has been a beautiful metaphor for how we keep each other close at heart when we are longing for a visit or can’t FaceTime. When my kids get sad about missing family, I ask them to show me their invisible strings–and their tears turn to a smile as they mimic holding a string out from their heart into the air.

I can see the metaphor resonating with a child facing a daunting move and/or attending a new school. I can see it resonating with military families dealing with long deployments, or where a parent or loved one isn’t able to be in the next room due to illness. I can see it resonating with kids who have separated or divorced parents. And even as a working mom who travels, I find it resonates with me; I’ve used the metaphor often. “Hi baby. Mommy’s holding her invisible string. I’m tugging on it. Do you feel it?”  

Clearly there is some magic in “The Invisible String,” because of all the books my kids own, this is the only one I genuinely don’t mind reading or hearing over and over again. It’s carried us through some tough times already, and it’s one of those books I could see myself saving and inscribing before my kids leave for college one day. Even then, I hope they’ll be reassured knowing we’ll always be connected by an invisible string.

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