This is the blog of children's book author and third grade teacher, Stacy Barnett Mozer. I blog about my own writing journey, the journey of other kidlit authors, my classroom, and talk about books. Thanks for stopping by. Your thoughts are always welcome (and encouraged).

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Dealing with loss

Have you ever noticed that in many YA novels and even in some middle grade, characters have to deal with loss? Whether it is a dead parent, relative, or even friend, characters have to face the reality of moving forward without someone they love.

So why? Why kill off characters? Is it just a cheap way to place the main character on their own to solve  problems? Is it an easy way to get the reader's tears? I don't think so.

Every human being deals with death, even at a young age. My earliest memories surround the passing of my great-grandmother and maternal grandfather. My children, ages 6 and 8, have already lost a dog, a cousin, a fish, a class pet, and today, a great-grandfather. With each loss they had to learn how to let go, move forward, and remember. Some of those losses were easy to handle. It was just "their time." But some seem senseless and those deaths reach beyond out capacity to understand.

My cousin died one of those senseless deaths last year. As hard as it was for me to accept, it was even harder to imagine what his sister was feeling. Then about a week after he died I read The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson. The book gave me a framework, a schema, to wrap my head around what she might be going through. Even though I was reading a book, understanding how the character dealt with her grief was helpful and comforting in a time of pain.

Death and loss in books can help us deal with it in our own lives. They are ways to recognize that it is a shared experience, one that we will have to live through again and again.  I am thankful that there are books that touch upon experiences of loss in different ways. Hopefully everyone can find a story that speaks to them in their time of need. 

Has reading or writing helped you make sense of a loss? 


  1. First off, my condolences for your loss.

    And I think, at least as far as stories are concerned, deaths of characters help symbolize the loss - and grief over loss - we slowly accumulate. We lose loved ones, we lose relationships, we lose innocence ... we lose at Monopoly.

    Loss and grief happen in many ways. I think how we handle it (or don't) is a large part of what defines our lives. More than a gimmick, portraying the death of a character is a way to crystallize a life experience we all share.

  2. When I taught 8th grade, I think every book had a death and the students often asked why? I told them just what you wrote here--that reading about loss may help us to deal with it later. I went so far as to introduce them to the stages we go through when we experience a loss. They recognized the stages in the novel, but of course I hoped it would help them personally one day. Thanks for sharing. I'm sorry for your loss.

  3. Awww...sorry about your cousin. Writing helped me to make sense of my dad's death. But it also helped me navigate the loss of relationship of people who didn't die. And sometimes, even though death is harder, people choosing to leave you can be a tougher pill to swallow. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Stacy, I'm so sorry for your loss. Hoping that words not only help you make sense of what's happened, but also preserve the sweet memories for generations to come...just one more reason why our stories are so important! Sending (((hugs))) and love...

  5. Stacy, I'm so sorry to hear about your losses. Sending hugs your way. Books help those who haven't experienced the passing of a friend or loved one to know what it's like for their friends who have. They also help people who are grieving to know that they're not alone, and help them to heal through the experience they go through with the characters in the book.

  6. Sorry for your loss Stacy :( I agree with Kimberly that writing can also help with overcoming the loss of a loved one and help you to work through the feelings and emotions. I think that reading about loss and grief can certainly help when we are faced with it in our own lives, and especially since I lost my beloved Nan to cancer a few years ago, reading about death or someone working through grief resonates with me alot more.

  7. Deepest condolences. I lost my grandmother just last year and I'm still pretty raw from it. We were very close. It's very generous of you to share your life with your blog followers. I hope they appreciate it. I know I do. I write to process my feelings. It helps because it gives me more clarity about them, which allows me to actually feel the feelings. Sending you hugs.

  8. Thanks for all of your condolences. We buried my husband's grandfather today next to his wife, who died eleven years ago on the same exact date on both the Hebrew and English calendar. This coincidence of dates does not happen very often, usually every 19 years, so the fact that it happened this year is unusual. We were told today that the last words he spoke were to his wife, who he was sure was in the room with him. He thanked her for coming back to get him and told her how much he had missed her. I'm not sure that I've ever thought very much about what happens when we die. I'm certainly thinking about it now.

  9. To follow up with this post, Scholastic Blog just had a great post on this topic. You can see it here: http://oomscholasticblog.com/2012/03/dealing-with-loss-book.html


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