Losing a loved one is a terrible part of life, and it can be difficult for kids to understand. Dealing with grief, and understanding loss, can be hard for adults to handle. For kids, it can be even more confusing. Talking to them about their emotions is an important step in helping children handle grief. Jalisa Rose Smith offers a book which provides talking points and journal prompts to help with these conversations. She lost her father when she was 11 and decided that she wanted to help others handle the pain of loss.

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In His Absence, I Can Still Feel His Presence by Jalisa Rose Smith tells the story of a little girl named Rose who loses her father. Rose’s story is interlaced with letters from the author to the reader. There are also prompts to discuss their own situation and add pictures of their lost loved one. Since loss and grief are heavy topics, the letters provide a nice break from the story. They also allow the author to touch base with the reader, and talk about the emotions in the situation.

The author’s faith in God helped her to handle some of her feelings on grief and loss. She offers prayers and scripture quotes throughout the letters to encourage the reader. Even if you are not a religious person, this book provides some great opportunities to talk to kids about grief. This book reminds them they will always feel the presence of their loved one, and they can make them proud.

Inspired to Help Children Handle Grief

Jalisa Rose Smith allowed me to interview her about her inspiration behind writing the book and her process in creating such a personal piece of writing. The loss of her father and growing in her faith have brought her to this mission of helping kids to handle their grief.

What inspired you to share your experiences with others?

I wrote my children’s book in loving memory of my father. I remember hearing on the news so many children were losing their parents due to gun violence. While I was sitting in my room one day, reminiscing on how I felt when I lost my father. It was not a good feeling. I was only 11 years old and I was still in school at the time. I begin to pick up my pen and started writing how I felt about it and if I was to help a child who is suffering from losing a loved one, what would I say? My words immediately turned into a story which turned into a book. It has been a blessing to help so many children through their bereavement.

How did you decide to share your experience in a children’s book?

This was a real story of how God was able to turn my negative outcome into a positive outcome to encourage children. I was now at a place where I can talk about my father’s death without getting so emotional.  With my voice, I wanted to inspire and uplift my brothers and sisters through their bereavement. My father passed when I was 11 years old, so that is where the inspiration of a children’s book came from.

The style of the book is broken up by letters to the reader. I thought this helped touch base with the reader while handling delicate and sad topics. What made you decide to write the book that way?

I wanted to make my children book into a journal so that it would differentiate my book from other grieving books. Also for the children to keep writing and adding pictures in it like a keepsake book and gain strength and understanding each time they read and write in the book. On the other side of the book, it has where I encourage the children through spoken words and prayer and scripture to help them get through their bereavement.

You state in the beginning that you made lots of changes to the book before publishing it. Was there anything in particular you changed? How did you decide what was important to keep?

I changed a lot of words and content of the book because my father past 13 years ago. Their loved one could have passed recently, so I wanted to make sure I was using the correct words and content to help them in their current situation. I am now 25 years old and I wanted to also make sure they understood the different scenarios that were taking place in the book. I went through a professional editor before publishing. She was able to assist me in what she thought was important to keep and take out.

What message do you want readers to take from this book?

I want my readers to know that you can still make your loved one proud. If you ever feel like giving up in life and you feel that extra push to keep going, that is your loved one pushing you through your hardships in life. Your loved ones have the best seats in heaven and they will always be proud of your success.

Thank you so much for sharing your story and allowing me to review it! Did you do the illustrations as well?

Blueberry Illustrations, a guy name Richa did my pictures. He did an awesome job. I just describe to him the scenes and he put it together for me.

This book is a great way to start an important conversation with kids who have lost a loved one. If you know a child who is struggling with grief, you can purchase this book from the author’s website, Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.

62 comments on “Helping Children Handle Grief: A Book Review”

  1. I love this post. It’s so great in helping children deal with issues you may not know how to address. As an elementary teacher, I love using books to teach a lesson. Thank you!

    • I think books offer great opportunities to open dialogue and teach important subjects. I hope this helps some families to talk!

    • It is so hard for adults to process grief and loss, let alone kids! I hope this is helpful to some grieving families.

  2. This is an amazing resource to have available. Heaven forbid you ever need it. But at least there is something children can understand

  3. This sounds like an amazing resource! My faith is important to me so, I would very much appreciate a book that also included scripture and prayer – as this one does. Hopefully we will not need this anytime soon, but I am so thankful to know about it!

  4. This book sounds like a great way to discuss a difficult subject with children. I’m glad the author was able to turn her grief into something that will help many others.

  5. This sounds like a beautiful book. I often wonder how I would deal with that situation when it arose, and I love the idea of helping the kids through a book

  6. I am going to look into this book for my counseling tool box and share with my friends in counseling too! I am always looking for books for kids that have to deal with the hard issues!

  7. As someone who has used books to address grief and loss with my child, it’s so nice to see that more options on the topic are now entering the marketplace! Definitely a valuable resource.

  8. Grief and loss are such impossible subjects to talk to kids about. They are such big feelings, and kids just don’t know how to process them. So it is so wonderful that there are books like this one to help facilitate conversation. I’m pinning this. Thank you for sharing!

    • I hope it is helpful. It can be so difficult to talk to kids about big emotions that adults even have trouble with!

  9. I wish this had been available for us when we lost my dad as my sisters were only 4 and 7 there was hardly anything to help them though their grief . What a great post x

    • I’m so sorry for your loss. I can’t imagine how difficult that must have been. I hope this can help other kids to handle their grief.

  10. What an amazing book to broach such a tough subject with children. I may have to get this for my neice and nephew for when they begin asking about their mother. I love how it has a journal form, I think that is a great way to connect with kids.

    • I really like how it is part journal and leaves space to share thoughts and memories. I hope it will help families to open a dialogue and handle grief and loss together. I’m so sorry for their loss.

  11. What an amazing resource! I think I’ll purchase this book for my son. Not that we have any particular loss, but I think it’s good for kids to understand loss before they are delved into grief. Thanks for sharing!

    • I hope it helps a lot of children. I think books are a great way to start conversations with kids about important topics.

    • Thank you. I agree, it is such a difficult topic to discuss with kids. I hope this book is helpful to a lot of families.

  12. Grief is such a difficult topic for children, especially when they don’t fully understand what is happening – I lost my grandmother when I was 8 years old and I don’t think I fully understood it at the time. This book sounds like a great resource, I’ll definitely have to check it out! Thanks for sharing it with us!

    • I agree it is even harder for kids to handle grief because they have trouble understanding. I hope this book will help lots of families to start a conversation.

  13. My brother in law passed away six months ago unexpectedly. My three year old still looks for him and talks about him like he’s going to walk through the door. I know he will never forget him since he was there for him since birth. In a few years this will deff come in handy.

    • I am so sorry for your loss. I hope this book will be helpful. It’s nice because it reminds kids that the person they lost will still be with them and proud of their accomplishments.

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