No one likes to contemplate the reality of childhood grieving, but children who lose parents or siblings will very likely need help in their healing. As author Mary E. Plouffe discovered after a sister's untimely death left her three-old niece motherless, our society doesn't offer much in the way of addressing childhood grief. I Know It In My Heart: Walking Through Grief With a Child explores the impact of parental loss on the young girl. Through this poignant and touching memoir, Plouffe demonstrates that despite the remarkable resiliency of childhood, losing a parent will likely have a lifelong effect. That said, thanks to her psychologist training and tireless efforts to be there for her niece, we know that little Liamarie will be okay.
This reader can't help but wonder what happens to grieving children who don't have that loving father or aunt to help them navigate the rocky territory of loss? Plouffe offers a glimpse into how we as a society might fail them, when she takes Liamarie to a support group, where a misguided facilitator demands acceptance of the cold reality of loss from the young attendees.
The author's own grieving is explored as well in this heart wrenching narrative.
"And what is my grief? It is not a well of sadness. It is more like an internal earthquake, shifting tectonic plates. There are crevasses now where I can fall, disappearing into a place with no bottom. I look whole on the outside, but the terrain within is broken. I must be cautious of aftershocks. Her handwriting on a shopping list in my kitchen junk drawer is enough to rock the fragile ground and threaten to break my hold," she writes.
Perhaps, like many of us in our own grief, she is surprised that the grieving does not end.
"I should be at some end point of grieving but I am not. Like a traveler arriving exhausted I look around me and am disappointed. Is this what I've worked so hard to achieve? Have I traveled all this way to find myself in this barren, uncomfortable place?"
This book is a must-read for grief counselors and social workers, or anyone who works with children. It is illuminating for anyone who would like insight into the grieving process. Profoundly moving, and well-written.
Mary E. Plouffe Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist who has been treating children and adults for 30 years. Her private practice is in Falmouth, Maine. She has had essays published for NPR, "On the Issues" magazine, "Mothers Always Write," "Brain, Child" magazine, and "The Survivor Review," as well as op-ed pieces in The Portland Press Herald and the Bangor Daily News. Find more information on her website.
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