Childhood bereavement and grief

About Hedgehog children's book

Why did I decide to write a book about childhood bereavement and grief?

This is a bit of a long story, and it starts a long time ago. My parents split up when I was 10, leaving me feeling confused, abandoned and isolated. My grandfather became a source of comfort to my Mum and to me and my siblings, he was such a loving grandfather and I have some wonderful memories of his presence in our lives, as a safe haven. He became pivotal to our Mum and when he died from cancer, I was only 13. His loss was so greatly felt by us all, but it was such a sad time that it really wasn’t talked about much. Our Mum was devastated, and so she wasn’t able to support us in the way we needed as children, as she was dealing with the loss of him. It was a moment that really changed my life.

Early years

Fast forward a good few years to when I was working as an early years professional with young children. Dealing with a number of children who had experienced the death of a parent during the many years of teaching was really difficult for myself and my staff team. The resources for early years were scarce, and often pitched too old for the little ones we worked with. Sensitivity and delicacy was what was most needed, as well as the ability to be inclusive, especially at key times, such as Mother’s Day or Father’s Day. We worked really hard to be there for the children and to provide the care they needed, with few resources and no experience in this. I remember feeling a little helpless and it always left me feeling there was more I could do.

Grief Encounter

Fast forward again to a few years more and I had discovered the wonderful charity Grief Encounter, who support and help children dealing with significant bereavement through the work that they do each day. I undertook to take on a charity challenge to raise money for them, where we flew to China to trek the Great Wall for 5 days. It was an enormous undertaking for me, but it was something I felt really strongly that was important to do. I met so many incredible people on that trek, whose stories have stayed with me for life. When my Mum died in 2021 from a Glioblastoma brain tumour, followed closely by my Step-Dad from cancer and my brother from a Glioblastoma brain tumour, all within a couple of years of each other, I felt that I needed to do something positive in their memory. That’s when the idea of a children’s book came to me, if I was feeling all of the feelings that I was going through as an adult, I couldn’t imagine how confused and distressed a child might feel going through the same kind of bereavement. I have always been the sort of person who has wanted to do some good in the world, I’ve never wanted things, or lots of money, for me it’s always been about doing something positive. It’s one of the reasons I set up Eco-Able, as something that could help others and the planet. Through the business I’ve been able to support the Brainstrust brain tumour support charity, by selling my Mum’s art work and prints, but there was still a constant feeling that there was more I could do.

The writing process

I have always found writing to be cathartic, through the many stories and poems I have written over the years in notebooks or journals. Working on the book to support children going through bereavement has also been a healing process, which I’m so grateful for. It has allowed me time for grieving and to put all of those sad emotions into something positive for others. If I ever spend time wondering what the point is to what I do, this reminds me everyday. Having published two previous books, I was determined to make this book sustainably too, something which I also feel really passionately about. I’ve proved that there really is no need for plastic lamination and whilst the carbon balanced recycled paper is a little more expensive than cheaper options, it has a feel to it that is worth every penny. I’m a firm believer that when we make or create something, we should always choose to do so in a way that doesn’t leave damage to the world around us.

If you have followed our journey over on social media you’ll know that I shared the original cover and title recently, only to change my mind almost instantaneously. I knew the title wasn’t right from the get go but I just couldn’t find an alternative that I was happy with! Sometimes the more I think about something the harder it is to come up with the ideas. The process of sending it out into the world allowed me to reflect and come up with something new. The title I have chosen really reflects what the book is all about, and that’s the character of Hedgehog. The story is all about Hedgehog’s death and their friend Rabbit who wants to understand what has happened. It reflects the confusion that children are sometimes left feeling when a loved one dies and the adults are perhaps not sure what words to say or how much to share with them. The aim of the book is to enable those initial conversations, and to be a starting point for adults and children to have open and honest conversations about death, which I know can be a difficult thing to talk about. We have with consulted top childhood bereavement specialist Dr Shelley Gilbert MBE, who set up Grief Encounter, and who I am so grateful to for her kind words and support in getting the text right, so that I could be sure the book would be a gentle, useful resource for children and the adults in their life. Whether a child has experienced the grief of a pet dying or a much more significant family bereavement, the aim of the book is to support them in beginning to understand what has happened.

Why Hedgehog?

My Mum loved hedgehogs, she had regular hedgehog visitors to her garden and was always so excited about their visits, which is the reason the book is all about Hedgehog, it’s a homage to my Mum and reminds me of her every time I read it. The cheeky hedgehog on the cover reminds me of her sense of humour and warmth, so I hope you love the little characters we have created. Finding some meaning in a world full of confusion after a loved one dies, is so important in learning to deal with that grief.

Further support

Childhood bereavement and grief
About Hedgehog children's book

Publication

Becoming an author has been one of the most incredible things that I have done, being able to put your thoughts and feelings into a platform to help others has been therapeutic and has helped me see how we can turn difficult things in life, into positives.

The book is going to final proofs at the moment, and then will be sent for reviews to specialists, so that I can be sure that it is perfect. Publication date will be coming soon with copies available via our website! With a small percentage of profits going towards Grief Encounter.

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