As a Licensed Professional Counselor and Creative Arts Therapist, I work with children and families in New Jersey through my practice, Paint the Stars Art Therapy. I specialize in anxiety, depression, and anger; three symptoms often seen in kids experiencing grief.
I utilize bibliotherapy often in my practice. Books are a great way to engage and educate children on various issues. Grief is a topic that I noticed was lacking in the children’s book world. After losing my father to brain cancer, I focused and channeled my grief into a way to help others. I decided to create a world of my own to assist children and families cope with the heavy burden of grief.
Three Brave Stars takes readers to a faraway place called Bellagio, where a Kingdom was happily nestled until an evil beast sets its eyes upon it. With the book centered on a loving family, I take children and families through the frightening and difficult feeling of losing a loved one. We see the wide range of feelings that a child may experience as well as a solution to the lack of words many adults often feel when trying to teach children about loss.
It is an unconventional fairytale because the ending is not what any reader wants; a difficult loss instead of a happy ending. However, through the words and images, I believe I was able to hold the readers’ hands and comfort them through this all too familiar loss.
Understand what Grief is Like for a Child
Adults often believe that children are “resilient” and can overcome any obstacles. This is true, but it also does not mean that children don’t experience those obstacles like any adult would. Children experiencing grief often go through a wide range of emotions in a short period of time. They can feel strong, overwhelming anger in one moment and, in the next, feel intense sadness and pain. Grief-related anxiety can hit them at any point of any day, just like adults.
Three Brave Stars attempts to visualize this so that children can understand whatever it is they are feeling is acceptable and that those feelings are able to change as well. It also gives you a loving adult figure, who is present and able to hold a safe space for those grieving children without trying to end their pain. Children need to feel their pain and grief, not cover it up or ignore it.
Reading Teaches Children in a Non-threatening Manner
Bibliotherapy is something that many psychologists and psychotherapists have used as a tool with clients for a variety of issues. The idea of reading to children is as universal as the idea of play. This is how children learn. Books are seen as non-threatening because most books that young children read are fiction and they are aware that the characters and scenes are made up. However, with a relatable character, a child may understand that character does not exist and yet they are connected to those characters because “they are just like me” or “they are going through what I am going through.”
This is why helping children with their grief through reading books like Three Brave Stars is so important. Children will often hold a mentality of “why did this happen to me or us?” They feel alone and as if no one can understand what they are going through. Having a world in front of them where they see their own pain is cathartic and educational.
Books are a Conversation Starter
Another benefit, as a parent reading this book to a child, is that this starts a difficult topic and conversation for them. Parents can lean on this book as an introduction to, “let’s talk about our loss,” or when they have to let a child know that a loss has occurred. Whether you ask children what part of the story they relate to, or even as basic a question as what was this book about, it gets them thinking and talking.
Talking about grief is one of the best ways for children to reduce symptoms such as anxiety, depression, and anger. It is when they aren’t talking that those feelings build up and cause harm.
Look to the Stars
The stars are something that everyone can see and understand; no matter what part of the world you are from, no matter what culture you are a part of, and no matter what religion you believe in. The idea of stars as an everlasting sign of hope and love is something that was important for me to include in this book because when a child experiences loss, they are seeking the concept of forever.
Whether it is a forever loss, a forever love or a forever idea, we do not want children to overlook their innocence and their interpretation of forever. Stars are our “forever,” and a wonderful way for them to hold on to that awareness. The love that they shared with their loved ones who passed is forever.
Closure through Art
Connecting with the concept of the stars led to the art activity included at the end of the book. If the stars are where we are looking to connect with our passed loved ones, then why not create a star for them? This art directive is a creation that a family can make and keep together. Everyone can create their own star or a family can create one group star.
Allow your child and your family to visualize a star that would be their special loved one's unique star. This piece of art can hang as a reminder that you are loved and encouraged to think of the person you miss. It supports them to talk about their loved ones, and that they are never alone.
Three Brave Stars can be with you each night, any time that you need a reminder that the love you and your loved one had is never gone.
While grief is an individual journey and everyone experiences and understands grief differently, Three Brave Stars swoops in as a way to connect us all. Anyone who has experienced the loss of a loved one knows what that empty and frightening feeling is like. We relate to each other and we are connected in that way.
We all want our children to understand the timeless concept of love and how even something as powerful as grief and loss cannot break that concept. Allow Three Brave Stars to be that extra hand to hold, a shining reminder that there is always a light coming through the darkness.
About Robyn Spodek-Schindler:
Robyn Spodek-Schindler is an accomplished clinician, artist, mother, and owner of Paint the Stars Art Therapy who lives in New Jersey with background work in children’s hospitals and mental health facilities. She holds dual Masters degrees in both Mental Health Counseling and Clinical Art Therapy and an undergraduate degree in Fine Arts. Robyn is also a professor in her field with experience as a full-time faculty member and adjunct faculty at Long Island University.
Her debut children's story, Three Brave Stars, published with Our Galaxy Publishing, strives to support children by working through the stress and trauma of losing a loved one and understanding grief.
Our Galaxy Publishing is a New York City-based, women-owned, and operated independent press with a nationwide team serving aspiring authors the tools to write and publish. Our seamless publishing experience focuses on action-based tools and resources to publish, exploration of all core storytelling elements, and empowering an entrepreneurial mindset. Whether seeking to self-publish a book or find a traditional publisher, work with us for book publishing, book editing, book marketing, and writing mentorship to publish a successful book.