In counseling grad school, I had to take a course called Bibliotherapy. I was skeptical, high as I was on the electricity in the therapy room I was learning to inhabit – that’s where the action was, where change happens. I was sure of it.
But I dutifully followed the reading list and got familiar with authors like Milton Erikson, Carl Rogers and Fritz Perls (am I dating myself here?). I didn’t become persuaded by the power of the written word to inspire and support change though until I was actually in practice. As usual, it was my clients who led me to insight, as they would rush into a session clutching a book that was actually helping.
I am a pretty quick learner, and developed a method. Once two or three clients brought me a book they were enthusiastic about, I would read it. Examples, Melody Beattie’s Co-Dependent No More; Reviving Ophelia by Mary Pipher; any of the Dance books by Harriet Lerner (The Dance of Anger, …of Deception, and more). My clients would report that this book or that changed everything about how they looked at their issues, empowered them to change not just their outlook but their behavior. I turned around and recommended them to others. There was something to this bibliotherapy idea after all.
Then it was time for my comeuppance. I got into grief work and had to contend with books promoting popular ideas that I found, after trying them out earnestly, not so helpful, On Death and Dying by the iconic Elisabeth Kubler-Ross being one of them. Her ideas quickly became the gold standard for understanding grief, and
I found my ways to offer alternative viewpoints. By then I had learned that much of the change happens in between sessions, as clients curl up in their favorite reading spot to absorb new ideas, and then try them out on their own. I’ve kept my eyes open ever since.
Today, let me share some books that families and colleagues have shared that help children navigate their grief and help their parents learn how to help them. It will be important for parents to preview the books to make sure they are a comfortable fit with the family’s ongoing conversation about loss.
The Invisible String by Patrice Karst, a best seller since 2000, describes an invisible string made of love that connects us, even if we can’t be together in person.
The Memory Tree, a picture book by Britta Teckentrup from 2014, about a fox whose life ends in the forest. His friends gather to tell stories of his life and his impact on them.
Tear Soup: A Recipe for Healing After Loss, a bestseller from 2003 by Pat Schwiebert (Author), Chuck DeKlyen (Author), and Taylor Bills (Illustrator) of a wise old woman who has experienced a loss and gets ready to make tear soup.
Sad Isn't Bad: A Good-Grief Guidebook for Kids Dealing With Loss from 1998 by Michaelene Mundy and R. W. Alley
I will be back in future posts to share more books that have the power to help. My professor would be so proud.