Amy Rovere, author of the newly released And Still They Bloom: A Family’s Journey of Loss and Healing joins me today. The American Cancer Society has just published Amy’s beautiful book, written to help children and their parents deal with the death of a loved one. And Still They Bloom tells the story of loss and acceptance in simple language, but the accessibility of the text does not take away from its powerful message. Gorgeous illustrations created by Joel Spector make perfect companions to the moving story.
Colleen: Amy, thank you for joining me and Patch readers today.
Amy: It’s my pleasure, Colleen.
Colleen: I can’t begin to tell you how much your book touched me on so many levels. The obvious one is the empathy I felt for the children in your story as a parent. We always want to shield our children from pain. But, adults can feel orphaned as a result of death, too, no matter their ages. And as an adult, I’ve had the same feelings as the children in your book. Did you write the book for children or for “children of all ages?”
Amy: Thank you. It’s been wonderful to hear that the story really moves people. The primary audience for the book is children ages 8-12, but I also wanted to create material that would speak to adults. The death of a loved one is traumatic for every family member, and family dynamics change after a loss. Parents, as well as children, need support and guidance as they struggle to adapt to their changed world and begin the healing process. While there may be concerns that are more specific to how children react to loss, the process by which people grieve and heal is remarkably similar for both children and adults. Every person must grieve in their own way, but there are universal themes that I tried to capture in the book. My hope is these themes will resonate with anyone, regardless of age, that has experienced a loss.
Colleen: What inspired you to write the book?
Amy: I was nine years old when my mother died of lung cancer, and much of the book is based on my own knowledge of loss after she died. But it wasn’t until my maternal grandmother died in 2007, that I started writing about grief. Only then did I start to explore my feelings related to my loss as a child. While I was grieving, I had to help my daughter cope with her own feelings of loss. During that process, I began to question how I would comfort and support her if and when other losses happened in our family. What would I want her to know, if I was the one who died and wasn’t there for her? These questions are what inspired the book, and it was through the writing process that I finally began to come to terms with my own grief.
Colleen: The emotions your characters’ experiences ring true. Did you go through them yourself?
Amy: Both children are based, in part, on how I reacted to my mother’s death. And many of the questions asked in the story were questions I had as a child so the material comes from a very personal place. The book, however, is not autobiographical in the truest sense. My family’s experience after my mother died was very different from that of Emily and Ben in many ways. But, the emotions expressed in the book are ones that I have felt personally.
Colleen: I’ve written fictional accounts about the death of loved ones, but the emotions described come from my own memories. The process reopened old wounds. How painful was it for you to relive your own personal loss?
Amy: You know, Colleen, I actually found the writing process therapeutic. Even though excavating these past wounds was often difficult, writing this book made the emotional weight of my loss less burdensome and easier to bear. Each of us who has experienced loss has to learn to some extent how to parent ourselves in order to heal. Becoming a mother myself and eventually writing this book enabled me to help that child inside of me who still misses her mother.
Colleen: Each of the characters in your book finds comfort in different ways—whether it is through drawing, writing, or gardening…etc. Besides writing this book, what has helped you most cope with your own grief?
Amy: In addition to being a writer and editor, I am an artist.
I find that working with my hands is comforting—both as a means of distraction and the joy I feel creating something that didn’t exist before I started. I find this creative process very life affirming. By channeling my emotions through my art, I can explore these feelings and make sense of them in surprising ways. Vibrant colors and interesting textures can be calming when I feel distraught. Even in my darkest of times, I can create something new and full of life, and this process has helped me most cope with my own grief.
Colleen: What do you want readers to take away from your book?
Amy: I wanted to provide families with a resource to help start discussions that could lead them along the path toward healing. Learning to find acceptance after loss can be challenging for anyone, young or old. It can be very difficult to open up and talk about loss and to know how to support those who are grieving. Many of us struggle with what to say or how to act when someone’s in pain. Loss is a universal part of the human experience—we can’t escape it. But we can learn to use the tools we have at our disposal to adapt to our ever changing world and help others on the same path. The message I most want to convey to children is that talking can relieve some of that burden and help us feel less alone in our grief. Coping does eventually get easier over time, even if the pain of loss never completely leaves us. We can keep those we love in our hearts as we face a life ahead without them. We can remember our loved ones, we can honor their memory, and we can find joy again after loss.
Colleen: Have you had feedback on the book? And if so, can you share it with us?
Amy: The response so far has been very positive. The situations, emotions, and questions presented in the book seem to resonate with those who have read it. One reviewer commented that I didn’t sugarcoat the pain and anger that children feel, and only by approaching this subject honestly, could I have created a hopeful book. That this reviewer could view the book as both painfully real and hopeful, I consider high praise.
Another reviewer read the book shortly after her mother had passed away. She really related to Emily even though her loss occurred when she was an adult. She made the remark that parental loss can trigger feelings of vulnerability no matter what age you are when you lose a parent. So far, most of the feedback has come from adults, but I am really looking forward to hearing from children. Children are exceptionally honest, and I am really interested in what they have to say about the book.
Colleen: I am so impressed by the fact that all profits will benefit the American Cancer Society. Can you explain how the purchase of your book will directly benefit cancer patients, survivors, and their families?
Amy: Because the American Cancer Society is the book’s publisher, all the proceeds from the book go directly back to the American Cancer Society and their mission to create a world with more birthdays. I do not receive any author royalties for the book. Anyone who purchases this book will not only be supporting a child or family who is suffering, he or she will also help the American Cancer Society save lives by helping people stay well, helping people get well, by finding cures and by fighting back.
Colleen: I understand you have a schedule of appearances planned to promote your book. Would you tell us where readers can see you during the next few months?
Amy: I volunteer locally with Kate’s Club, and we have a reading planned during their support services day on July 21st. I have been invited to appear at Charis Books & More in Atlanta, and we are looking at dates in late August to hold a reading and discussion, but that date is not yet finalized. I have been in touch with other grief support organizations, and I am in the process of scheduling additional appearances. If any readers are interested in hosting a reading and discussion, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Colleen: Most importantly, where can they buy your beautiful book?
Amy: The book can be purchased at the American Cancer Society bookstore:cancer.org/bookstore. The book can also be ordered from any online or retail bookseller. If you don’t buy directly from cancer.org, I encourage you to support your local independent bookseller. Thanks for your support.
Colleen: Thank you for spending time with us today, Amy. I strongly encourage any readers dealing with loss to use Amy’s book, And Still They Bloom: A Family’s Journey of Loss and Healing, as a resource. To learn more about the book or its author, please visitwww.amyrovere.com.