If Disney movies have taught us anything, a parent (or both) must die for our protagonist’s story to begin. Perhaps it’s Disney’s influence, but the tragic loss of a parent is a popular theme in YA and many MG novels. If we’re honest with our readers (and with our fictional characters) such loss colors every act and reaction for the rest of our character’s days.
But how to realistically portray the haunting void left by a deceased parent? And what plotlines or plot points might spring from that ache?
Author Karolyn Rogers was 5 years old when she became one of the millions of Americans who’ve lost a parent to war. In her book, WHEN DADDY COMES HOME, Rogers offers tips for living with loss, no matter what the nature of the tragedy may be.
• Understand the path in front of you today. The path to healing is a lifelong process; the loss is something you’ll continue to palpably feel. However, you have to create closure in your life, as best you can, after the loss of a loved one who would want you to live a full and happy life.
• Closure has no deadline. It doesn’t matter how much time has passed since your loved one passed away. The psychological effects remain with you, right below the surface, and they need to be dealt with.
• Don’t be afraid to explore who your loved one was. It’s worth the effort to make the journey to discovering who your loved one was—either through going online and learning what you can, or visiting sites that were important to him or her, or doing traditional research.
• Whether implicitly or explicitly, do NOT follow the no-talk rule. The pain of losing a precious, noble, honorable and loving family member can be so overwhelming that the bereaved often find the prospect of speaking about the loss intimidating and overwhelming. Talking about your loved one keeps their memory alive, and discussion is healing for the bereaved.
• Appreciate the closure you have, at any given point in time. There’s no such thing as absolute closure, but the focus of this journey is feeling better.
Author Karolyn Rogers’ father, Pfc. Tom T. Wilmeth, was killed during Gen. Patton’s advance on Berlin in the waning days of World War II. The loss devastated her family and left Rogers with a lingering void, until she began researching her father’s life. She learned her dad earned the Purple Heart and many other decorations, he was a loving and caring husband and father, as evidenced by the many letters he sent from Europe to his family in Oklahoma.