“The Healing Library” Kit Helps Families Grieve


When we lose a loved one, grieving is difficult for people of all ages. It can be especially difficult supporting children through such a traumatic event.

To this end, the Anne Arundel County Public Library (AACPL) has compiled a kit called “The Healing Library: Death of a Loved One” to assist families by offering paths to healing. They include children’s books, resources, a list of community helpers and hands-on activities.

“The Healing Library is meant to give families a sure place to start at a time when they're focused on juggling the many emotional, financial and spiritual difficulties that often accompany the death of a loved one,” said Laura Efrom, assistant branch manager at AACPL.

The Healing Library was developed originally by Megan Emery and several partners in the Chattanooga, Tennessee, area.

In July 2020, AACPL launched its own pilot program with eight kits, dealing specifically with the death of a loved one and including books and activities suitable for a range of ages from 2 to 10. The kits are designed to be used together as a family and can help caregivers with ways to answer difficult questions.

AACPL card-carrying members can check out the kit for three weeks at a time. It’s just like checking a book out of the library for free. The only difference is you need to request it from the library's online catalog or while visiting in person, and there might be a short wait for the kit. My wait was less than one week. The kit can be sent to any of AACPL’s 16 locations for pickup.

The kit was assembled by the following team of people: a children’s librarian, a licensed children’s counselor specializing in art and play therapy, a children’s literature advocate and a programming librarian.

“With this kit designed by librarians and experts in children's wellbeing, caregivers can use books, therapeutic activities and appropriate language to explain death to children and help them begin to come to terms with it,” Efrom said. “It provides structure in a messy time, especially while adults are trying to process their own grief.”

Surprisingly, there are more children’s books about death than one might expect. Titles in the kit consist of: “When Dinosaurs Die: A Guide to Understanding Death,” “The Funeral,” “Something Very Sad Happened: A Toddler’s Guide to Understanding Death” and “The Goodbye Book,” among others. Discussion guides for all books are included.

What I found most remarkable in the kit were the activities or acts of kindness. For instance, blank journals, paper and cards, as well as paints for unique ways to express emotions at a time where talking isn’t always easiest or desired. Bubbles and balloons too. One might take a leap to envision the therapeutic release of both items to the heavens. A squishy stress ball that could soothe all members of a family. Lastly, seeds — organic gourmet lettuce mix, to be precise, from my kit — to plant with its own beautiful metaphor of growth and rebirth. The seeds are kindly donated by the Anne Arundel County Master Gardeners.

“Feedback from our patrons has been altogether positive,” Efrom said. “The book choices alone are a favorite aspect of the kit, but the inclusion of sensory toys, art activities and the discussion guide have all been mentioned as valuable ways to help families grapple with something that seemed unwieldy … The most common advice given from one family to the next is, ‘Take your time.’”

Each kit offers a survey so AACPL can learn ways that it could be improved for future families. Some feedback from families that have checked out The Healing Library include:

  • “The most important part of the kits for our family was all of the books. I highly suggest these books for other kids and families who lost someone.”
  • “This helped our family with death in an age-appropriate way. Thank you for providing this kit!”
  • “This is a fantastic kit for kids and teens going through any type of grief. I loved how it focused on other ways besides talking about feelings - painting, creating a grief box, drawing and illustrating. Grief looks different to each person. I wish I had this kit when I was little!”

To learn more about The Healing Library, visit www.thehealinglibraryus.com.


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