Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Book Nook: Without Explanation - A True Story of Love and Loss in the Jungle

I recently had a chance to review Rod Jasmer’s traic story, Without Explanation: A True Story of Love and Loss in the Jungle. Geologist, adventurer and Minnesota father of three, shares his story about what it means to tragically lose the love of your life in the most unimaginable of circumstances, while his three young children lay asleep in their beds thousands of miles away.
The book was well-written. It was hard to read, because it is just so hard to imagine the pain of losing a spouse, and so hard to imagine how to help kids through the grieving process. As a teacher, I've had quite a few students who have lost a parent, and it's not easy even as a supportive adult, let alone part of the family.
I think Rod did a good job describing his journey through grief. As a reader, it was easy to get a feel for his raw emotions, his shock, and his pain. I think books like these make good reads for anyone who has lost a spouse, to find another story and realize you aren't alone - and also for those who know grieving families, to help understand what they may be going through.
I had a chance to interview Rod to learn more.
·       What inspired you to publish this book?
After my return to the States from Guatemala, I started writing notes to make sure I would never forget the details of the tragic event. My hope was to someday assemble all the information in one place for my children. It wasn’t long before people started to ask me if they could read what I’d written. When a friend suggested the book might be helpful to others, I started to seriously consider publishing, even though, at the time, I had no idea what publishing a book entailed. It hasn’t always been easy, but the words people have shared with me after reading the story has been incredibly inspiring.  
·       Why is it so hard to help kids cope with losing a parent?
I found that children can be incredibly resilient at times, but they normally do not possess the coping skills as many adults. It can be hard to place yourself into the child’s situation, making it difficult to understand their true feelings. The timeframe for kids to process information varies considerable. You shouldn’t feel a need to over explain the situation, particularly at first. As kids more fully grasp the circumstance and its meaning to them, you can provide additional details. It might be several months or even years before a child learns to cope with the situation. Do not be surprised if an unrelated event in their life triggers feelings they’d previously suppressed.
·       How can people support families that have lost a parent?
It is likely that families going through the loss of a parent are unsure of what to do or how to ask for help. It can also be difficult for some to accept assistance from others. There is no single method or correct way to support a family or children going through such an ordeal. Emotions from the loss can change behavior patterns and it is not unusual for them to even ignore their own health. Each day typically brings a different need. Some days the family just doesn’t want to talk about their loss and a hot meal might be what’s needed. On another day, they might need to get out of the house. If it appears they would like to talk, being a quiet listener as they describe how much they miss their spouse or parent can be incredibly valuable to them. Understand that after the funeral activities, when friends and relatives start to leave, they will be left to cope with the loss. This will confront them countless times per day. Recognize that it will take time and plenty of patience to support them.
·       How can kids help their friends when they've lost a parent?
Assistance can come in many forms and does not need to be grand or take a long time. A hug, a few words or listening can be helpful and comforting. My children received homemade cards and notes from their classmates and friends. Letting children know how much others love and care about them can be reassuring. There will be times progress seems slow, so be sympathetic to this and know that small steps can be an accomplishment. It was helpful for my kids to know that others have gone through a similar loss, though just because this has happened to others, do not assume this fact alone should make them feel better. It can be difficult to fit in when you’re a kid; so as a friend, continue to be just that, a friend, and don’t treat them differently because of their loss.  

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