The best and only resource you will ever need for helping any child understand and cope with illness, death, and loss
Just as death is inevitable, talking about death is an inevitable part of parenting. Dr. Elena Lister and Dr. Michael Schwartzman offer us the way to have conversations with children that are as much about life as they are about death—conversations that anyone who parents, teaches, or counsels children can have.
Giving Hope is a must-have resource that expands our understanding of how to prepare for, initiate, and facilitate these personal and profound conversations. The approach is honest, practical, and compassionate and will benefit a grieving child both now and in the future. Giving Hope provides us with the tools to make our children’s experiences positive and life-affirming.
About the Author
Elena Lister, MD, is associate professor of clinical psychiatry at New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center and senior consulting analyst for grief at Columbia University Psychoanalytic Center. She treats adults and children facing all life issues, specializes in grief, and is a frequently sought-out expert on dealing with loss in schools across the country. Dr. Lister is the coauthor of I Will Remember You: A Guidebook Through Grief for Teens.
Michael Schwartzman, PhD, ABPP, a senior psychologist and board-certified psychoanalyst, has worked with children, adolescents, adults, and families for more than forty years. In addition to his private practice, Dr. Schwartzman is the consulting psychologist at two independent schools for children and lectures regularly to parents and professional colleagues on child development, parenting, and school-related issues. He is the author of The Anxious Parent: Freeing Yourself from the Fears and Stresses of Parenting.
“I am so grateful for this important book, a resource that is sorely needed. We have a duty to our children to offer them a clear and genuine hope when facing the realities of death and dying. Dr. Lister and Dr. Schwartzman have given us a powerful tool to help us do that work and do it well. Jesus said, 'Let the little children come to me.' We must do no less.” –The Most Rev. Michael B. Curry, Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church and author of Love is the Way: Holding on to Hope in Troubling Times
“A book of gentle wisdom, indispensable in our culture of denial, Giving Hope is a forthright and compassionate guide to speaking with children about death and grief in ways that support the resilience of the young soul.” —Gabor Maté, MD, author of The Myth of Normal: Trauma, Illness, and Healing in a Toxic Culture
"Ultimately, this is a book about truth, courage, empathy, and respect for children who must learn to live with loss and their parents who must guide them." –Steve Leder, author of The Beauty of What Remains
“What a gem you are holding! No less, about, perhaps, the hardest of subjects there ever was. The authors have eased what is easable, and they've held kind space for the rest. Dip in and out to suit, or read it straight through. You’ll learn about the unfathomable, about the inner life of kids, how to be there for them, and you’ll learn a lot about yourself, too.” —BJ Miller
“These authors give the incalculable gift of presence, guidance, and clarity. How to talk to siblings. How to talk to classmates and the kids’ friends and other parents. How to talk to the school. When the unimaginable actually happens, we need help from people who have been there and can light the way. This book, miraculously, is that help.” —Diane E. Meier, MD, Professor, Department of Geriatrics and Palliative Medicine, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
“Giving Hope is a compassionate and practical guide for parents who need to have the hardest and the most important conversations with children, announcing and explaining death and loss -- this is a book which will support adults in speaking truth and providing comfort when children need it most.” –Perri Klass, MD, Professor of Pediatrics, New York University, and author of The Best Medicine
“Giving Hope is a remarkable book by two sensitive, experienced therapists who deal brilliantly with the subject—often neglected—of how to talk with children about death and dying. With straightforward, illustrative examples, the authors suggest that kids often create their own magical theories to make sense of the world. The book demonstrates that children can better understand the universality of death as a part of life and cope with loss only if the parents themselves have dealt with their own grief about the death of a loved one, and thus find hope for the future in creative and productive ways.” –Clarice J. Kestenbaum, MD, Professor of Education and Training in the Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Emerita and Professor of Clinical Psychiatry, Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons
“Talking with children – especially your own – about serious illness and death often feels overwhelming, but the authors provide solid reasons about why it is nonetheless critical. Through readily accessible explanations and numerous examples of honest and clear communication drawn from the experiences of the authors and their patients, this book provides practical guidance on how to initiate these conversations. In so doing, Giving Hope gives parents and caregivers some hope that they can help their children successfully navigate family tragedy and loss.” --David J Schonfeld, MD, Director, National Center for School Crisis and Bereavement at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and author of The Grieving Student “Giving Hope is a wonderfully written book about a very difficult topic, talking to children about death and loss. The authors give useful advice while expertly weaving stories from their lives and their patients to illustrate common situations, questions, and pitfalls. Two incredible aspects of the book are their use of planned repetition to reinforce important points from earlier in the book and telling the reader of what is yet to come; just as you are about to ask a question in your mind about a topic, they let you know when those answers will come in the chapters ahead. Additionally, they summarize important advice throughout the book in bulleted points and take aways that make it clear what they are emphasizing and make the advice easily accessible and usable. As a pediatrician who communicates with families on difficult topics on a regular basis and teaches these skills to learners, I took away valuable lessons regarding taking stock of what I bring to a situation from past loss and teaching others to do similar, as well as many other helpful tidbits to share with families as they face loss in their lives. It is a wonderful, accessible and important read for people dealing with loss in their lives and for those who support families dealing with loss.” –Susan Bostwick, MD, MBA, Weill Cornell Medicine, Professor of Clinical Pediatrics
“As an educator of young children for over 35 years, I am always on the lookout for resources to guide my teachers and our parents through the most difficult challenges of caring for children. Sharing, explaining and comforting children in the face of losses, including death, is one of the most demanding tasks we confront. Drs. Lister and Schwartzman have created the most simple, readable, yet psychologically-sophisticated guide to date. This useful resource acts as a compassionate and experienced companion to every well-meaning adult who finds themself unprepared, bewildered, struggling or even overwhelmed with their own grief and regret. Practical advice on how to share sad news, what to expect from yourself, what responses are “normal” from children, and how to manage unexpected responses are all addressed along with guidance about how to respond to questions when you have no answers, what to do if you say the wrong thing, and how to promote resilience and model empathy for children. I cannot recommend this book strongly enough!” —David O’Halloran PhD, Headmaster, Saint David’s School
“Lister and Schwartzman’s sensitive, insightful book is both practical and profound, an important guide for parents wrestling with one of their most challenging responsibilities. Enriched by poignant personal stories from decades of clinical practice, Giving Hope underscores the power of honesty in situations where we are inclined to hide the truth, and provides the vocabulary for the tough conversations necessary to build a foundation of trust and resilience.” –Miguel Sancho, author of More than You Can Handle
“This is such an important book at a very important time in our history. It is a topic which is very important to me, and I suspect many other parents. From the spring of 2016 to the summer of 2021, my children experienced the loss of a favorite uncle, their loving grandmother, and the patriarch of our family, their grandfather. My husband and I instinctively knew that these life changing losses were also an opportunity for us to sharpen up on parenting skills we had not used as much up until that point. How would we talk to our children about loss and grief? What should we say? All three children were different ages so should we have different approaches? How much information was too much? Even though we did not have the answers to these questions we knew that it was an opportunity to teach and model for them just as we have for their whole lives. This book has the words and guidance I wish I had in my head and heart as I approached these important conversations with our children. While it is grounded in sound professional advice from experts in the field, I appreciate its practical application. I particularly loved the takeaways in each chapter. As parents we hope that the skills that we teach our children will be sustained during adulthood. There is no difference with the topic of learning how to cope with loss and grief which they will have to confront at different times across the span of their lives. Equally as important, it creates space for the cultural differences that exist in families. As an African American family with Caribbean and Southern roots it was important for us to be able to apply our own values and unique family structure. This book not only helps to make us better and more informed parents, it helps to deepen the bond between parent and child while creating a better humanity for us all.” --Anne Williams-Isom Esq. Former CEO Harlem Children’s Zone