They say tragedy comes in threes.
Since last Thursday there have been three deaths of young people that I had either known since childhood or knew through association. The first was a boy I’ve known since we were kids who passed away after a long battle with Muscular Dystrophy. The second was the husband of a former coworker, a state trooper killed on duty. The third, a son of my mom’s coworker, died in a pool accident at the tender age of three. A lot of sadness in a short period of time.
At the same time, teen suicides in our area have spiked (three in three weeks), and we’ve been instructed to be extra diligent in watching for the signs of depression in our students.
As I was dressing for a funeral this morning, I was thinking about how a person deals with the death of a loved one, especially one they expected to have more time with. How does a young widow deal with the sudden violent loss of her husband, or a parent explain the loss of a son to a surviving child?
These thoughts led me to really examine the responsibility we have as writers for children. It often falls to us to tackle tough subjects. Divorce. Heartbreak. Drugs.
We walk the fine line of being realistic, but not so upsetting as to traumatize. We want kids going through something tough to relate but find hope, because in the end you aren’t writing about death. You are writing about life, and how to keep living it in the face of such pain.
What do you think? How do you feel about the responsibility of children’s book authors? Do you feel the weight of it when you write?