WASHINGTON — Book lovers know that a good read can be the perfect introduction to a time or place that you’ve never experienced before.
But what about an emotion?
That’s exactly what The Healing Library does for families. It’s a collection of books and training materials that can help parents guide their children through grief and loss for the first time.
“As adults, we all have experiences that we look back on about how we dealt with our pet dying when we were a little kid or if you were a child that lost a friend or a family member,” founder and librarian Megan Schadlich remembers. “Those things stick with you, and the way that your parents dealt with it was really sort of the signpost for you to deal with those things.”
Shadlich came up with the Healing Library idea as a way to give back to her community when she was in graduate school at Syracuse University. While working on the project, she experienced the loss of her father, as well as other family members.
“It seemed like every time I was turning around, there was a new trauma that I was forced to deal with on top of regular life and grad school and all of that," she said.
Shadlich said that the project quickly took a very personal turn due to those experiences.
The Healing Library officially launched in 2017, and now, 12,000 downloads later, the website has had visits from all over the globe from families who are seeking resources for how to deal with the collective human experience of grief.
Since the start of the project, Shadlich experienced the birth of her own child. Today, the project is just as personal to her as it was when it began.
“We're raising not just children who have the ability to discuss their own grief and trauma . . . but what you're actually doing is raising the community of people that have those same tools, kids become adults and kids become teenagers, and they talk to one another,” she said.
After working with a trained social worker and sourcing for meaningful materials, Shadlich and her small team have created kits that cover life events from divorce and death of a pet or loved one to grieving the way that life has changed during the pandemic.
“It's sort of taking the images in front of you, or taking the experience and the empathy that you're reading about on the page, and how to turn it so that your child is engaging with it on a deeper level,” Shadlich explained.
The Healing Library’s Death of a Loved One kit is available by request at any Anne Arundel County Public Libraries, but any of the kits can also be downloaded and printed for free at home, wherever you are.
Find more information and those free downloads on The Healing Library’s website.