REPRESENTATION National Grief Awareness Day August 30


National Grief Awareness Day, which takes place on August 30th, is a day dedicated to raising awareness of the different ways that we cope with loss. Eva Wong Nava, features editor of Representation takes a look at some books that help parents and educators help their children and students, even themselves, navigate the emotions around loss, and also birth.


“Grieving is a natural process and this should not be tampered with,” said Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis. Grief as a process was little understood or talked about back in the day. It wasn’t until 1969, some fifty-two years after Freud's quote, that Elizabeth Kübler-Ross would come up with the concept of the “Five Stages of Grief”. Yet, even if we did understand these five stages—denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance—loss is still really hard to process.


“Time heals all wounds” is a proverb we have heard all too often. But does it really? Michael Rosen doesn’t agree. He says that doing things is what heals a broken heart. He says that he “has sad thoughts every day” and that he tries “not to be overcome by them” when interviewed by Alex Moshakis of The Guardian on coping with the death of his son. He also said in the interview that “coping is an everyday practice – we are coping even when we are unaware we are coping”. And, our writing and art are often one of the many ways we cope with loss as writers and illustrators, I feel.


Rosen, as we know, was the Children’s Laureate, and he has written a staggering number of books. One of them being Michael Rosen’s SAD BOOK (Walker, 2011). The pictures are by Quentin Blake, also a former Children’s Laureate. This book is layered in so many ways a picture book can be, and one that helped Rosen cope with the most terrible loss any parent could face—the death of their child. Sad, moving, uplifting, this sad book is about how Rosen grieved the death of Eddie, his 18-year old son, from meningococcal septicaemia, or meningitis in 1999. It has been more than two decades since Eddie’s death, and Rosen has, this year, published a memoir, Getting Better, that talks about how affected he still is by Eddie’s passing, amongst other things. When we have faced loss at any stage in our lives, everything that comes after can only get better, we hope, at least. I take courage from Rosen’s courage because he talks about the “swirly whirly” moments that come with the death of one’s child. I’ve had many of these swirly-whirly moments since I lost a child in 1994. She was born premature.

There’s been a lot on the news recently on the trial of Lucy Letby, the serial child killer. I read the analysis of what Letby had done over the years, the speculations of her intentions, her motivations to have caused the death of so many premature babies under her care, and I grieved for the parents and families of the babies, with the rest of our nation. As my mind often meanders down side streets and alleys, I found myself thinking of books that celebrate life. And, I couldn’t help but remember this old book — Hello Baby, words by Jenni Overend, and pictures by Julie Vivas — (Frances Lincoln Children's Books, 2009). (I say old because publishing comps are typically books that were published no more than five years prior vis-a-vis your own.) This book is about a little child waiting at home for the birth of of their sibling. It’s a book about home-birth and the person who comes and help Mum have her baby—the midwife. Hello Baby is a picture book I would have loved to have written, as a home-birth was something I had aspired to, but couldn’t have for complicated reasons. This picture book with its gorgeous illustrations is a good one to help a child understand that not all babies are born in the hospital. My grandmother was birthed at home, and so were her children—my mother and her siblings. Although I would’ve liked to follow in my grandmother’s footsteps, I’m actually grateful that I couldn’t. The midwives and consultants who attended to my babies’ births should be awarded medals, and I’m thankful for the attention and care that they showed me and my children.

Since I mentioned Rosen’s memoir, I’d like to bring up another — Inferno (Bloomsbury Circus, 2020) by Catherine Cho. Like me, Cho is a transplant to the UK, and bringing up children in a third-culture environment. She struggled with cultural pressure (Cho is Korean-American) and expectations, and the huge responsibility being a first-time mother having to navigate a world where East and West don't often meet. This is a book about loss and recovery, of a woman’s struggle with postpartum psychosis when her baby was three months old, and what happened to her as a result. It’s a memoir that must be read — frightening, raw, brave and moving — it would resonate with any woman who has been afflicted with post-partum depression, and for any man who has had to hold that space for their partners. In writing this memoir, Cho wrote herself back to sanity. 



*Header image: In-house collaboration between Ell Rose and Tita Berredo


Eva Wong Nava writes to save herself. She has written several picture books as writing for this age group is her happy place. Eva also writes for adults, and she has ghostwritten a number of memoirs, where childbirth and mothering often come up as themes. Find Eva on Twitter and Instagram @evawongnava. Email her


Ell Rose is the Illustration Features Editor of Words & Pictures. Contact them at

Tita Berredo is the Illustrator Coordinator of SCBWI British Isles and the Art Director of Words & Pictures. Contact her at:

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