After Normal

From the book "After Normal" by Diane Aggen - a real life story about a 14 year old girl's journey through grief after the drowning death of her younger brother.
"Breathe. Please just breathe," I begged myself as I knelt in the backyard, doubled over and gasping for air, my eyes squeezed shut.

I wanted the ground to open and swallow me whole. I wanted to float towards the sun and never stop. I wanted to go to sleep and never wake. I wanted to wake and have this be a horrible, horrible nightmare. I wanted to start running and never, ever stop. I could just keep running. First, though, I needed to catch my breath. Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale. Breathe. That's all. Just breathe. I opened my eyes but quickly shut them again. The grass was too green.

Inhale. Exhale. Each inhale filled my lungs, my heart, my very soul with sorrow. Each exhale left only emptiness.
It is honest and real, written for teenagers by a teenager and carrying the assuring message that life and the future will be okay - a beautiful book about loss but also about hope.

As a parent it gave me valuable insight and a better understanding of my children's grief process. I recommend this book with an open heart to any teenager who has lost a sibling regardless of the circumstances.

I sent Henry and Alecia each a copy and soon after Alecia called me to say that it was the best book that she has read in her entire life. We talked about the book, comparing it to our situation and it  lead to one of the most helpful and healing discussions about her grief experience we ever had.

By now Alecia has read it so many times that she can recite her many of the paragraphs by heart. She chose for her prepared reading at school to read from After Normal moving her teacher to tears.

Henry said nothing about the book for months and I didn't ask either. He does things in his own time. I knew the day would come when he would either tell me that he decided never to read the book or else that he had read it.

And so it happened. He chose to read the book and he really liked it too. He also told me that he was too scared to read it at first (which as I knew was the reason for his silence) but that his fear was unnecessary as the story didn't leave him upset, it made him feel better. Coming from Henry, it means the book is indeed special.

Unlike Alecia, he doesn't talk freely about his grief or about Daniel. Only when he feels ready will he open his wounded heart and only in small safe bits. 

A letter from Dianne:

Dear Alison,

Thank you very much for taking the time to write your letter regarding my book, After Normal.

Please accept my sincere condolences concerning the loss of your precious Daniel. I know that there is nothing I can say to even lessen your pain, but please know I will keep you and your family in my thoughts.

I wrote the book because I wanted teens, such as your Henry and Alecia, to understand that they aren't alone in their grief and that others before them have walked that path. It is a long road. I hope, however, that some of the words I have written in the book will encourage your children to share their own thoughts with you. I don't know your Henry and Alecia, of course, but I do know that 14 year olds don't know how to handle such a tragic loss on their own. It is interesting how closely their and my losses parallel. I hope my experiences will serve as conversation starters for all of you as you work through this as a family.

Again, thank you for taking the time to write. I appreciate your kind words and I wish all the best to you and your family.

Diane Aggen


Andrea said...

Thank you Alison for sharing. I'm excited to hear of a book for teenagers. I will need to get this one for my son Tyler. Hope it's as helpful as it has been for your kids. So glad it has given them some hope.
Sending my love your way!

Pokagon Member said...

Hi Allison

Thinking of you, i hope you are doing well.