Book helping youngsters bereaved by suicide to understand ‘Why’?
Now there’s a newspaper headline guaranteed to grab the attention of even the most casual of readers. It’s also the exact same question that prompted Dr Trudy Meehan to write her fictional story book ‘The Way Home’ as profiled by Sheila Wayman in the Irish Times this week.
Trudy was awarded funding through our current Seed Grant programme supported by Creative Ireland, to engage with artist Fergal O’Connor to illustrate the text of this fictional picture book aimed at young people (and adults) who have been impacted by the sudden, complex abandonment by a loved one, such as bereavement through suicide.
Drawing on Trudy’s professional experience as a researcher on the value of creative engagement for health and well-being, along with her applied work as a Senior Clinical Psychologist in Child and Adolescent Mental Health, ‘The Way Home’ responds to a recurring statement Trudy hears all too often from those similarly impacted: “If they really loved me, they wouldn’t have done this.”
Sadly, it’s also informed by Trudy’s personal experience of supporting her daughter whose father died by suicide.
Nonetheless, ‘The Way Home’ is also a story about hope and keeping faith with oneself and others.
As Trudy told both us and the Irish Times:
“It tells the story of an astronaut whose pain becomes too strong after he has an accident in space. He gives up hope and loses his connection to home. It is honest and human, but gentle and won’t overwhelm a young reader. The ending is deliberately left open. A rescue ship from earth eventually comes but … can they rescue him or is it too late?”
The book also acknowledges the emotional impact of loss by suicide and seeks to reduce any associated feelings of shame and isolation. It supports meaning-making for children, scaffolding the process of understanding difficult concepts through narrative, image, and imagination.
If you have been affected by the topic raised in this post, you can freephone our national Bereavement Support Line run by the HSE and Irish Hospice Foundation at: 1800-80 70 77 (Monday-Friday 10am-1pm).
For information about supporting youngsters through bereavement, visit our Children’s Bereavement hub.
About Dr Trudy Meehan
Trudy Meehan (D.Clin.Psych. & PhD.) is a Senior Clinical Psychologist, Chartered with the Psychological Society of Ireland. She is a lecturer and researcher at the Centre for Positive Health Sciences at RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences, Ireland, where she researches and writes about creative health, art, culture and identity. Prior to this, she was a clinical psychologist in the HSE where she worked with people bereaved by suicide. As a team member at the Centre for Positive Health Sciences, she is especially interested in developing and evaluating cultural tools that can assist people bereaved by suicide. More about Trudy is available here.
About Fergal O’Connor
Fergal O’Connor is an Irish illustrator currently based in Barcelona, Spain. He illustrates for children’s books, commercial and private commissions. He has exhibited his work across Ireland, as well as internationally. Fergal mainly works with traditional media to create intricate images full of life and playful details. He loves to create fantastical scenes and characters who inhabit a world that is both whimsical and dark. His work has been featured in publications such as ‘Imagine FX’ and ‘Sketching from the Imagination’ published by 3D Total. His work is held in private collections across the globe and he is a member of both the Changeling Artist Collective and the Illustrators Guild of Ireland. For more visit: Fergal O’ Connor (fergoconnor.com)