The Endless Story: Explaining Life and Death to Children
by Melissa Kircher
Blurb: The Endless Story examines death in a way that is frank, but gentle - talking about why people die and what happens to our bodies when we pass. The book explores traditions of remembrance and diverse ideas about a possible afterlife including reincarnation, energy, soul, heaven, and Mother Nature - ending with Love. The Endless Story invites children to engage in dialogue with their parents or caregivers about this weighty topic, providing them with information and engaging their imaginations with unique, colorful artwork.
1. Tell me about your book, The Endless Story: Explaining Life and Death to Children
The Endless Story is a children’s picture book that aims to be a resource for children and their caregivers about the process of death and dying. I wanted to create a book that allowed children to access facts about life, death, and science in a gentle way—asking them questions as well as providing scientific answers about why we die and what happens to our bodies when we die. I also found that many books about death and grieving were from one religious standpoint. I thought it was important to talk about the myriad of afterlife ideas and diverse traditions around remembrance. Overall, I wanted the book to focus on love, the love we have for people in our lives, and how that love carries on after death.
2. What inspired you to write it?
One rainy day my daughter, son, and I were snuggled up in bed together, and my four-year-old daughter asked, “Mommy, does everyone die? Will Yaya (her grandmother) die? Will Miss Debbie (a close family friend) die?” I was caught off-guard and answered her, “Well, do you want the truth, or do you want me to lie? The lie will make you feel better.” It was not my best parenting moment! My brave girl looked me square in the eye and said, “I want to know the truth.” Together we talked about death and I did my best to answer her questions. The idea for the book was born from our discussion. During our talk, my five-year-old proceeded to find one of my sketchbooks and draw red ink all over a nicely finished illustration! He was not as comfortable with death. Over time, I’ve seen how providing my children with truth, facts, allowing them to ask a ton of questions, and leaving space for mystery is so helpful for their emotional development.
3. Can you share the process that went into the illustrations?
Sure! After I wrote the book, I had to map everything out on cards, making sure that words and potential illustrations would flow and fit within the publishing constraints. As I decided which paragraphs would be on each page, the images started coming into my mind. Diversity and representation was and is very important to me. My son is adopted and black. We are a mixed-race family, and there are not enough picture books that show adults and children with a myriad of skin colors, especially racial diversity within family groups. Keeping this important goal in mind, I created the illustrations in my signature style of dark lines and vibrant colors. It was a joy to draw some of the science and nature pictures and come up with visual ways to capture the varied ideas about an afterlife. My two favorite pages are the cover with a mother and daughter surrounded by nature and a swirling effect meant to portray the endless circle of life and death and love, and the page where I have a heart flower blooming into “bird petals” that fly away. There was a good deal of thought and care that went into the art for this book!
4. What ages of children do you think would most be helped by reading it?
The intended reading ages are from 3-10. However, I’ve had people of all ages write and tell me how much the book has impacted them. One young married couple lost both of their fathers within a short time. They bought The Endless Story for their children to help explain grief, but then a friend ended up reading it to them out loud, story-time style at their kitchen table one night. The friend wrote to me and told me the adults sat and cried as she went through the book with them. I am humbled and touched that children, teens, and adults have used this book to process death and grieving.
5. Anything else you’d like to add:
Thank you for having me on your blog! We, as a connected world entity, are going through tremendous upheavals, change, and loss. The Covid-19 virus has altered the way we think about life and death, taking our lives and loves more seriously. I grieve with collective humanity for the loss of life we’ve suffered thus far and will continue to lose until a safe vaccine is developed. I’m also glad that this passion project of mine can be used in any way to help children and their parents through this time. I hope we come out of this more connected and more filled with love for each other. -Melissa
Bio: Melissa Kircher is a writer, artist, and Enneagram Coach who enjoys everything bold and beautiful. Her artwork has been exhibited in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New York City. Kircher is a licensed artist with Sorelle Gallery Fine Art and a member of Women Who Draw, a directory of professional female illustrators. She is the author of The War Inside, The Gray Horizon, and Dream On, novels for young adults. She has also published a non-fiction book on marriage and authored and illustrated a children’s picture book about death, The Endless Story. She has worked for clients such as The New York Graphic Society, Relevant Magazine, Group Magazine, and EBSCO Publishing, and sees clients daily in her Enneagram Coaching practice. Melissa lives and works in Fairfield County, Connecticut.
Instagram: @melissakircher & @enneagrampaths
Twitter: @MelisKircher & @enneagrampaths
Websites: www.melissakircher.com & www.enneagrampaths.com
Author of the Landry's True Colors Series, the Cecily Taylor Series, the Star Series, and Dating the It Guy.