Lauren Flake is the author of "Where Did My Sweet Grandma Go?: A Preschooler's Guide to Losing a Loved One." We had the opportunity to interview her about the story behind this book.
AllMomDoes: Tell me about your heart behind this book.
Lauren: "Where Did My Sweet Grandma Go?: A Preschooler's Guide to Losing a Loved One" started as my attempt at explaining my mother's absence to my two young daughters. A year after losing my mom to Alzheimer's disease, my then two-and-a-half-year-old started asking questions about her grandmother. She could easily identify my mom in photos throughout our home but consistently described her as a "pretty bird." That beautiful symbol of my mother's eternal love and freedom as part of God's creation became the basis for the book.
AllMomDoes: I’m guessing you have a story of loss. Would you be willing to share?
Lauren: My mother was diagnosed with mid-stage, early onset Alzheimer's disease immediately after I graduated from college. She was my mentor and best friend. I had watched her decline for several years, clueless as to what was causing her forgetfulness and personality change. After moving past my initial denial about her diagnosis, I ended up managing her care while I was getting married and starting my own career and family. I placed my mother under hospice care while I was pregnant with my oldest daughter; she passed away, two years later, while I was pregnant with my youngest daughter. Seventeen months later, I also lost my stepmother, who had become a close friend, to colon cancer.
AllMomDoes: How do children process grief differently?
Lauren: Young children often have trouble grasping the finality of death and may expect their deceased loved ones to return. This can be a difficult conversation for grieving parents to address over and over again. "Where Did My Sweet Grandma Go?" reassures children that our loved ones are forever part of our lives and forever part of God's creation even if they are now physically absent. Even though young children won't fully understand these concepts until they are older, the book helps kids start thinking about death in terms of legacy and eternal life.
AllMomDoes: Tell us about doing this book yourself. What was this labor of love like for you?
Lauren: This project was a multi-generational collaboration, pulling together ideas and advice from my preschool-age daughter, artwork from my late mother and funding for the book's professional layout design from my maternal grandmother. On my end, the book took about 2 years to complete, but some of my mom's art we included is actually from 40 years ago, when she was in college. So I guess you could say this project was 4 generations and 4 decades in the making.
The self publishing process definitely tested my faith and self confidence. I agonized over every detail and decision, terrified of failing after investing so much time, energy and money into this project. But I felt God's direction and encouragement every step of the way and would do it all over again because I'm so proud of the finished product.