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New Children's Book Guides Families In Coping With Death Of Loved Ones In The COVID Era

"The Secret in the Clouds" co-authors Ron Sachs and Gay Webster-Sachs
"The Secret in the Clouds" co-authors Ron Sachs and Gay Webster-Sachs

The pandemic has meant more children having to deal with mortality.

Even grownups have difficulty with the concept of death. But the concept is even more terrifying and confusing for children. Now Flanigan reports a Tallahassee couple has written a book to help both kids - AND adults - handle death better.

The co-author is no stranger to just about anyone who's lived in Tallahassee for any length of time. He's Ron Sachs, owner of the award-winning Sachs Media marketing and messaging firm. But he attributes the origin of the book to his life partner.

"My wife is a licensed mental health counselor - Gay Webster-Sachs - and she had the terrible tragedy of her dad dying the day after her 10th birthday. The pain and scarring from that, although she's in her 60s, is still fresh today for she and her brothers. It's part of why she became a licensed mental health counselor, particularly specializing in helping kids and kids deal with loss. She's done a lot of mental health work through hospice organizations."

It simply seemed a logical decision to make that expertise and advice available to a wider audience.

"So we wanted to write a book to help children and families deal with the loss of losing a loved one, because it really is a transformative experience that can be very bad and very hard even if it's handled right, but it's very often handled wrong."

But as the writing progressed last year, the COVID-19 pandemic struck. Sachs says he and his wife quickly changed the nature of the story to accommodate the new, deadly reality of loved ones succumbing to the disease.

"So we decided to use that as the backdrop of a little 7-year old girl named Sonny Albright who's bright and imaginative and sees beautiful pictures in the clouds of dogs and boats and airplanes. And her grandma, Hope, becomes sick with COVID and passes."

Certainly a tragedy. One that could have saddled young Sonny with life-long trauma. But Sachs says that's not what happened as Sonny's parents marshalled the resources to help her cope with the loss of her grandmother, which are enumerated in the book.

"Her parents put her in a Zoom-y conference with a mental health counselor. In her dreams she sees some cloud creatures that lift her spirits. She wakes up and is kind of getting back to being whole because she's learning to process this pain. That's the good intentions of the book and the copies we've shared with educators, mental health, hospice professionals and teachers, have all received rave reviews because of the tender story and the beautiful illustrations that bring it to life."

Those vibrant watercolor images the work of an old Ron Sachs college friend, Nancy Simon Sica. The book also has some bonus learning content after the main story.

"It's got a little science in it, because at the end of the book there are some illustrations of real clouds to help kids understand different cloud types and then there are some mental health links in the back."

All in all, said Sachs, the book fulfills a multitude of worthwhile purposes.

"So we think the book itself will help families with children help those children cope with the grief and pain of losing a loved one and process it in healthy ways, but also proceeds from the book sales will go to Hospice to help with their important mission."

The Secret in the Clouds by Ron Sachs and Gay Webster-Sachs is easy to find.

"While it's available around the country on Amazon and Barnes and Noble, here in our hometown of Tallahassee it's available at Midtown Reader, our favorite book store."

It's an enjoyable and invaluable handbook, especially at this time when death has become more frequent than usual.

Copyright 2021 WFSU. To see more, visit WFSU.

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