Interview with Cathy Blanford
Cathy Blanford wrote the book Something Happened to help families explain a sudden infant loss to their other children. She has a Masters Degree in Early Childhood Development from the Erikson Institute in Chicago and over 30 years experience working with grieving families.
Something Happened is copyrighted 2008 and 2012 and a Spanish edition is copyrighted 2013, which shows a clear appreciation for your message. Could you give us some background on how you came to write the book?
My first exposure to grieving children was in the 80s when I was employed by Lutheran Social Services of Illinois and began the program, Positive Care, which worked to find, train and support foster and adoptive families in the care of HIV+ children. Some of the children who were dying due to having AIDS were my first teachers in children’s grief. From them I learned the ways in which children grieve and how best to help them.
Later, I went on to work as a chaplain and bereavement counselor at Elmhurst Hospice. There it became apparent that children were often being left out of the dying and grieving process by well-meaning adults who thought it best to protect children from experiencing the death of a close family member.
I began a children’s grief group at that time, Children Grieve Too, and later went on to start a group for grieving children at St. Thomas Hospice. That group, Tommy’s Kids, has been meeting for 14 years and continues today, and I work with the parents of the children who attend the group.
While volunteering with the Still Missed perinatal loss program at Hinsdale Hospital, I became aware of the impact that the death of an expected infant in the family has on the siblings of that infant. Few resources were available to help these children, so I authored the book Something Happened to help them.
What prompted you to write My Baby Big Sister: A Book for Children Born Subsequent to a Pregnancy Loss?
I am myself a subsequent and know from firsthand experience how confusing it can be for a child to grow up in a family that has suffered the death of an infant.
The structure of the books is interesting. You have both a simple text for parents to read to young children and separate boxes to give parents additional help. Can you comment on how you chose that structure and the feedback you’ve gotten?
Both books were written with young children in mind, and in addition to the illustrations and words for children, most pages contain a box with words for parents. I used this method to help parents understand what their children might be experiencing and how to help them. Feedback from families who have used these books has been very positive, with children asking again and again to read the book and parents expressing gratitude for the help the words designed for them have offered.
Could you give us a little more information about yourself? How long have you lived in Western Springs?
Our family moved to Western Springs in 1988, four years before my husband’s death.
Could you tell us more about your family?
I have two adult daughters, one of whom lives in LaGrange and is the mother of my two grandchildren. The other daughter lives in Chicago but works nearby in DuPage County. If you live in Old Town, you have no doubt seen me out walking with my dog and on occasion, my daughter’s dog as well. I love to walk and also attend a health club five days a week.
I’m in a writing group, a book club, and a dream group, all of which enrich my life.
Favorite books to read on your own? Favorites to read with children?
I love to read and am a frequent patron of Thomas Ford Library. I enjoy historical fiction and presidential biographies. A favorite author is Ron Chernow and this summer I enjoyed reading Alexander Hamilton and Grant. I recently discovered novels by Vanessa Diffenbaugh and especially enjoyed The Language of Flowers. I have an extensive collection of children’s books, amongst which some of my favorites are The Best Nest by P.D. Eastman and Where Do People Go When They Die? By Mindy Avra Portnoy.
Look for or request Something Happened and My Baby Big Sister by Cathy Blanford in the Library’s Parenting section.
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