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Arts / New book aims to support children going through bereavement

Belinda Anderson's book is also raising money for Cancer Research.

WHEN Belinda Anderson lost her dad to cancer when she was aged just 11, she struggled to grieve properly in a culture where talking about bereavement was not encouraged.

After suppressing this grief for nearly 20 years, she found solace in art therapy, which let her work through her feelings through creativity.

She has now channeled her own experience of bereavement into creating her first book Losing Papa – Finding Hope in a bid to highlight the importance of finding a way to express grief.

The story revolves around the character Hope – who, like Belinda – lost a loved one to cancer.

Belinda’s dad passed away back in 1998 – a time when society’s response to grief often focused on keeping your chin up and just getting on with it.

She said while that approach appeared to work for a number of years, it had “pretty disastrous consequences” for her in the longer term.

The qualified art psychotherapist and former teacher raised more than £2,000 through a crowdfunding campaign to get the book published.

All profits from sales will go to Cancer Research, with 200 shifted already since going on sale around a week ago.

It has been sitting at number three in the Amazon bestsellers list alongside David Walliams for books in the death/bereavement category.

The book also features artwork from freelance illustrator Samuel Batley, who is well used to contributing to children’s literature.

“I want this book to reach as many young people out there who have been affected by a cancer related bereavement as possible, helping them to see that it is a positive thing to be able to express your grief after losing someone you love,” Belinda said.

“When I lost my dad the grief culture at the time was very much one where talking about your loss wasn’t encouraged.

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“Expressing and processing grief promotes positive mental wellbeing in the longer term and this book can be used by a supportive adult to support young people who have been bereft to express their feelings.”

She stressed it is okay if people find it too hard to speak about how they feel after a bereavement.

“But there are so many other ways grief can be expressed, without having to use words,” Belinda continued.

“For me personally, I used art as an outlet, which I could then explore as part of my therapy sessions in a safe environment.”

Belinda said the idea for the book had been floating around in her head for years – but she realised she had to do her own grieving before giving it a go.

“After receiving the help I needed to grieve with an amazing counsellor back in Shetland, as well as completing my MSc in art psychotherapy in the spring of 2021, it all came to fruition,” she said.

“Back in May last year, my university peers put together an online exhibition, showcasing a piece of art from each student. It was that very evening, after the exhibition, that I began to put it down onto paper.

“I sent the manuscript to a few friends and colleagues who were really supportive of it, and the wheels were then fully in motion.”

Belinda, who is from Yell, said she retrained from being a teacher because she was becoming increasingly aware of the high number of children and young people who required additional support to work through emotional issues.

She came across art therapy “by accident” after her counsellor invited her to depict her feelings visually.

“My journey to becoming an art psychotherapist has been a huge factor in creating Losing Papa – Finding Hope,” she continued.

“The key message within the story is to encourage young people who have experienced a loss to find a way to express their feelings whether this be via words, art making, writing etcetera.

“I’m sure many other people out there would certainly have benefited from hearing this message as a young person after experiencing such a significant bereavement.”

People can buy a copy of a Losing Papa, Finding Hope through Amazon.

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