Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Review: Where Did My Friend Go? Helping Children Cope with a Traumatic Death by Azmaira E. Maker, Ph. D.

by Azmaira E. Maker, Ph. D.
Aspiring Families Press
30 pages

The world can be a violent place. Although you try to shelter your children, terrible things can happen at any moment. As a parent, you want to protect them, but this isn't always possible. The best thing you can do for your children is make sure you are prepared to help them after a sudden death or other traumatic experience.

Where Did My Friend Go? was written by clinical psychologist and child-development specialist Azmaira H. Maker, PhD, to help adults discuss a traumatic death and bereavement with children ages three to eight years old. Children will read along as the protagonist talks about the sudden loss of a friend and asks adults important questions about dying, grief, and safety.

Dr. Maker has spent her career working with children and families. She understands how witnessing-or even simply hearing about-a violent and sudden death can leave children traumatized, frightened, and confused. Dr. Maker's new picture book allows children to cope with their feelings and questions in a calm and nurturing context.

The book includes a guide for adults and a list of discussion questions to help children and adults talk honestly about the difficult emotions that arise after the sudden loss of a loved one. Through conversations, pictures, sculpture, playacting, and more, children can share their fears, learn how to cope, and receive appropriate reassurance about their own safety.


This is a gentle guide to assist parents, teachers and care takers help children who are close to the victim or have witnessed a traumatic death.

Starting with a personal note to the child, the author directly heads into a few words for the parent or adult using this book. This section is probably the most important and should be read through with care, since it isn't a book or its pictures which help children, but the personal interaction and ability to deal with the issue on an individual level. The author simply entitles these two pages 'Note To Adults' but I think it would have be beneficial to add a little more urgency to make sure these leading two pages aren't ignored or shoved aside because this is what determines how well the rest of the text and photos come across.

This isn't a book full of text, but rather harbors a lovely presentation of what a child might be thinking, questions it might have, and/or fears it might be hiding. Each two-page spread contains a big photograph of everyday children doing everyday things but slightly blurred with a dreamy effect. A few short, easy and direct phrases accompany each photo, which bring up simple starting points in thoughts and questions from which kids can open up or consider how they might respond. It's simple enough for even younger children to understand.

The wording and pictures are well done, and the book offers a wonderful basis for opening up to otherwise difficult but necessary discussion. But while the formatting is smooth, the set-up doesn't really invite to pause and discussions. Instead, the book lures to be read through like a normal picture book. But if done in this manner, it looses its value and doesn't offer much help or comfort. When my kids picked this up on their own, they were quite upset, which surprised me but also emphasized how important the notes to the adults are in the beginning.

As with all self-help and assistance books, this isn't one to be used without careful consideration of the child and the circumstances first. It is very focused on a certain target audience: young children who have witnessed a traumatic death of one of their friends or stand extremely close to such an experience. And even then, not all children have the same needs. Still, in the right circumstances and with proper use, this can be a helpful book.

And here she is. . .

Dr. Azmaira H. Maker, Ph.D, licensed clinical psychologist, author, speaker and expert in child development, parenting, and psychotherapy, has twenty years experience and has taught graduate and undergraduate students, published several articles in professional psychology journals, and is the author of Family Changes, which will educate, enlighten, and empower families going through divorce. (from Goodreads)

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