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How do you talk to a child about death? Manoj Abraham hopes that his new book, Where the Tomorrows Go - a touching story about a young girl coping with the loss of her beloved dog - can be a tool parents use to help their children navigate death, grief, and the harsher realities of the world.
Abraham has owned many dogs. When he simultaneously experienced the birth of his son and the death of many of his pets, he created the concept for Where the Tomorrows Go. Although his son was young at the time, Abraham worried about how he would address his son’s sadness over the dogs and questions about mortality. "It was troubling to me that I didn't know what to say if he did ask," Abraham remembered.
The concern led him to write a story that could not only help him with his children, but guide other parents as well. "I try to use the loss of a pet as the vehicle through which to talk about loss to a small child," he said. "I wanted something universal, nothing too specific to a certain nationality or religion; the message should apply to all living things, whether it's a person or a pet.”
Abraham says that adults tell him they become teary reading the story, and that their children have learned positive ways to cope with grief. A radio producer who had just recently lost a dog tweeted a photo of his children reading the book.
It is not only readers, however, that believe the story to be effective. Abraham told NBC News that the National Association of School Psychologists plans to add Where the Tomorrows Go to their updated list of Recommended Books for Children Coping With Loss or Trauma.
Abraham hopes that the book encourages parents not to shy away from confronting tough issues with their children.
"Don't be afraid to give children some credit and allow them to process and understand things," he said. "Don't be afraid to not sugarcoat things.”
The second-time author says he used his own experiences, growing up in a tight-knit, Indian-American household, to pull lessons for the interactions in his books.
“Being from a first generation Indian-American family, respect was everything, it was woven into the fabric of who I am," Abraham said. "My parents told us that they worked hard: you have to understand the value of money and hard work. That helped me write the first book. How do I teach [my son] that it's not about possessions, money, and fame it's really about quality of character. When I wrote my second book, just like in the first book, I wanted to emphasize the interaction between children and parents."