Planet Grief by Monique Polak
This was a tough book to read, taking me back to a time in my life when grief seemed relentless, as it does for the characters Monique Polak has created in her young adult novel Planet Grief.
It is, however, one of the best books I have ever read about teenagers dealing with the death of a parent or sibling, and the hard work necessary for them to come to terms with their grief.
The story takes place in Montreal, and the teenagers we meet first are Abby, whose mother died of heart disease, and Christopher whose father committed suicide. Neither Abby or Christopher want to be at the Grief Retreat, but their surviving parents need to be there, and so do they.
I think this is an important book for anyone who wants to understand the effects of grief, and how we all grieve so differently - parents, siblings, every one of us. The feeling of being desperately alone in your grief is something that no one can understand if they have not experienced it for themselves.
The retreat is led by Eugene, a man who has had his own experience with grief, but who now has a fulfilling life and wants to help others be able to do the same. The participants each have their own story to tell. During a group discussion Eugene tells the teenagers, “What most people do not understand is that when you’re a kid and you lose someone you love, you feel like you’ve been exiled to another planet.” One of the teenagers, Antoine, retorts, “Yeah, Planet Grief”. He’s hit the nail on the head.
Over a very long two days the teenagers and their parents attend workshops, talk about their experiences and their feelings, and about the things that trigger remembrance of the death of their loved one, for one young person it is the sound of a siren. For everyone it is something.
For these kids it is not only that they are desperately missing their parent or sibling, it is the knowledge that they will grow up without that parent or sibling being part of their future. And, somehow they have to find a way to accommodate that into their lives and carry on if they are to live fulfilling lives.
Well written, sensitive and very real, Planet Grief is a great book for all teenage readers. It will help those who are experiencing grief to feel less alone, and help others to understand the grieving teen, know how to support them, and perhaps lessen their sense of isolation.