Gently Supporting Traumatic Grief; Always and Forever

A Review of Always and Forever

Written by Alan Durant, Illustrated by Debi Gliori

I love this book because it carries the reader gently through the process of old age, loss, and finally resilience. 

Fox, Mole, Hare, and Otter live happily together as a family. Fox is significantly older than the other characters (walks with a cane) and he dies while walking in the woods one day. Mole, Hare, and Otter hold a memorial and weep for Fox. Then, as often happens, this little family isolates themselves in grief. Although they are reluctant to leave their home, a friendly squirrel carefully draws the grieving characters out of the house and back out into the world. Squirrel gently encourages the family, but is careful not to ask the grieving family to ‘get over it’. With Squirrel’s support, Mole, Hare, and Otter are able to remember Fox in meaningful ways and the return to activities they enjoyed doing with Fox.   

Few stories for children honor bereavement support theory as well as this book. The author gives a clear and simple description of Fox’s body when he is found. It’s so important for young children to learn how our bodies stop working when we die. This helps them understand and remember that death is permanent. If death is explained clearly and simply, children are able to form an understanding their person or pet will not be coming back to them. 

I also think this story is sensitive to children and families who’ve experienced finding their person has died in lonely settings, or maybe in a traumatic way. In this story, Fox is found alone and covered in leaves, which a distressing way to find someone we love. This story may provide an opportunity for children to share concerns about how their person was found. 

Teachers, you can use this story as a tool for promoting an empathy among classmates. It can be read prior to a grieving child’s return to school to help children understand some of the things that happen when someone dies. Some children may have experienced a funeral or memorial, and will find this story relatable. Some children may wish to share their memories of their personal experiences with death. When talking openly with children about death, children will realize they have so much in common and they’re not alone. This type of discussion is a form of inclusion and will nurture the grieving child while helping to prevent isolation.  

“And in their hearts and their memories and their laughter, Fox was still there, part of their family, beloved friend and companion-…always and forever.” 

This book is a beautiful gift to share with a grieving family or classroom.