Published in 1999 and co-authored by Pat Schwiebert and Chuck DeKlyen, Tear Soup contains a remarkable recipe for healing after loss - for children aged 8 and above, as well as adults. Author Pat Schwiebert has over 30 years of experience working with grieving individuals and groups, and that expertise is reflective in the depth of this story. She is also the founder and creative director of Grief Watch, a publisher and manufacturer of bereavement books and materials used by families and professionals in North America and beyond.
The title is an allegory of grief and loss, as it offers an interesting resemblance to following a recipe to the T. Tear Soup is about an old woman named Grandy, who is also referred to as “somewhat wise” throughout the story. Grandy has just suffered a great loss (which is not named) and in order to overcome her grief, she returns to the age-old custom of preparing Tear Soup from scratch in her kitchen. Grandy is well aware of her feelings and knows that this time because of her “big loss,” her recipe would call for a big pot of soup which would easily contain all the memories, misgivings, and tears that she needed to stew, over time.
The authors have narrated this heartwarming story through the lens of Grandy's husband Pops, whom she has been married to for years. Pops, too, is suffering from the same loss, but both Grandy and Pops understand that even though their grief is mutual, it is still unique and calls for a different recipe. The story walks its readers beautifully through the stages of grief. Colorful illustrations by Taylor Bills add richness to the story and also reveal other people in Grandy's life - such as neighbors, pets and friends - who add flavor to her special recipe.
It is worthwhile to mention two other characters from the story, who played a supportive role.
Midge is a dear old friend of Grandy's, who appears later in the story. Her character is etched as an empathetic soul and precisely that of “a friend indeed.” Even though Grandy's previous experience has led her to believe that many people do not like being around tears, Midge is truly an exception. Owing to her friend’s calming presence, Grandy pours her heart out to her contentment: without having to worry about being judged, or for the fear of being talked out of her feelings.
Chester is Grandy's curious young grandson. They share a special bond. Chester too, has suffered from a loss in the past. Out of concern, love, and respect for his grandmother, Chester stays close and, in the process, learns from her wisdom and experience, especially on how to survive when the going gets tough.
Lessons to Borrow
There are many a lesson in this storybook for the grieving soul, as well as for others who are somewhat tied to the process of helping those who are bereaved. Here are some key take-aways;
Empathy goes a long way.
The book educates it’s readers about the power of empathy by drawing on intriguing comparisons between different characters. The choice of words and phrases has been carefully deployed by the authors, for the same purpose, i.e. to leave some food for thought for the peruser. For instance, under one of the segments from the story the authors narrate; ‘Some of Grandy's friends would hurry past her house and pretended not to notice the aroma coming out of her house’, which implies the indifferent attitude from some friends. In contrast to this, when the authors narrate the following for Midge; ‘Her soothing and comforting words were all what Grandy had been longing for.’- this alludes to the empathetic nature of Grandy’s best friend. These along with several other references in the storybook, help the reader to self-refelct and choose how to act in similar situations.
Family can be a support system.
The perfect example of this can be found in the character of Pops (Grandy’s husband), who allows Grandy to have her own safe space in the house, even though it is just the two of them. This suggests the importance of having a strong emotional support system within the family when it comes to healing from any kind of loss and more so, getting through each stage of grief in its own time and manner. And it is also a great example of the fact that different people grieve in their own way.
Rely on your faith.
There is a mention of faith and God in a generic manner, however, it serves as an important reminder for us that, even in critical times, we must hold on firmly to the rope of faith. We can find comfort if we consciously push ourselves to entrust God and His plans and ultimately seek guidance and wisdom from Him.
There is a striking reminder of gratitude in the story which surfaces towards the end. And that is when the soup has well simmered overtime with all of the ingredients incorporated and can be put away in the freezer, to be taken out from time to time for a little taste.
Acknowledge your feelings.
More than anything else in this book, the authors have conveyed the importance of welcoming all sorts of feelings, encapsulating the precious as well as the not-so-precious memories. For, when they come together, they allow the individual to make peace with the situation and learn to survive.
All in all, Tear Soup is a great book for healing from sorrow. The messages conveyed through the text are easily comprehensible by children 8 years and above. What makes it extraordinary is that there is no expiry on the shelf life, because every time a grieving heart pulls out this book, it helps the soul to connect with something new from within.
Here is a video reading of Tear Soup, a special gift from Amara’s Storytime from Amara Hospice in Edinburg, Texas.
If you would like to reach out to the author of ‘Tear Soup’, the best way is to email: email@example.com.
You can also support the work of the authors by investing in the purchase of this incredibly heart-touching book.
Umm Ahmed is an early childhood educator and writer who is passionate about seeking knowledge and passing it onto others. She and her husband are parents to three boys and are currently living in Abu Dhabi