When our dog Anton passed away in 2019 I went looking for children's books dealing with death and the loss of pets. All I could find were very dark books that evoked rather negative feelings in me. But I was looking for children's books that crafted positive connotations through their use of language and images giving the reader a positive experience. Books that saw death and the process of dying as a part of life.
The honesty and clarity of my children's questions made me aware of the responsibility we carry for our children. In my opinion children have a right to receive honest answers to their questions. Still, at first I wasn't sure how to explain what had happened either. I didn’t want to fall silent out of fear of approaching this topic the wrong way. This had to be avoided. I wanted to fulfil my responsibility to answer my children's questions and I wanted to pay tribute to lovely Anton.
Our dog Anton had been a family member and I wanted to be able to talk about what had happened. So I sat down and created the book "Anton, Heaven and the Ocean – or How Anton Met Grandpa Willy Again" for my daughters Ella and Frida. The first version was illustrated with photos from our family album. At the time of Anton's death, my children were two and a half years old. To those who argue that children of such an age should not be confronted with this topic, I can say from my own experience that children understand so much more than adults think they do.
This story, and through it, the emotional processing of what had happened, helped my family to integrate a challenging and difficult matter into our everyday life. Though its motivation was to provide answers for my daughters, in hindsight I find this book also helped with my own grieving process for people and animals I had lost before, and it still does in difficult moments.