A Review of Tear Soup

A Recipe for Healing After Loss

Written by Pat Schwiebert and Chuck DeKlyen
Illustrated by Taylor Bills

Review by Donna Cook

This lovely illustrated children’s book tells the story of Grandy as she moves through the grief process by making a batch of tear soup. Her recipe calls for tears, of course, but there are other ingredients to add too, like “one heart willing to be broken open, a dash of bitters, a bunch of good friends,… many handfuls of comfort food,…and plenty of exercise.” Cooking instructions include the excellent advice to “stir often” but to “cook no longer than you need to.” We watch as Grandy goes through different emotions and experiences, including among other things the loss of interest in activities and the desire to talk to people who understand what she’s going through. It’s a simple yet thorough look at the complicated act of grieving, acknowledging the sad truth that grieving is messy (making tear soup requires an apron) and that soup always takes longer to cook than anyone wants it to.

Thoughtful illustrations are comforting and interesting to look at, for readers of all ages. My favorite part about the illustrations is Grandy’s basset hound who faithfully accompanies her through every step of the process. He goes with her everywhere, guards her door when she wants to be alone, and even shares in a helping of good old comfort food.  My children all enjoy the “pots page” where they pick out the size pot their grieving needed that day.

While this thoughtful story about grieving and healing after loss presents as a children’s book, I believe this book is comforting and helpful for people of all ages. When deep loss hits close to home, sometimes, for many adults, reading large amounts of material about grieving can be too much in the beginning. Tear Soup serves as a reminder of what the grieving process is all about, what helps, what doesn’t help, and how long the healing process can sometimes take. I appreciate the gentle messages for adult readers who may be tempted to quick fix their grief by pulling “soup in a can” off the shelf, or avoid their time in the kitchen altogether, which only results in boiled-over soup and a scorched pot.

What’s best about this book is that it explains without belittling and comforts without dismissing. Grief, and all its unpleasantness, is laid bare in a compassionate, understanding way. It’s like having a talk with a trusted friend. Reassuringly, it ends on a hopeful note: eventually Grandy heals. She puts her pot away, cleans the kitchen, and freezes a little of her soup so she can have a taste from time to time, because some losses are like that. They don’t leave us completely, but life can go on, and though the book begins with sorrow, it ends with a smile on Grandy’s face. That sums up the message of this book:  take the time to make your tear soup from scratch, and when you’re ready, put your pots away for another day.

The back of the book offers tips and suggestions for the grieving process, including things to keep in mind if the cook is a child, a male, a friend needing support, or if there are two grieving together. The authors also provide a list of resources such as national support groups and organizations specializing in helping children grieve.

Tear Soup is a pay-it-forward kind of book. Our copy was given to us by a friend who had lost her baby just a few weeks prior to my children’s father passing away. Her copy had been given to her, by someone who’d recently been through the grief process as well. I’m sure the time will come when I’ll be returning the favor by giving a copy to someone else. Even if it doesn’t become part of the grieving routine for someone else’s children, as it has for mine, even one reading is worthwhile. If you or someone you know is grieving, consider adding this book to your personal recipe for tear soup.

Donna Cook is a freelance writer and editor who particularly enjoys writing about family issues. She moderates a large online forum for mid-life singles, many of whom are divorcees, and is known for her calm temperament, encouragement, optimism, and reasonable approach to life’s challenges. When she’s not busy writing and raising her three active boys, she enjoys ballroom dancing, hiking, quilting, and traveling.


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Posted in Grief on November 4th, 2011 | Permalink | Comments »
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