New children’s book offers hopeful message amid COVID-19 loss

(AP Photo/Don Ryan, File)
(AP Photo/Don Ryan, File) (AP2008)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – A recent survey found one in five Americans has lost a loved one to COVID-19, and new research estimates roughly 40,000 children have lost a parent to the disease since the start of the pandemic.

The grief of losing a loved one, especially during such tumultuous times, is difficult for everyone, but even more so for children.

But a new children’s book penned by Florida authors is offering children dealing with a loss some hope in these trying times.

The Secret in the Clouds tells a story many Americans are all too familiar with, the beginning of the pandemic and the pain of losing a loved one in a time when it was often impossible to say a proper goodbye.

“The fact that you weren’t with them, you couldn’t hug them, you couldn’t have a funeral or a celebration of life definitely impacts this grieving process,” said author and licensed mental health counselor Gay Webster-Sachs.

Webster-Sachs and her husband, Tallahassee public relations guru Ron Sachs, said the children’s book is based around a core philosophy — that grieving people want and need to be heard, not fixed.

“Just listening to them or coloring with them. And giving them permission to be sad, and then permission to have fun,” said Webster-Sachs.

The story follows young character Sunny Albright, who loses her grandmother Hope to the pandemic. It traces her journey to recovery with the help of therapy and her imagination.

In the story, Sunny dreams of a fantastic land in the clouds inhabited by a group called ‘The Cloud People.’ They teach Sunny to create new beauty in the throes of a difficult time.

“We intend for everyone to kind of lift up their sights to the skies and see beautiful images in the clouds. Even in a hard time there’s beauty in every day, and even in a time of loss life is worth living,” said Sachs.

At least 500 schools in the state have copies of the book so far and the authors are hoping to grow that number.

All of the proceeds from The Secret in the Clouds will go to hospice care organizations.

The book also includes a list of mental health resources and organizations in the back of the book.