Grief Girl by Erin Vincent

I was going to start this by saying, “Imagine that your mom died in an accident when you were 14, and then, just a month later, your dad died of complications from the same accident. Imagine that, just the week before the accident, you had wished that they were dead.” But then I looked on the publisher’s website and saw that was pretty much how they started their description. Dangit. Anyway, that is what happened to Erin Vincent – her parents died when she was 14. Grief Girl is the story of her life after her parents’ accident, the life she made with her older sister (and her sister’s boyfriend) and younger brother. It’s her story of coping over the next few years – teachers who helped and friends and family who abandoned them and the question of God’s role in the whole tragedy.

I couldn’t put this book down and read it straight through in a day – it was her personal story of loss, but the questions she asks are recognizable to anyone who has lost a family member. The way she talked reminded me a bit of myself over the past year – for months I tossed around the idea of a post giving “advice” to people who want to help the bereaved: chocolate chip cookies are the official cookie of bereavement, be sure to use disposable containers, don’t say anything about “a better place” or “the arms of Jesus.” Some of my advice was maybe just a teeny bit sarcastic, which is why I ended up not posting it. Vincent doesn’t get that specific, but it’s clear from her experience what helped her and her family as they were trying to carry on. (Hint: It didn’t help when a family friend promised to keep some furniture in safekeeping for them and then refused to give it back.)

The most poignant part of the story, to me, was her relationship with her sister. Her sister, who is described in the beginning as a pretty girl who likes dancing, is forced into the role of caregiver and their relationship suffers. More than one person implies that Erin is lucky – she doesn’t have to be the caregiver and she’s able to remember their parents, while her much younger brother won’t have those same memories. To me, that “advice” seemed really insensitive, though typical of the kinds of things people say when someone has died. Interestingly enough, though she and her sister do seem to work on their relationship, there are some indications at the end that they are still having trouble finding some common ground. Unless her sister goes by another name, I didn’t see her thanked in the acknowledgements, and there was a lawsuit against another family member that her sister chose not to be a part of. I secretly wish for stories to be wrapped up neatly, but I appreciate that family life can be messy and that reconciliation isn’t always possible.

When I was a teenager, I hadn’t lost anyone close to me, but I think I would have been able to appreciate what Erin goes through in Grief Girl. I’d recommend this book to teenage girls (or anyone who works with them), especially those who struggle with depression or have experienced loss.

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    Grief Girl by Erin Vincent – Through a Glass, Darkly

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