Posted in after the diagnosis, coping with chronic illness, coping with life threatening illness, End-Of-Life Care, Grief, living with chronic illness, newly diagnosed illness

Can We Really Deny That Children Die?

Last week I wrote my 900th post for this blog. When I wake up in the morning I’ve started thinking about what could I possibly have left to say about health and healing, life and death, and overcoming adversity; and then a story pops up that all I want to say is, “REALLY?”

The Riverside Unified School District has banned John Green’s book The Fault in our Stars. The book has been cited as a book that will last the test of time because it’s a story about love, relationships, quality of life, and death. I read This Star Won’t Go Out by Grace Esther Earl, a real life account of a teen with advanced stage thyroid cancer. Earl and John Green had become friends and although there are similarities between the book and the memoir, Green’s book is fiction.

What was the reason for the Riverside Unified School District removing Green’s book from the middle school library? They didn’t want kids this young 11-12-13 to face mortality. They believe that reading about a teen dying would be too much for these kids to handle. Are the kids in Riverside living in a bubble like the Buddha prior to embarking on his journey to enlightenment?

Do you think that the principal of the school, the librarian, and some parents who voted really believe that children don’t get sick and die? I don’t know about you but if you ever watch television you can’t help but see a commercial for St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital. We have an entire network of hospitals in this country devoted specifically to the care of children and the Children’s Miracle Network. We have the Make-A-Wish foundation, giving children with life-threatening illnesses the opportunity to fulfill something on what we would call their “bucket list”.

I understand that death is difficult to speak about even for adult, but it does happen and denying it only causes greater pain. My hope is that no child has to personally experience illness and death, either their own or that of a loved one, but it will happen.

I’m disappointed that a school district would remove a book like this from their library because they are queasy about the topic. What I know about kids, maybe more so than adults, is that they are extremely resilient. They are inquisitive and would take these topics and want to discuss them, not shy away from them. When I was in high school, one quarter of health was devoted to death and dying. A progressive move on the part of our school district. Perhaps I should give Riverside Unified School District the name and number of my high school so they could temper their own resistance and fear.

Children die and it’s terrible. Removing a book that raises important questions is a travesty. The school should be ashamed of themselves.

Facing a chronic or life-threatening illness and looking for education, support and inspiration?  Visit

Want to discuss difficult topics with children through creativity?  Visit

Follow me on Twitter:  @GregKatz2

Posted in Grief, overcoming adversity

Grief is Universal

Last night I watched the evening news to a sight I had never witnessed. It was the story of the murdered victims from the Netherlands from Malaysia flight 17. The story showed the coffins being taken from the military plane to a long line of hearses that take the bodies from the airport to the coroner awaiting identification.

The line-up of hearses, from the air, looked line one continuous black line. The hearses moved through the city with onlookers tossing roses at the vehicles and a grief stricken country paying respects to the innocent passengers whose lives were cut short.

You can’t help but feel a pain when watching this horror. It’s almost as if this were a movie being show because the enormity of the situation is almost too much to bear. It took me back to the 9/11 when world leaders shared their grief by stating, “Today we are all Americans” referring to the grief felt around the globe.

It’s not that grief and mourning are contagious, but the human experience works off energy and vibration. There is a universal connection that is triggered when we witness a horror such as the shooting down of a civilian passenger plane. We grieve together, even though we don’t know the individuals, because we have experienced grief. We have all had moments in our lives when we’ve been impacted by life situations that are inconceivable such as September 11, 2001 or the tsunami that hit Indonesia, or the innocent teachers and students killed in Newtown. We grieve because in our heart of hearts we are compassionate. We are connected by the human condition and it tugs at us and says, “Wake up and remember when you were impacted”. That trigger allows us to stand beside those impacted sharing their grief, wanting to help them carry their load, and reassuring us that we really are human!

Obviously we don’t seek out grief; it’s talented and finds us. Grief is triggered by experiences and acts we have no control over. It gets triggered when we, or those we know, are diagnosed with a life-threatening illness. It’s triggered when we watch first responders digging through the rubble after a tornado wipes out a town. It’s triggered when a ferry carrying Korean children on a school trip capsizes.

Unfortunately we can’t prevent all the experiences that trigger grief. It’s a part of the lives we lead as human beings. I would love it if we never experienced loss but that’s only in Utopia, so embrace it and allow it shape who you are. Allow grief to be something that doesn’t define you, but is a component in the complex nature of being human!

Facing a challenge in your life?  Looking for education, support, and inspiration?  Visit

Want to be able to show your grief and heal through art?  Visit