Friday, December 9th | 15 Kislev 5783

September 18, 2018 6:22 am

Yeshiva University Grad Writes Book to Help Children Understand Death

avatar by Alan Zeitlin


The cover of “What Happens When We Die?”

What should parents tell their children when a loved one dies? It’s a difficult question to grapple with, and more often than not, the parent tells the child that the dead relative has gone to a better place.

But that’s a mistake, according to J.R. Becker, author of the children’s book What Happens When We Die.

“I think it’s a bad idea,” Becker said. “It’s giving a child false hope. We don’t know whether or not there is an afterlife, but there are many things we do know. I would recommend telling a child that the person was lucky to get to live a meaningful life — as we all are — and that energy can never be destroyed. The person’s energy will be in the universe forever.”

In his book, though — which is geared for children ages 6 to 12 — Becker does include the possibility of an afterlife. The author, 36, graduated from Yeshiva University with a bachelor’s degree in philosophy, and later graduated from Emory Law School in Atlanta.

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This is Becker’s fourth book in a series. The books’ child protagonists, Anabelle and Aiden, bear the same names as his real life children. One of his books is about the creation of the world; another is about evolution.

“Writing children’s books keeps me sane and balanced,” Becker said.

He notes that he was a budding philosopher even as a toddler, and pondered the big question of how the universe was created. Becker said that he wanted to create a book series that focused on science as a means to explain things to children, while also making things entertaining.

“I wanted to show children that reality is just as exciting, if not more exciting, than fairy tales,” Becker said.

With children watching the news and going on social media, they see the good things — but also the bad — that are happening in the world, including war, Becker said. And he stressed that parents shouldn’t change the subject when asked difficult questions by their kids, especially when the subject is about death.

“If we don’t fill in the blanks, children are going to do it themselves, and you don’t know how they’re going to do it,” Becker said. “That’s the danger. So if a child is curious and they ask a question, not answering them is going to give them no guidance. Someone else at school can [then] give them an answer that is horrible or is wrong.”

The New Jersey resident said that he’s sold more than 11,000 books as part of his series, and has raised more than $60,000 on Kickstarter. The books are illustrated by Max Rambaldi.

Becker also said that parents shouldn’t think they aren’t a good example if they don’t have all the answers to their child’s questions.

“It’s OK to say I don’t know,” he said. “It’s better than walking away. It teaches a child that we don’t know everything. You can follow up ‘I don’t know’ with ‘let’s find out.’ You can take them on a journey of discovery.”

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