Ep. 17: Brian Lies – Finding Hope After Loss and Grief

At some point each of us will lose something we care about: a loved one, a relationship, our job, our health. My guest this week, author and illustrator Brian Lies, explores the arc of loss, grief, and renewal in his new book, The Rough Patch. In Brian’s words, this book is “a meditation on grief and the anger which sometimes accompanies it … and on hope.”

The Rough Patch tells the story of Evan and his dog, who enjoyed a blissful life together. And then suddenly Evan’s world is shattered by the death of his dog, “and nothing is the same.” The author explores the complex mental, physical, and emotional reactions that make up grief, and the hope that ultimately can find us.

I read The Rough Patch recently and can attest that it does feel like a meditation. Reviewers are echoing my own reactions to this book, saying that it’s “a must-read” for readers “of any age,” even though it’s billed as a children’s book. Others call it “an exquisite depiction of grief and hope, and a helpful guide for children and adults who are going through their own rough patches.”

I felt very fortunate to have Brian on the podcast to talk about the process of creating this book, and the universal human experiences of love and loss that it depicts. During our conversation we discussed:

  • The complex range of emotions that can be part of grieving
  • How life can call us back after we’ve withdrawn
  • The many choices, big and small, that went into creating The Rough Patch
  • The interplay between text and illustration
  • The many kinds of loss that kids experience
  • The challenge of writing, or any kind of creative endeavor
  • How artists arrive at an individual style
  • The value in sticking with a worthwhile project even when it’s very difficult

Brian’s portrayal of grief and hope resonated with so many accounts of loss that I’ve heard from the people I work with as a therapist, and with my personal experiences. It also seems to apply to the process of recovering from a major depression, as I described in this blog post from earlier this year: How Do You Know When Your Depression Is Improving?

As Brian explains, The Rough Patch is not a “how-to” book on grieving. Each of us has an individual path following loss, and this is Evan’s. Still, there are some universals that Brian captures, which makes this such a valuable book for so many people.

© Karen Wilson Wong

Brian Lies is the author and/or illustrator of more than two dozen children’s books, including his New York Times bestselling bat series, like Bats at the Beach and Bats at the Library. His most recent books are The Rough Patch (Grenwillow/HarperCollins) and Got to Get to Bear’s! (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). When he’s not working on his next books, he’s often visiting elementary schools around the country, encouraging writing and creativity in young people. Brian and his wife have a grown daughter and live south of Boston, MA.

(Please note: These are affiliate links to Brian’s books, meaning a portion of sales from the link will be used to support the Think Act Be podcast, at no additional cost to you.)

You can find Brian’s books and learn more about him on his website and on his Amazon Author Page. Brian is also on Twitter and Instagram.

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