Finding Your Way

Eleven-Year-Old Channels His Grief Into Advocacy

November is Children’s Grief Awareness month and I couldn’t have found a more deserving person to be featured than Bryce Fields. After losing his younger sister in a tragic car accident, Bryce channeled his pain and grief by writing a book with his grandfather that addresses the grieving process from a child’s point of view.  I’m honored he was able to speak with us about his sister, his book and his journey thus far. 

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Bryce Fields is an amazing contradiction. On one hand, he’s a regular, rambunctious 11-year-old who loves playing video games, reading books, learning about dinosaurs and playing outside with Nerf guns. On the other, he’s a grief advocate, who co-authored a book when he was nine years old and uses his personal experiences to counsel kids and adults on grief. 

Bryce was only six years old when his baby sister, Alanna, passed away, but he still remembers being in awe of her capability to help people at the tender age of four.

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“Alanna liked to help people. If they were hurt, she’d help them up or if they needed someone to pray for them, she would pray for them. We went to church one time and this lady’s grandson had died and my sister went up and hugged that lady. I was blown away by that.”

Bryce’s grandfather, Bradley Vinson (aka Paw Paw) realized what a difficult situation they were in and was determined to support Bryce and his younger brother, TJ, during this tough time. 

As he was looking for ways to help heal himself and his family, Bradley discovered there weren’t a lot of resources available that focused on grief. So, he decided to do something about it. He started filming weekly videos called “Good Grief” that addressed different topics surrounding the grief process. 

Nine-year-old Bryce took an immediate interest and during that November, Bryce and Bradley did a series of videos for Children’s Grief Awareness month entitled, “What This Kid Wants Adults to Know About Grief.” Bradley came up with a series of questions and interviewed Bryce on Facebook Live. They discussed everything from how to handle the holidays to what adults think they know about kid’s grief but really don’t.

After the videos started gaining traction, Bradley’s wife, Bonita suggested they write a book. Bryce saw this as a chance to honor his sister and help others in the process and was excited to get started. For the next several weeks, he and his Paw Paw would sit down, talk about grief and record it. 

And the “What This Kid Wants Adults to Know About Grief” book was born. Bradley didn’t want it to read like a typical non-fiction book and wanted to make sure Bryce’s voice shone through. The book is 90% Bryce’s words with a few insightful thoughts from Paw Paw sprinkled throughout. Bryce was still working through his grief and found the whole process cathartic.

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“At the time, I didn’t have a lot of grief tools, so that’s why I wrote the book, to help other children. I didn’t have anything to lean on or really help me when I was little. So, what I did was cry a lot and I’d feel sad and dream about Alanna most of the time.”

The family also attended grief camp where they received counseling and participated in activities that allowed them to express their emotions in a safe environment. Bryce and Bradley, along with Bonita were so moved by the experience, they now return every year to coach other families and Bryce serves  as a Jr. Counselor.

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Bryce doesn’t take his role as grief advocate lightly. At school, he’s always looking out for the well-being of his fellow classmates and sometimes during recess he can be found sitting on a tree stump surrounded by students as he talks to them about his sister and how to deal with grief. 

His best advice is this: “Whenever you cry, it’s like medicine. If there’s no tears, there’s no healing. So, if you don’t cry you’re not really healing, you’re just pushing it off.”

Bryce is a born nurturer and doesn’t let his age hold him back from helping others and honoring Alanna’s legacy. 

“It’s hard to balance grief stuff and 11-year-old stuff and not think of going outside and playing video games all the time or doing my school-work. It’s kinda like a see-saw, I’ve got to balance that out. I’ve got to do my 11-year-old stuff and I also have to make time for my grief stuff and helping people.”

Out of the mouths of babes, indeed.

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Written by Tamara Devers

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