Books to Help the Grieving Process in the Death of a Loved One (with help from Anne Riley) Part 1 of 2

Friends!  Anyone besides me ever feel helpless when your friends lose loved ones?  Sorry to say I’m the babbling fool at visitations where the bereaved has to comfort me.

I know.

Good news!  I have a few remedies up my sleeve I’d like to share in the form of a children’s book this week, and several other books for us grown-ups next week.

John and I were blessed to have dinner with old and new friends in Lexington this past April.  We learned about a book where a family lost two of their children. I immediately thought of Nancy Guthrie in Nashville who experienced such. (We’ll talk about her books next week.)

To my surprise, Nancy was not who our friends were talking about.  Surely there’s not another family who’s also lost two of their children? Sadly, there is, and a family friend has written a beautiful children’s book to help families cope with losing a child.

The book?  Voyage to the Star Kingdom

Author Anne Riley was so moved by her friends’ story, she and her cousin, Amy Grimes (who’s also friends with the family), put this beautiful book together.  Anne wrote the story ( ) while Amy created the beautifully charming illustrations. ( ) Anne says Amy came up with the “essential story elements” and God wove the rest of it together.

When Anne first heard of Frazer and Dana Gieselmann and their plight to fight Batten Disease, she was so moved she literally couldn’t move.  She kept praying about how or what she could do.  It was in church the Holy Spirit convinced her to use her gift of writing to tell their story.

Blessed with three beautiful daughters, Frazer and Dana were completely thrown off guard when their daughter, Milla, began having seizures in August of 2013.  By October of 2014, Milla was diagnosed with a disease that’s very rare, and so far, incurable. It attacks the brain, causing loss of sight, mental impairment, worsening seizures, and a decline in motor skills. The dreaded disease is known as Batten Disease. Milla passed away November 26, 2016, just three weeks after her 6th birthday.

Unbelievably, Batten Disease possesses a genetic nature, thus docs suggested Frazer and Dana have their other two daughters tested.  Soon afterward, they learned their youngest daughter, Elle, also has the disease. Elle began having seizures not long after the discovery. You see now why Annie felt compelled to do something. (Miraculously, their eldest daughter, Ann Carlyle, does not have the disease.)

Thanks to extensive research at a hospital in Columbus, Ohio, Elle is receiving new treatments, infusions, and surgeries. Their long, hard, ongoing fight is explained in detail on their blog:

Warning:  The family’s daily battle will tear your heart out, however the book is so well done, you’ll want to share it with your friends. Huge favor:  Please pray for this precious family.

The Gieselmann’s live in Memphis, Tennessee, so upon discovering Milla was treated at Le Bonheur Hospital, I immediately reached out to a friend of our kiddos who went thru’ an excruciating ordeal, also at LeBonheur, when their baby boy only lived two months.  I told her about this book and she said her NICU nurse gave her a copy. She and her husband, like the Gieselmanns, thankfully live with an eternal perspective. (See Revelation 21:1-5)

The grandest news of these sad stories comes as a reminder from Anne: “Milla and Elle will receive their prize early. Yes, we will suffer greatly in their absence. But this life is so short compared with eternity, and one day very soon, Frazer, Dana, and Ann Carlyle will be with Milla and Elle forever.”

My other favorite aspect of this book is it speaks matter-of-factly about real-life issues.  You’ll see the family undergoing multiple storms.  Two of their three daughters have to leave their family on earth, per the request of the Star King. Anne emphasizes, “The rest of the family will follow soon, but for now, they must say a temporary farewell.”

A beautiful angelfish escorts the girls to Heaven. (Don’t miss the part where they learn about how to fight evil on their journey.) Upon their approach, they see a man coming out of the Radiant Palace, waiting for them.  “Are you the Star King?” the youngest girl asked.

He smiled and said, “I have many names: Elohim, Jehovah, the Alpha and the Omega, the Prince of Peace, the Good Shepherd. And yes, the Star King.

Oh, my beloved children, I am so glad you’re here.”

The story gets even better as the King shows them He’s set a table for five. You must read this book to witness something beautiful!

One hint arrives from the Angelfish: “You will be together again sooner than you think. The Star King is not bound by time.”

This is a beautiful picture of 2 Peter 3:8 in the NIV that says,

That verse reminds me of a time when I read about a young Mom who knew she was dying of cancer. She asked her pastor to verify the above Scripture, promptly proceeding to do some mind-blowing math.

She said, “I figure if a thousand years is like a day, then forty years is like an hour. I’ll be leaving my husband and children soon. He may live another forty years, but that’ll be just like an hour to me in heaven.

…My children may live another seventy or eighty years, but that’ll be like two hours to me.” Just before she died, she told her husband, “I love you. Take care of our children and I’ll see you in an hour.” (from One Month to Live:  30 Days to a No-Regrets Life by Kerry and Chris Shook.) Now that’s some sweet eternal perspective!

Soak in 2 Peter 3:8, and you will sleep well tonight. And every other night.

‘Til next time!


Filed under Book Reviews, Family, Life Lessons

11 responses to “Books to Help the Grieving Process in the Death of a Loved One (with help from Anne Riley) Part 1 of 2

  1. Pingback: Books to Help the Grieving Process in the Death of a Loved One (with help from Nancy Guthrie, Dee Brestin and Zig Ziglar) Part 2 of 2 | Worship with Words

  2. Meredith

    I can’t wait to read this book! Thanks for such an amazing find. But, wow, what a heartbreaking story that brought it about.
    Love you!

    • Hey Madgie!

      I think YOU are who gave me Nancy Guthrie’s first book on Holding onto Hope. I’m writing about it next week. Remember when we got to meet her at the conference you took me to with Paige Brown speaking? So fun.

      Happy Weekend!

      Love and Miss you,


      • Meredith

        Yes! Such a great memory! Nancy’s story is heartbreaking too. But also so encouraging and uplifting. Thanks to our BIG God!

  3. margee rulketter

    Oh, Elizabeth, you are such a blessing to me! I’ll pass this onto many including my own kids. Is this exactly what I needed to deal with the situation I was with a friend! Isn’t God amazing! I love you so! Your sister-n-love! Margee

    Sent from my iPhone


  4. deboracoty

    The topic of this wonderful little book gnaws at my heart. A dear friend recently lost her two grandsons from the same family when one was dragged into a storm-swollen river by the raging currents and the other swam out to try to save his brother. One was 15 and the other 9 (the 9-year-old was the one who tried to save his brother, who was twice his size). Both drowned. They were the only sons in the family and leave behind a beloved older sister and grieving dedicated parents. I pray for them daily – especially Kathy, their mom – but have no words. The pain is just too horrible to imagine. The Holy Spirit has to fill in the gaps. Thanks for spotlighting this book that can help even adults gain a different perspective.

  5. Wow, Elizabeth. What a valuable book you’ve brought to us in this blogpost. Thank you for letting us know about VOYAGE TO THE STAR KINGDOM and bless the families who suffer such painful loss. ❤

  6. Bettie Collins

    I’m reading that Elle is receiving new treatments for Batten’s but then that Elle is dead?? I’m probably misreading or not reading something. And I always hate the idea that God requests our loved ones. I’m under the impression that God allows events, like death, that sin (original) has created but He does not instigate or want those events.

    • Hey! I probably wasn’t clear. Sorry. It’s my understanding that Elle is still with us however is fighting daily with the disease. Go into their blog post (included in the post) & you’ll get a better understanding. I believe eventually both girls will precede their parents into Heaven however the joy will come with their ultimate reunion.