Where are you, Harry? A new book helps kids to process the grief of losing a friend

Picture: Harry (left) with his friend Jaxon
Picture: Harry (left) with his friend Jaxon  

Harry Horan was only eight when his parents lost him to cancer.

Now, thanks to the friendship between his classmate Jaxon, the spirited kid who loved sport and his friends has been immortalised in a book aimed at helping kids understand the grief of losing a friend. 

As his mum Bec explained, for the kids at his school in the small WA town of Kambalda, outside Kalgoorlie, 'Harry was at school one day and not the next and they'll never see him again'.

Picture: Supplied
Picture: Supplied 

Harry was diagnosed with Stage 4 Neuroblastoma in 2014, aged just three-and-a-half. After undergoing treatment for more than a year, the family were optimistic he would have a strong prognosis. 

But their worst fears were realised when he relapsed and a new tumour was found in his neck in April, 2019. Six months later they said their final goodbyes, five weeks before his ninth birthday. 

While the family struggled with their grief, his friends, particularly Jaxon grappled with understanding where Harry had gone.

The conversations between Jaxon and his classroom aide Sunny Ling led her to write down some words of comfort for him, outlining some adventures he may have gone on.

Later, she added paintings of Harry, creating a book for kids everywhere trying to process the very adult experience of grief.

It starts off with a little boy asking, 'Where are you, Harry? I'll keep looking, maybe today you'll come back?', and follows the boy as he tries to adjust to life without his friend.

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Before he imagines all the places he may have gone, from visiting Mars or flying across Australia in a hot air balloon. Before he remembers that Harry is now in his heart. 

Picture: Harry's parents Lee and Bec and sister Ava, with the book 'Where are you, Harry?'

Picture: Harry's parents Lee and Bec and sister Ava, with the book 'Where are you, Harry?'

For Bec, the book has been a huge source of comfort, both in knowing Harry will always be remembered and in helping others. 

"As a grieving mum and a grieving parent, your worst fear is that he'll be forgotten and people will stop remembering him. So to know people are still talking about him and to have that book to share with everyone. To know that maybe twice a week someone will pick it up and read it and see his face…," she said.

"I have a copy near Harry's ashes and I read it a couple of times a week, it's a little way for me to still be his mum, because I used to read him a bedtime story every night."

It's also been a way to honour the boys' friendship, which continues today. Bec said Jaxon still talks to Harry and recently released balloons for what would have been his tenth birthday. 

"They played T-ball and football and went swimming or would just hang out at home. Towards the end when Harry wasn't well enough to go to school Jaxon would come around and sit with Harry and play video games," she said.

"Harry was always very social and missed going to school and seeing his friends and to have Jaxon come around on the weekends and watch a movie or go for a swim did mean a lot to Harry."

As the book doesn't mention death or heaven and isn't religious, Bec says it's a great resource for all kids to understand grief and that their loved one had gone on another adventure, that they can't join.

Adding even adults can draw comfort from it, as she does, saying: 'I still wonder where he is and look for him every day'. 

Profits from the book will be donated to the Kid's Cancer Support Group, which supports families of children being treated at Perth Children's Hospital.