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University Gazette

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Alexander Craft turns grief into labor of love

As students at Carolina in the early 1990s, Renee Alexander Craft and Maleikka Hardy Williams thought they would spend their 30s building careers and raising families.

But shortly after the birth of her second daughter, Williams learned that she had a very aggressive form of breast cancer, and she died less than two years later.

Alexander Craft, now an assistant professor of communication studies and global studies at Carolina, used her craft as a writer not only to work through her own grief but also to create a tool for talking to young children.

The result was a poem, which soon became a children’s book, “I Will Love You Everywhere Always.”

Through the story of Hope, a little girl who loses her mother to an illness, Alexander Craft helps grieving children understand their feelings and emotions.

“One of the things I want people who read this book to come away with is a sense of how to reconnect with the people they love,” she said.

“Grief takes time, but here are tools to help you feel a little better right now.”

She didn’t want “I Will Love You Everywhere Always” to be categorized as a death book, so the art is integral to telling the story.

The vibrant illustrations by Cosmo Whyte “won’t let you fall into a dark place with the book,” Alexander Craft said.

To read more about Alexander Craft’s work to honor her friend and watch a video about the endeavor, see go.unc.edu/Zp79D.