Books that explain grief to children

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books for kids about grief, bereavement

 

Books that explain grief, death, and bereavement to young children in a very gentle way.

Losing someone close to you is hard. Children often have a very confusing, and difficult time getting to terms with the passing of someone they normally have contact with.

Whether a pet, relative or a friend – death is a hard subject to deal with for young or old alike. Older people have a whole different understanding of death and grief. Little ones need to have gentle support in finding out what is going on.

“The more the subject of death is approached at a young age, the easier it will be to accept and discuss later on.” Thank goodness for children’s books on the subjects of loss, grief, bereavement. They are not sad or depressing – they are full of life and tributes!

A child struggles and is often confused. Depending on their ages, and their parents point of view, many children cannot grasp what is going on – where has their relative/friend/pet suddenly gone?

Choose your book carefully. Take into account who the book is aimed at – for a child of a certain age. A child who has suffered the loss of a parent, friend, pet. Then think about which type of story would be best for that child – one about the loss of a direct person, or maybe a gentler book that explains death by using a tale about the cycle of life with nature as the example.

Books about grief must focus on how a child feels, radiate love, care and meaning, memories and comfort. They should not talk excessively about heaven, angels, etc. A book about bereavement for children should provide simple and calming explanations that are realistic.

Some books about grief concentrate on the cycle of life using nature as a beautiful natural example, so the mention of an afterlife in heaven with angels is not needed. A child can still get the concept of death being a natural cycle full new life.

It’s very important for children to focus on their feelings and emotions in their struggle to understand what is going on during such a sad and confusing time. It is your own decision and belief if you choose to tell your child about heaven and angels afterwards.

If you would like to read more about about grief and bereavement for children, then please go to our ‘Explaining grief and bereavement to children’ Blog Post.

We have chosen 22 top selling books that talk about death, grief and bereavement in a natural, beautiful, and soft manner.

 

Just click on a book image to see and listen to a reading of most of the  listed books on Youtube before you chose to purchase your book using our Amazon links below!

IDA ALWAYS By Caron Levis grief

  • IDA, ALWAYS. A beautiful, non religious book. It will help any child (or adult) who knows or has know someone who is terminally ill. Gus and Ida are two polar bears that live in the zoo. They share many memories such as splashing water on each other, flopping onto their favourite rock, and hearing the city sounds. Ida becomes very ill and they both know that she will not be able to recover. Together with the other zoo animals they face the difficult realisation that Ida will pass – but they are all determined to let her live on in beautiful memories. It discusses the topic of dying in a healthy, understandable way. ‘Ida, Always’ is inspired by a real bear friendship in New York’s Central Park Zoo (Ida died in 2011, Gus died in 2013). By Caron Levis. Illustrated by Charles Santoso.
  • For ages 4 – 8 approximately.

 

Something Very Sad Happened grief

  • SOMETHING VERY SAD HAPPENED. A toddler’s guide to understanding death. A mother is talking to her son about the loss of his grandma. Aimed at pre-schoolers. Certain words in this book are highlighted so that names and pronouns can be substituted to the name of the loved one that has passed. The parental guide in the back is a great help as it talks about attending funerals, cemeteries and ideas for commemorations. ‘Something Very Sad Happened’. By Bonnie Zucker. Illustrations by Kim Flemming.
  • For ages 2 – 4 approximately.

 

One Wave At A Time grief

 

  • ONE WAVE AT A TIME. A story about grief and healing. This rhyming story follows a boy called Kai who has lost his father. Fear, anger and sadness roll in like waves. Emotions are tackled during everyday occurrences when the presence of a lost person is felt the most. Beautiful artwork and a wonderful use of a wave as the metaphor. Resources are available at the back of the book to help children manage their emotions that can be overwhelming at times. ‘One Wave At A Time’. By Holly Thompson. Illustrated by Ashley Crowley.
  • For ages 5 – 7 approximately.

 

The Memory Box

  • THE MEMORY BOX – A book about grief. This story is a very helpful resource. It’s aimed at children who have suffered a loss of any kind. There is a guide for parents at the back. The guide has tips using a Christian perspective, but it’s not overbearing for those who are non-religious or have another faith. It has suggestions on how to make your own box full of loving memories. ‘The Memory Box’. By Joanna Rowland. Illustrated by Thea Baker.
  • For ages 4 – 8 approximately

 

The Invisible String

 

  • THE INVISIBLE STRING. This book deals more with the fear that comes with separation. Suitable for children who may have suffered a loss, or feel lonely, or have been separated from friends, or parents. Heaven is only mentioned once, very briefly. It tells the story of how we can be connected to our loved ones by an invisible string. ‘The Invisible String’. By Patrice Karst. Illustrated by Geoff Stevenson.
  • For ages 4 – 8 approximately.

 

The Dragon Fly Story grief

 

  • THE DRAGONFLY STORY. Explaining the death of a loved one to children and families. A book full of comfort. It’s a story about two children who are missing their sister. Their parents take them out to the park where they discover a dragonfly. Dragonflies start off as bugs under the water, then they shed their bodies and become something else, they are not able to return to see their families, but they are still there in another sense. ‘The Dragonfly Story’ discusses death in a kind manner. This is a book that offers the hope of an afterlife, and what heaven might be like. This is a book aimed at those who are both religious and non-religious. By Kelly Owen – who also suffered the loss of her 12 year old daughter. Illustrated by Helen Braid.
  • Directed at young children.

 

 

  • THE GOODBYE BOOK. Perfect for young children whose families have individual family beliefs. ‘The goodbye Book’ approaches the subject of grief by using a lonely fish as an example. Simple illustrations that are boldly colourful and get to the point in such a soothing way. It lets children know that it’s ok to feel anger, sadness and other emotions. This is a book that encourages children to be brave, but still remember their loved ones though good memories that they have left behind. Very well meaning. It can comfort those who have lost a cherished person or a family pet. ‘The Goodbye Book’. By author and illustrator Todd Parr.
  • For ages 2 – 4 approximately.

 

I MISS YOU - A FIRST LOOK AT DEATH grief

 

  • I MISS YOU – A first look at death. This lovely book is gentle and reassuring. It follows a little girl who seems to have lost her grandma. ‘I Miss You’ asks the reader/listener direct questions so as too promote talking about how they feel and lead into discussions if needed. It talks about death being a natural part of this life. Death in other cultures is also discussed. ‘I Miss You’ is one of many books in a series that are there to assist emotions and situations felt by young children. By Pat Thomas, who is a psychotherapist and counsellor. Illustrated by Leslie Harker.
  • For ages 4 – 8 approximately.

 

Till We Meet Again grief

 

  • TILL WE MEET AGAIN. A poetic children’s book about grieving – it’s an emotional support for young children who are missing a loved one, or may have anxiety at the thought of losing someone. ‘Till We Meet Again’ helps to provide comfort in showing children that they can cherish the precious memories of a loved one and let them live on. This book lets children know that maybe one day we might meet again. By Julie Muller. Illustrated by Camryn Cox.
  • For ages 2 – 8 approximately.

 

Where Are You grief

 

  • WHERE ARE YOU? A child’s book about loss. This book offers different perspectives on death through the eyes of a child. ‘Where Are You’ has been a tremendous support to many. It uses the senses to let children know that a loved one can still live on and stay in your heart forever. Clear text and very supportive illustrations to match. This this is a story that a child will want to hear over and over again as a great source of comfort. By Lauren Olivieri. Illustrated by Kristin Elder.
  • For ages 3 – 8 approximately.

 

I'LL ALWAYS LOVE YOU By Hans Wilhelm

 

  • I’LL ALWAYS LOVE YOU. A simple story about a boy and his dog called Elfie who have grown up together. Told as an honest and compassionate story. It’s for people who are struggling with their child coping with the passing of their beloved family pet. It’s also a great book to consider purchasing before a pet has actually died as it prepares a child in advance. Many children find it hard to understand what has happened to their pet. This is a great support. The only criticism that this books has, is that the boy in the story told his dog that he loved him every day, and his siblings did not do this – some parents said that this will give their own child the sense of deep guilt because they did not tell their own pet that they loved it on a daily basis. Other readers say that this issue has not been a problem for their child. ‘I’ll Always Love You’. By Hans Wilhelm
  • For ages 3 – 7 approximately.

 

THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM grief

 

  • THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM. A gender-neutral children’s book for grief and loss. A story in rhyming verses and whimsical illustrations. This is a lovely book for children that is full of positive strategies for processing grief. An important resource for families, social workers, teachers, therapists, etc. It covers many areas associated with loss, separation, traumatic experiences. This book is a great tool for helping very young children cope with grief in many forms. There may be some sentences in this book that you may not agree with, such as a child being told to accept hugs, which is fair enough. But overall this book has been a great help to many. ‘The Elephant In the Room’. By Amanda Edwards & Leslie Ponciano. Illustrated by Julia Horwitz.
  • For ages 2 – 8 approximately.

 

Someone I love died

 

  • SOMEONE I LOVED DIED. A book full with beautiful watercolours. It does take on a very Christian viewpoint, so it is likely to not be suitable for the non-religious. It provides resources for parents to aid their child through the stages of grief. First brought out in 1988, it has been updated and revised. ‘Someone I love died’ is interactive, it has spaces for a child to fill out with their own personal details, emotions and pictures. It contains some biblical mentions. By Christine Harder Tangvald. Illustrated by Anne Kennedy.
  • For ages 4 – 8 approximately.

 

WHEN SOMEONE VERY SPECIAL DIES grief

 

  • WHEN SOMEONE VERY SPECIAL DIES. Children can learn to cope with grief. This is a book that is also highly recommended by grief therapists. It is easy to understand and instantly helps children to open up. It is full of pages for a child to draw on and colour. ‘When Someone Very Special Dies’ explores lifecycles and the natural process of dying. The activities allow a child to express what they are going through by writing and drawing. Thoughts and feelings can easily be discussed. A fabulous resource! By Marge Heegaard.
  • For ages 9 – 12 approximately. (Also helps adults!)

 

Help Me Say Goodbye grief

 

  • HELP ME SAY GOODBYE – Activities for helping children cope when a special person dies.
  • For ages 2 – 8 approximately.

 

HEALING ACTIVITIES FOR CHILDREN IN GRIEF

 

  • HEALING ACTIVITIES FOR CHILDREN IN GRIEF  – this one is for grief counsellors and therapists. It has very high recommendations by professionals who work with grieving children. It is divided up into three sections of activities for ages – 5 – 8. Ages 9 – 12. Ages 13 . 18. This is a book full of user-friendly resources and creative techniques to help children to process and cope with bereavement. ‘Healing Activities For Children In Grief’. By Gay McWhorter

Also recommend by grief councillors and therapists:

  • Creative Interventions for Bereaved Children (Lowenstein)
  • When Dinosaurs Die (Krasny & Brown)
  • Tear Soup (Schwiebert & Deklyn)
  • Great Answers to Difficult Questions about Death: What Children Need to Know (Goldman)

 

I have to include ‘The Scar’. It is about a boy who has experienced the loss of his mother after her illness.

THE SCAR By Charlotte Moundic grief

 

  • THE SCAR. A brilliant book that will help greatly to connect and ease the pain of a child who is unfortunately experiencing the sad loss of a parent. A child can quickly relate to the main character, realising that they too feel exactly the same, and so do others around them that knew the person that has passed. ‘The Scar’. By Charlotte Moundic. Illustrated by Oliver Tallec.
  • For ages 5 – 9 approximately.

Children’s books that talk about the cycle of life in an easy format for children to grasp the idea of life and death.

 

Always Remember by Cece Meng

 

  • ALWAYS REMEMBER. A wonderful book about grief for those who want a natural approach without the use of religion. This lyrical book covers the legacy that Old Turtle leaves behind. He lives on and is fondly remembered by all his friends. A very nice book to help those who have lost a loved person or a dear pet. Beautiful, dreamy illustrations that soothe. ‘Always Remember’. By Cece Meng. Illustrated by Jago.
  • For ages 4 – 8 approximately.

 

Badgers Parting Gift grief

 

  • BADGERS PARTING GIFTS.  The perfect book for children faced with the fact that an elderly relative or other person that they know is coming to the end of their lifespan. In this story, Badger knows that it’s soon time for him to go. He wants to leave wonderful memories behind for his friends. His friends start to grieve when Badger is gone, but then they realise they still have all his wonderful memories and badger lives on in this comforting way. ‘Badger’s Parting Gifts’. By Susan Varley.
  • For ages 4 – 8 approximately.

 

The Fall of Freddie The Leaf grief

 

  • THE FALL OF FREDDIE THE LEAF. A beloved classic story that follows the journey of Freddie the leaf. Freddie and his friends change with the coming seasons. This striking story explains in simple, poetic terms how nature can return to the fertile ground and provide nutrients and new life. No religious context is needed here – A beautiful story of life. ‘The Fall Of Freddie The Leaf’. By Leo Buscaglia Ph.D.
  • For ages 4 – 8 approximately. (Also great for adults)

 

Lifetimes grief

 

  • LIFETIMES. A beautiful way to explain death to children. A natural explanation using nature as a harmonious example ‘All things are born, and all things die, and that’s ok’. Gentle examples of living and dying are given throughout the pages, using the lifecycles of familiar creatures as a comfortable guide. This book does not delve into emotions, just a gentle understanding of life and death for children. It is done in a concept that most children will quickly understand. One thing that caught our attention is that ‘Lifetimes’ is a book that was written in the 1980’s – One of it’s pages state that people live to 60 or 70 which is outdated. Young children might find that a bit scary, especially if they are aware of the age of a grandparent. The life expectancy is now at at least 80, and many live a lot longer. If you read this book to a child, then it’s best to either leave out the age part or change it to a higher number. ‘Lifetimes’. By Bryon Mellonie and Robert Bergen.
  • For ages 5 – 8 approximately.

 

In A Nutshell Joseph Anthony grief

 

  • IN A NUTSHELL.  ‘In a Nutshell’ explains the cycle of life using an acorn falling from an oak tree as an example. This is a book that releases many anxieties as it tries to answer many questions that children normally have regarding the purpose and nature of life. ‘In A Nutshell’ is a story that allows you to follow an acorn amidst diverse and striking illustrations and see it’s connectedness to the whole. By Joseph Anthony. Illustrated by Cris Arbo.
  • For ages 3 – 10 approximately.

Other books that will help to ease the pain of the loss of a parent:

 

  • Everett Anderson’s Goodbye, Lucille Clifton
  • Missing Mommy, Rebecca Cobb
  • Goodbye Dad, The Funeral, William Bentrim
  • Dear Daddy: When a Parent Dies, Joyce Stath
  • Some of the Pieces, Melissa Madenski
  • And Still They Bloom: A Family’s Journey of Loss and Healing, Amy Rovere
  • How It Feels When a Parent Dies, Jill Krementz
  • Fourth Grade Wizards, Barthe DeClements
  • Ages 4-8 – Our Dad Died, Amy Dennison
  • Ages 5-8 – Chicken Boy, Frances O’Roark Dowell
  • Ages 6-8 – Miracle’s Boys, Jacqueline Woodson
  • Ages 6-12 – You Are Not Alone: Teens Talk About Life After The Loss of a Parent, Lynn Hughes

For animal lovers who have lost a beloved cat –

‘Cat Heaven’

 

For animal lovers who have lost a beloved dog –

‘Dog Heaven’

 

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