Ten books about grief and loss
Knowing what to say to children when somebody dies can be difficult to navigate, and the passing of Queen Elizabeth II has meant that many kids who may not have thought about death before, could have questions that need answering. Here are ten books that seek to help you do just that.
As parents, we want to do the best for our kids and it can be unsettling to think that some of the conversations we might have with them about death and grief can challenge the control we have over our own emotions. We do our best to avoid upsetting, frightening or scaring them in their daily lives, and so embracing something as big as death can feel overwhelming.
And yet, it is super important to do. Child psychologists agree that having open communication with children about death and grief is much healthier than hiding it or bottling it up. It also means that children don’t get the wrong idea about death that could leave them feeling worried.
One of the best ways to have a conversation with kids about death and bereavement is through the use of books, which can help explain things in a way that can be hard for us to do, no matter how prepared we are. Thankfully, there are lots of beautiful stories that can help demystify death and we’ve collected ten that we think you will like.
1. The Memory Box by Joanna Rowland
The Memory Box is a story told from the perspective of a young child who wonders whether she will forget the person who has gone, and so she makes a memory box to help her with the grieving process. There is a guide in the back of the book to help children manage grief and suggest how to make a memory box of their own.
2. The Invisible String by Patrice Karst and Joanne Lew-Vriethoff
The Invisible String is about a mother who tells her children that they are all connected by an invisible string. The children don’t believe her and want to know more - the invisible string is in fact made of love. The concept is simple - even if someone goes away, the invisible string will remain and keep a connection alive. A really heart-warming tale.
3. Grandad's Island by Benji Davies
Grandad’s Island is about a young boy called Syd who goes on an adventure with his Grandad to a beautiful island where his Grandad decides to stay, whereas Syd sails home. When Syd goes to visit his Grandad again in the future, he finds that he is not there and instead, Syd must hold onto the memories that he has. It is a very sensitive story about how loved ones can live on in our minds.
4. Lost in the Clouds: A gentle story to help children understand death and grief (Difficult Conversations for Children) by DK and Tom Tinn-Disbury
Lost in the Clouds is about a little boy called Billy who misses his mum as she lives in the clouds. Sometimes it is sunny which makes Billy happy and sometimes the clouds are dark and Billy feels sad. This book teaches children how to deal with emotions surrounding loss, and for supporting parents to share their emotions too.
5. The Heart and the Bottle Paperback by Oliver Jeffers
The Heart and the Bottle is a simple yet profound story about love, loss and hope. It focuses on the love between a father and his daughter until he is no longer there. The little girl puts her heart in a safe place and locks away her ability to love. The story shows how she can get her heart back and that there is always hope.
6. The Memory Tree by Britta Teckentrup
The Memory Tree is a picture book to help children to celebrate the memories left behind when a loved one dies. It tells the story of Fox who has lived a happy life but is now tired and falls asleep in a forest forever. His friends gather where he is sleeping to share their stories and memories about him and as this happens, trees begin to grow, protecting the animals in the forest, like Fox did when he was alive.
7. Goodbye Mog by Judith Kerr
Goodbye Mog is a classic, and tells the story of the Thomas family saying goodbye to their dear pet Mog and getting a new kitten. Whilst much could go wrong, Mog is still there to help! This is a very gentle introduction to bereavement and perfect for children already familiar with the series.
8. The Goodbye Book by Todd Parr
The Goodbye Book is a reassuring story for younger children through the lens of a pet fish who has lost his friend. The story is about how to say goodbye, and reminds the reader that it is alright not to know or have all the answers, and that someone will always be there to support them.
9. I Miss You by Pat Thomas
I Miss You is a simple, concise and empathetic book which explores many issues surrounding death in a sympathetic and yet informative way. It covers the life cycle, funerals and the ways a person may feel after someone they love has died. It also embraces how we can remember people after death in a comforting way. A reassuring book for young and old alike.
10. When Dinosaurs Die: A Guide to Understanding Death (Dino Tales: Life Guides for Families) by by Laurie Krasny Brown and Marc Brown
When Dinosaurs Die offers advice and reassurance from some very wise dinosaurs. Written a bit like a guide, it is designed to help dispel the mystery and negative connotations associated with death and aims to provide answers to some of the most commonly asked questions. It addresses the feelings we may have and also ways to remember someone after they are gone.