Trying to understand death and loss at any age is difficult.
Trying to explain death and loss to a child can be even more difficult. Not only are you likely to be grieving yourself but now you have to break the news to a little one. It can be hard to understand, as well as explain, but thankfully there are many great books that can help with the process.
Here are 7 books that will hopefully help you explain death and loss in a simpler way to a child. With words and pictures that are more suited for them to understand. 📚
by Pat Thomas
It’s commonly said by child experts that the best way to approach talking about death is to be clear and direct. That means using terms such as ‘died’ and not ‘passed away’. It may seem like harsher language but children can be more resilient than you think and you don’t want to confuse them.
That’s where this book excels. It explains death simply and directly while not being too blunt. It’s fairly short but manages to capture the life cycle, how people die, what happens after they die, and how those of different faiths treat death.
2. Goodnight Mister Tom 🌙
by Michelle Magorian
If you're looking for a longer book, this is an excellent option. It shows how death can impact a young child and shares what he does to try and cope with it.
It has a suggested reading level of 8-12 years but you can obviously take into consideration the maturity of the child. Also, this book is also a great way to teach them about death or loss preemptively, rather than just explaining after it occurs.
by Susan Varley
A lot of books use animals to help explain the subject of death and loss. This book does this very well while still providing all the information they need. It focuses on celebrating life, rather than focusing on what you’ve lost.
It’s called Badger’s Parting Gifts because the ‘parting gifts’ are the knowledge and memories that he has left behind. The story is heartwarming and follows a badger who knows that he will soon die of old age. This is a great book to read after losing a grandparent or great-grandparent.
4. The Invisible String 🧵
by Patrice Karst
This book shows children that they are always connected to people even if they are no longer with them. It does so with the metaphor of an invisible string that is connected between them and everyone they know.
It not only helps in dealing with death, but separation anxiety and loneliness. The illustrations are also great and will help children engage in a beautiful way.
5. The Memory Tree 🌳
by Britta Teckentrup
The Memory Tree is another book that uses animals to explain death. It’s about a fox who goes to sleep forever in the snow. He’s lived a happy life, but it’s now time for him to pass away and complete the circle of life.
After he passes away, his friends all come to his side and tell their favourite stories about him. This gives kids an opportunity to open up about their favourite memories of someone they have lost. It explains the importance of memories and how they keep you connected to and remember those you love.
6. Grandad’s Island 🏝️
by Benji Davies
This book explains the idea of someone going to a better place, but not mentioning heaven. In this case, the grandad in the story travels to a beautiful island and decides to stay there while his grandson sails back to the present day.
When the grandson goes to visit his grandad’s house again, he’s not there. It utilizes the power of memories while telling the story in a sensitive but deep enough way to allow children to understand loss. The illustrations are fantastic which makes it an even better read.
by Tomie dePaola
Nana Upstairs & Nana Downstairs is a book that can help explain the loss of both a grandparent and great grandparent. It’s the story of a boy who loses one nana as a child and one as an adult. At both ages, he learns how to remember each of them in a special way. It not only explains death but also compassion and the importance of family.
As we all know, every child is different. Every child responds to death, loss, anxiety, and grief differently. No one story or discussion will fix what they are feeling or how they are feeling it. Explaining death the best way you can, and then taking the time to listen to them is key. Hopefully, these books help with whatever loss the kids in your world are experiencing.