Best Books for Kids Dealing with Grief
Children grieve for the loss of a loved one, including a pet, just as an adult does. However, kids express their grief process in different ways. Often, in the tumult that occurs when someone dies, children are shielded, or they often don’t get the attention they need, because of distracting details for adults to take care of. Other adults may be uncertain on how to deal with grief at a child’s level, so they don’t approach the child who is coping with grief.
Books about how to deal with grief are a great way to help approach the subject and to guide the conversation. Several of the best books for kids dealing with grief specifically address grief and loss in children who have lost a pet, a grandparent, or a sibling, and there are those that even discuss coping with loss after miscarriages. Many wonderful children’s books on dealing with loss have been written by psychologists.
How to Help Kids Cope with Grief and Loss
In general, children need to see adults cry and grieve in a reasonable way, and must feel free to cry themselves. Grief and loss are sensitive subjects, but children need honesty. The circumstances of the loved one’s death need to be explained in an age appropriate manner.
Explaining death to children is one of the most difficult topics to approach. Often, adults think children shouldn’t have to hear about death, so they try to “sugar coat” situations. Sometimes, this creates a nightmare situation instead. For example, telling a child that someone “went to sleep and didn’t wake up” can cause the child to infer that it can happen to anyone, at any time, including themselves. The reality of the death of a loved one is best explained to children in a way that helps them understand that anger or sadness at their grief and loss are natural responses.
It is okay to use the words “death” and “dying” when explaining death to children. The best books for kids dealing with grief state that using these words helps children to define the specific situation, since they may not understand euphemisms such as “passed away.” Be open to talking about the loss of a loved one as much as the child needs to talk. Taking about the person, remembering him or her, and discussing feelings of anger, sadness, and grief, all show how the child is coping with loss. Open communication with children is the key to helping them through this difficult time.
Favorite Books on Grief for Kids
At your local bookstore, you will find a selection of books that are written to help children deal with the loss of a loved one and learn about the grief process. If you know a child who is dealing with death, consider the following titles and how they might help you or the grieving child.
I Miss You: A First Look at Death
By: Pat Thomas
I Miss You has lovely, simple, and straightforward illustrations. It discusses the cycle of life and death, and the fact that death is a natural occurrence. Directed at readers ages preschool and older, I Miss You was authored by a psychologist who is also a mother and journalist. The book includes suggestions for using it to deal with different stages of the grief process, as well as a glossary of terms such as “funeral.”
Life is Like the Wind
By: Shona Innes and Irisz Agocs
Life is Like the Wind has whimsical pictures and discusses the concept of life before it discusses death. By using wind as an analogy for the cycle of life, the book says that, “Life is a precious and funny thing.” All the characters are cute and pleasantly illustrated. Written by a psychologist, Life is Like the Wind is a newer book on grief for kids and designed for preschool and up.
When Someone You Love Has Cancer: A Guide to Help Kids Cope
By: Alaric Lewis and R.W. Alley
When Someone You Love Has Cancer is part of the “Elf Help Series.” Using an elf to explain cancer, the kids book talks how to deal with grief when living with someone who has cancer. The book addresses the emotions involved and is written for children ages 4-12.
By: Maria Shriver
What’s Heaven? was written about Shriver’s experience explaining death to children when Rose Kennedy died. Shriver uses many of her own children’s actual questions to tell the story of a girl asking her mother about grief and loss, and why she is so sad. The girl asks her mother to explain Heaven. The illustrations are traditional art, more realistic, and more somber than many children’s books on grief. The bestselling What’s Heaven? is meant for children in Kindergarten or older.
Lifetimes: The Beautiful Way to Explain Death to Children
By: Bryan Mellonie and Robert Ingpen
Lifetimes was originally released in 1983 and it endures as a helpful book for children about dealing with death. This book also talks about life cycles, including the time before birth. This book can be used as a primer to teach children about the death of a loved one, before a death occurs. The message of Lifetimes can be used to explain the loss of a pet or even a beloved toy. This book on grief displays simple illustrations and is intended for ages 5 and older.
Although there are not many children’s books explaining death, grief and loss, the books that are available are helpful and worth the investment. The best books for kids about dealing with death, coping with grief, and assisting after the loss of a loved one are those that help you and the child come together to celebrate life. At Everlasting Footprint, your child can help collaborate on a Footprint for a loved one; sharing the stories that they remember can help with grief as well.
Photo: Monica H