Helping children understand death and the powerful emotions that come with any disappointment or loss is not easy, especially when other members of the family may be grieving, too. When adults are struggling with major life events such as divorce, serious illness, an accident, fire, natural disaster, a crisis in the world or the death of someone close, children may feel lost, frightened and confused. Under such circumstances, they need stable and consistent attention from their caregivers, accurate and factual information, and freedom to ask questions and express their feelings. Like the adults around them, they need time to explore and come to terms with the meaning of their loss.
One of the most effective ways to help children understand normal grief reactions ~ their own and that of the people around them ~ is to tell them a story, or you can read together one of the many wonderful children's books now available on loss, dying, death and grief.
I am especially drawn to children’s books (even for adults!) because with few and simple words, often accompanied by colorful and breathtakingly beautiful pictures, the authors and illustrators manage to address some of the most complicated concepts, and in ways that even I can understand! Children's books can be wonderful vehicles for opening the lines of communication with youngsters, serving as helpful springboards to get a conversation going. The ones I like the best are those written as much for adults as for children. The stories are uplifting and hopeful, and told with great wisdom, honesty and love. They encourage readers to look to caring others for support. They teach that while nothing lasts forever and death is a part of life, we never stop loving someone who has died, and through activities and ritual, we still can find ways to honor and preserve the memories of the ones we’ve loved and lost. Books about pet loss are especially dear to me, since the loss of a beloved pet is often the child’s first experience with death, and as metaphor, the stories work in helping children explore and understand many other types of grief and loss as well.
I've listed some of my other favorite children’s books in Amazon's Grief Healing Bookstore, under the category, Books for Children and Those Who Love Them. Whether you find your children's book at the library, at your corner bookstore or online, before making your selection I encourage you to read Amazon's description and reviews. That way, you can decide whether its content fits with your child's experience and with your own personal values and belief system.
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Related Articles and Resources:
- Nana Upstairs and Nana Downstairs (Book Review by Ellary Allis)
- Bridge to Terabithia (Book Review by Katherine Paterson)
- 7 Unusual and Wonderful Books That Help Children Grieve and Make Sense of Death
- Books Help Grieving Children and Teens
- 64 Children's Books About Death and Grief
- Interview with Snort's Special Gift author Suzann Yue (Video)
- Chippy Chipmunk Book Helps Kids Deal With Loss (Video)
- Children Grieve Too, But Not The Same As Adults
- Who's Gonna Tell The Kids?
- A Child's Eye View of Death: The Power of Picture Books to Explain
- Halo: A Story About Heaven
- Helping Children Cope with a Pet's Euthanasia
- How Stories Help Sick Kids Get Better
- Losing a Cherished Pet: Myths and Misconceptions
- Top Ten Children's Books about the Death of a Pet
- Helping You and Your Children with Pet Loss (Email Course)