I’ve been asked by a number of people for books to recommend for kids who are dealing with death/grief. My therapist gave me a book list some we liked more than others and I have others that we found that we liked too. We found being open and honest and answering questions directly was the best for our very inquisitive little minds and books definitely helped the conversations. Below are my thoughts on the books, and links to Wordsworth bookstore because you should support local! 🙂
Buscaglia, L. F. (2002). The fall of Freddie the leaf: a story of life for all ages. Thorofare, NJ: SLACK Inc.
This book is primarily words, and few pictures. So not ideal for little ones, but it’s good at telling a story so ours liked to hear it at bedtime. The concept of death and the cycle of life is described in a little more abstract way so we started with this one. It was also a favourite of mine as it helped me find a metaphor that my kids could understand a story we could go back to as things changed.
Schwiebert, Pat, Chuck DeKlyen, and Taylor Bills. Tear soup: a recipe for healing after loss. Portland, OR: Grief Watch, 2015.
Oh this book. It’s great for adults and for kids. This is more of a post death how to handle your grief story. It reminds us that grief is different for everyone, and it’s important that we let people process their own grief in their own way. Bring kleenex.
Brown, Laurie K. and Marc Brown. When Dinosaurs Die: A Guide to Understanding Death. New York, NY: Little Brown and Company. 1996/2009
We didn’t manage to get this one but a friend tells me it’s pretty good and my therapist recommended it so I add it to the list.
Roberts, Jillian, illustrated by Cindy Revell. What Happens When a Loved One Dies? Vancouver, BC: Orca Books Publishers. 2016.
This is a great book for handling the process questions that little ones have. It is direct and honest and straightforward it doesn’t sugar coat but it’s not scary, it’s practical. It answered all of Tommy’s logistical questions about what happens when grandma dies. Highly recommend this one, it had all the adults in tears. It’s frank and to the point in an appropriate kid way.
Karst, Patrice & Stevenson, Geoff. Invisible String. DeVorss & Company. 2000.
This one breaks my heart every time we read it. It was read one Sunday last fall in church for the children’s time. Mom and I immediately bought it for the kids. She read it to them often in the months before she died. This story is about how we are all connected by an invisible string, and that love travels along that string no matter how far away we are, even up in heaven. This book is still pulled off our shelf frequently reminding us how close we all are even when we’re apart. Also helpful for school separation fyi!
Mellonie, Bryan & Ingpen Robert. Lifetimes The beautiful way to explain death to children. Bantam Books. 1983.
A beautiful story about how everything has its own lifetime, a beginning, a middle and an end. It’s good to have something that helps explain the life cycle is true for all living things, even people.
Tinwei Lam, Fiona. The Rainbow Rocket. Oolichan books. 2013.
A story of a boy and his artist grandmother. This story includes some Chinese traditions that were new to our kids and brought up questions for which I didn’t have answers. It is also most likely more appropriate for children whose grandparent is suffering from something like Alzheimer’s as there is a slow progression of loss of mental and physical ability of the boys grandmother. It is a beautiful story.
Pries, Kari PhD. We have Superpowers, Independently Published.
If you can get your hands on it, this is a great book. email me, I can get you in touch with the author if you’re interested in a copy. We Have Superpowers is a children’s book celebrating the courage and contributions of the children of serving, transitioning, and veteran members of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) who have lived through the injury or illness of a loved one. With the support and partnership of Support Our Troops and True Patriot Love Foundation, We Have Superpowers will be available for free for children from Military Family Resource Centres (MFRCs) across Canada.
And finally. A few book for adults.
Hamilton, Joan. When a Parent is Sick. Helping parents explain serious illness to children. Pottersfield Press. 2001.
This book is clearly more geared to parents who need to explain their own illness to their children. However, it is filled with helpful advice on explaining symptoms and processes of hospital visits, and doctors etc. It’s divided into age groups and gives pointers on how a child at a given age may be feeling/processing current information. It’s a very quick easy read and good for reference.
A few other titles I recommend for the Grief healing process:
1. Spencer, Kate. The Dead Moms Club: A Memoir about Death, Grief, and Surviving the Mother of All Losses
2. Devine, Megan. It’s okay that you’re not okay.