Books to Help Children with
Grief and Loss
by Melissa Taylor
Death and loss are part of life. As parents, we often struggle to support our children through their grief. Know that reading and discussing picture books on grief and loss can help. It’s just one of the many steps that authors John W. James and Russell Friedman write about in The Grief Recovery Handbook, explaining that “Recovery from grief or loss is achieved by a series of small and correct action choices made by the griever.”
These books deal with grief, not death. None contain religious explanations. Likewise, none of these books use metaphors about death because experts agree that children need the real words — “death,” “die,” “buried” — not euphemisms such as “went to sleep,” “departed,” or “gone home.”
Always and Forever
Even though this is out of print, it’s worth buying used. This one of the best books on the actual process of grieving, the things that you can do as you grieve. Fox’s friends pay tribute to Fox after he dies with shared memories both good and bad and actions such as baking a pie, building a special garden, and building a bench.
The Memory String
Laura is sad because she misses her mom. She shares special memories of the buttons on her memory string, including memories about her mom who died. When the string breaks, Laura’s stepmom tries to comfort her and find every single missing button. This helps Laura realize that she might be ready to add new memories to the string, memories that include her stepmom, too.
Always By My Side
This book isn’t so much about grieving, but about seeking comfort when someone you love has died. It talks about knowing in your heart that even though dad isn’t alive anymore, he still loves you. It’s a beautiful and loving book of reminders for children.
Rudi is the little girl’s friend but he’s very sick and one day he dies. To grieve, the little girl and her classmates write poems and then build a pond in his memory. These grieving steps are so important to the process and good examples of what you can do after someone dies.
This story shares the confusion that is common when very young children lose a parent — where did that person go? Did I do something to make her leave? It’s not fair! The emotional text and simple illustrations capture this child’s sadness and confusion. Then, we see the father explaining death — “They cannot come back because their body doesn’t work anymore” — and sharing how they are still a family. The book is excellent for its honest portrayal of grief.
Chester Raccoon and the Acorn Full of Memories
Chester’s friend Skiddel Squirrel dies. Chester’s mom explains what death is and helps Chester and his friends celebrate Skiddel’s life. This story does a good job of truthfully explaining what death is, and showing how a goodbye ceremony can help friends grieve the loss.
Rainbow Reach Workbook series
Written by a certified grief recovery specialist, this series of workbooks on worry, the loss of a loved one, the death of a pet, and on having a parent who is deployed, guide children through the process of understanding and expressing their feelings with age-appropriate activities. Click here for sample pages.