When children are dealing with feelings of loss and grief surrounding death, these books may help navigate those emotions.
It’s never easy to experience the death of a loved one. Guiding young children through such a difficult time in the family can be especially challenging. Children may be confused by the notion of death, and rattled by the emotions of the adults around them.
If your family has experienced a loss, or if one of your loved ones is terminally ill and you’re trying to decide how to prepare your children for the inevitable, perhaps some of these books can help you find the right words.
All of these books can be found and checked out for free from the Junior League Family Resource Center Library.
Pre-school age to 7 years
“How I Feel Coloring Book”
By Alan D. Wolfelt, Ph.D., 1996
This coloring book presents many of the feelings grieving children experience. (For ages 3-8)
“Help Me Say Goodbye”
By Janis Silverman, 1999
This book presents activities for children that will help them as they grieve and learn to cope with the death of a loved one. (Ages 4–8 years)
“The Fall of Freddie the Leaf: A Story of Life for All Ages”
By Leo Buscaglia, Ph.D., 1982
The tale of Freddie the Leaf provides insights into the cycle of life and death by personifying a leaf’s experience throughout the various seasons. Colorful photographs accompany this allegory as Freddie learns, with the help from his wise friend, Daniel, that each individual is unique. The book describes, in simple terms, the fact of each person’s death and the continuation of the cycle of life. (All ages)
“I Miss You: A First Look at Death”
By Pat Thomas, 2003
This book will help a parent, teacher or caregiver explain death simply yet realistically to young children. In a read-along format with nice illustrations, this book will allow children to discuss their feelings and better understand their loss. (Ages 4-7)
“No New Baby: For Siblings Who Have a Brother or Sister Die Before Birth”
By Marilyn Gryte, 1999
This short booklet begins with an introduction for parents and grandparents who are reading this story to a young child. The story is appropriate for very young children and is designed to help answer the questions they may have and give them comfort. (Ages 4–8)
“When Someone Very Special Dies”
By Marge Heegaard, 1988
This book helps children understand death through art. Through participation, drawing and writing children learn to express their feelings and cope. (Ages 9–12)
“Why Did You Die?”
By Erika Leeuwenburgh and Ellen Goldring, 2008
Subtitled “An Instant Help Book for Parents and Kids,” this activity book will help children and parents alike with the grieving process. There are 40 thoughtful activities for children that will allow them to express their emotions and feelings as they deal with missing loved ones. (Ages 6-12)
“The Empty Place: A Child’s Guide Through Grief”
By Roberta Temes, 1992
This book is written from the point of view of a third-grader whose big sister has died. He feels many emotions such as confusion, anger and guilt. He is also afraid others will die. He is able to confide in his babysitter who has lost a brother in an accident and who gives him suggestions to help ease his pain and gives him hope of better days ahead. (Ages 8-12)
“Forever in My Heart: A Story to Help Children Participate in Life as a Parent Dies”
By Jennifer Levine, 1992
A storybook and workbook for kids to help them cope with the loss of a parent. (Ages 8-12)
Books for teens
“I Will Remember You: What to Do When Someone You Love Dies”
By Laura Dower, 2001
This is a book written specifically for the teenage reader who is coping with death and all the complex emotions that accompany it. The book addresses the different feelings and responses — both mental and physical — that one may have in this situation and why death is different for the teenager. Additionally, it offers helpful ideas and activities to help one explore his/her feelings and better cope during the various stages of grief and beyond.
“Saying Goodbye: When You Don’t Want To”
By Martha Bolton, 2002
Teens will find encouragement and hope in these stories by peers who share their thoughts and their pain from losing a parent, sibling or friend. The stories also touch on runaways and suicides, divorce, losses and failures and similar causes of grief.
“Fire In My Heart, Ice In My Veins”
By Enid Samuel-Traisman, 2002
This title is a journal to be completed by anyone who has suffered the loss of a friend or a loved one. Especially for teens, writing in the journal helps explore feelings and encourages teens to get those feelings out. It will ensure that you are not alone in your journey of grieving and will give you creative ideas to help you remember loved one.
“Remembering You: A Book For Children and Teens Who Experience The Loss of a Brother or Sister”
By Rose Resler, 1996
This scrapbook-style workbook encourages children to remember things about their siblings. Topics: “Some of the funniest things we ever did” and “My goodbye letter to you.”