These compassionate and comforting children's books about death help kids process the difficult emotions and questions surrounding grief and loss. Losing a loved one is always hard, and can be especially confusing for little ones. We're including recommendations to help explain death to a child in all of the ways they might experience it, with children's books about death of a grandparent, loss of a beloved family member or friend, and death of a pet. These books are especially written to help the youngest among us face a great mystery that we are all struggling to understand.
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What Happens When Someone Dies? A Child's Guide to Death and Funerals
Beth Wood: This book by Michaelene Mundy can help to answer your children's questions about death, funerals and the grieving process.
When a Pet Dies
Kristy Pepping: Pets are part of the family and when a pet dies, it can be hard to explain this to a child. This book by Fred Rogers helps kids to understand that their emotions are valid and that they will always have the memories of their pet for a lifetime.
Tim Ponisciak: This is a touching book by Benji Davies that will help a child deal with the loss of a grandparent. It tells the story of a child who goes on imaginary adventures with his grandfather to an island faraway, until one day the Grandfather decides to stay on the island. It is a good story as it illustrates how the little boy is able to be strong and venture out on his own.
When Your Grandparent Dies: A Child's Guide to Good Grief
Beth Wood: This book by Victoria Ryan tells the story of the days surrounding a grandparent's death. It includes great questions to make discussions with your grieving child easier.
Nancy L.: This is a poignant story about death by Sebastian Loth, illustrated using two animal friends. Zelda is a very young goose and Crystal is an old tortoise. When Crystal dies, Zelda is sad, angry, and confused because she misses her friend. This book sweetly addresses death as part of life in a simple way that kids can understand. It is a non-religious approach that teaches kids to keep the person alive by always remembering the deceased.
The Invisible String
Kelly R.: This beautiful story by Patrice Karst is wonderful for children experiencing any sort of loss, grief or separation. The book illustrates the simple and powerful idea that we are all connected with an invisible string to our loved ones, even those who are no longer nearby.
Nana Upstairs & Nana Downstairs
Nancy L.: Nana Upstairs & Nana Downstairs is one of many classic picture books from Tomie dePaola. It's the story of 4-year-old Tommy who visits his grandparents' home every Sunday. His grandmother is always cooking in the kitchen and she's Nana Downstairs. His 94-year-old great-grandmother is bedridden and she's Nana Upstairs. Each week he rushes up to her room to visit and share a candy. When she dies, Tommy is very sad but learns that she will always live in his memories. This book teaches numerous beautiful messages about family.
Sue Krawitz Tandoc: Dog Heaven, written and illustrated by Newbery Medalist Cynthia Rylant, will comfort anyone who has lost a beloved dog. Combining colorful paintings and peaceful images, Rylant captures the ideal place for a dog in the afterlife. Complete with unlimited fields to run, yummy biscuits and more, this book will console anyone who is grieving for their four-legged furry friend. The book may bring tears, but they will be cathartic.
Sue Krawitz Tandoc: Newbery Medalist author and illustrator Cynthia Rylant uses simple rhyme to comfort children and adults who have lost a cat or kitten with her book, Cat Heaven. Rylant uses colorful artwork to illustrate a peaceful, happy heaven for cats where all trees can be climbed and the cat angels will always be there to comfort them.
Any child or adult will feel at peace when grieving for their cat who has passed on, knowing their beloved pet is in this magical, restful Cat Heaven.
Sue Krawitz Tandoc: What's Heaven? by Maria Shriver is the story of young Kate who has just lost her great-grandmother. Kate's mom tells her about heaven and the funeral is also discussed. Kate asks many questions, and brings up animal heaven vs people heaven. Shriver writes with ease and compassion and does not sugar-coat the inevitable topic. It is a timeless book to help any child learn about the reality of death and ways to cope.
The Berenstain Bears Lose a Friend
Sue Krawitz Tandoc: The Berenstain Bears take on the subject of death in the loss of Sister's goldfish, Goldie, with the book The Berenstain Bears Lose a Friend by Stan, Jan and Mike Berenstain. Sister arranges a proper burial to say goodbye and the rest of the Bear family attend.
The book reinforces that pets are special and the loss of them deserves real grieving and a memorial event. Sister will never forget her beloved pet but in the end, realizes that while life goes on, she will always have her memories.
We Were Gonna Have a Baby, But We Had an Angel Instead
Kristy Pepping: Do you know of someone who has had a miscarriage or maybe you have had one yourself? If you have other children that were anticipating a new sibling, this is a great book to explain what happened to the baby. This is a great tool to help younger children deal with a loss of a sister or brother.
Sally Goes to Heaven
Sue Krawitz Tandoc: Written by Stephen Huneck, Sally Goes to Heaven sends a calming and reassuring message to anyone who has lost a pet. Sally, a beloved family dog, dies and wakes in Heaven where she is no longer in pain, has unlimited outdoor fields to play, and unlimited treats. As a true-to-a-fault family pet, she hopes her family is not sad over her loss.
This book paints a beautiful picture of Heaven to reassure kids that their pet is in a better place and wants them to be happy. It also teaches it is okay to adopt and love a new pet without forgetting the love they had for their prior pet.
I'll Always Love You
Juan L.: This moving children's book by Hans Wilhelm depicts the unforgettable bond between a boy and his dog -- and the boy's sadness when his beloved dog passes away in her sleep. This is a great book to help children process and cope with the loss of a pet.
Cry, Heart, But Never Break
Sue Krawitz Tandoc: This deeply moving book about both life and death by Glenn Ringtved will comfort those who have lost a loved one as well as provide reassurance that life will go on. The book focuses on children losing their grandmother and teaches that death is a part of life for everyone. Through a side story, it shows that sorrow and grief in death counterbalance to joy and delight in life. The book encourages the reader to remember your loved one through memories and while it's okay to be sad, you can also channel that sadness into joy with new life.
The Forever Dog
Sue Krawitz Tandoc: This sweet yet tear jerker story, The Forever Dog by Bill Cochran, is about Mike and his dog, Corky. The pair do everything together until one day Mike comes home to find Corky is no longer there. Mike comes to terms with the news and in the process, realizes that his memories with his dog are so strong that Corky will always be with him in his heart and spirit.
This book will help anyone who is grieving over the loss of a pet and help them come to realize that the memories in their heart with live on with them forever.
Primary photo: Jordan Whitt on Unsplash
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