Children’s books on death, loss and grief

Feb 18, 2021

This week, exactly 30 years ago, my father died. His loss has been more palpable this year. This might sound strange, as it was so long ago. I think it is due to the fact that my own son is now the exact age I was when I lost my father. I look at my little love and I can finally see how small I was when my dad was taken out of my life. Seeing my son, I feel more compassion and more understanding to how frightening it was for me as a little girl.

I truly believe it is very important to discuss all topics with children, and these include death, loss and grief. Death and grief are important to discuss with all children. However this is even more so with children who have actually experienced a loss of a loved one. Books are helpful in normalising feelings like anger and sadness which are a part of grief. Reading books help children to not feel so alone in their experiences. They help grown-ups in starting difficult conversations and children in expressing their feelings. I therefore compiled a list of my 5 favourite children’s books that deal with topics of death, loss, and grief.

Self-portrait of me reading a book to my son.
Self-portrait of me reading to my son.

No longer alone by Joseph Coehlo

I borrowed this book from the library thinking that it was about getting another sibling. I was therefore completely taken aback when it was about a little girl who had lost her mother.  Reading it got me all teary. The little girl is feeling sad and does not enjoy the things she used to enjoy. She is feeling very alone in her sadness. And pulls away from her family and friends. However, at the end of the book she starts sharing her feelings with her father. She notices that this helps her not to feel so alone anymore. This book really describes so well how a child is feeling after having lost a parent. It also explain how important it is to share with a trusting adult about your feelings.
What makes the book even more important at this day and age is that the main characters have a BAME background. 
Age range: 3+ years

From the same author comes another great book on the same topic. ‘If all the world were’ is about a girl who misses her late grandfather. You can read more about this book in my blog post: ‘5 great children’s books with a BAME Protagonist’. I can thoroughly recommend both of these books from Joseph Coehlo.

Cry, Heart, But Never Break by Glenn Ringtved

Death comes to visit grandmother and the four grandchildren that live with her. Grandmother is very ill, and death has come to take her away. The children ask why death has come and he explains to them that life is only beautiful due to death being there as well. It is a beautiful book with great drawings. Death is not scary at all and the children are not afraid of him. This book can really help you to discuss death, grief with your child. It is also a wonderful book to use for having a more philosophical conversation about this topic.
Age range: 4-8 years

Page from the book Cry Heart but Never Break by Glenn Ringtved on death, loss and grief.

The memory tree by Britta Teckentrump

This story is about a fox who’s old and tired after having lived a long and happy life. He falls asleep forever and as his friends mourn him. They start to share the happy memories they have of Fox. As they recount stories about fox, a beautiful memory tree starts to grow on the spot where fox passed away. This is a powerful story about how the people we love will live on in our hearts.
Age range: 3months to 5 years

Mum’s Jumper by Jayde Perkin

A little girl’s mother is terminally ill and after her mum’s funeral, a dark cloud follows her everywhere. Wearing her mother’s sweater gives her some comfort and with time the dark cloud disappears. This book really touched me and I loved how they explained loss and grief. They compare grief with her mother’s sweater saying: “The grief may stay the same size. But my world will grow bigger around it”. It respects that the death of her mother will always be a big loss, but that her world will expand to include many other wonderful things again. I think this book is a must read for children who are coping with bereavement. The drawings are also so very beautiful in their simplicity.
Age range: 4-8 years

Page from Mum's Jumber by Jayde Perkin a children's book on bereavement, death and grief.

The garden of hope by Isabel Otter

This is a very hopeful book indeed! A girl is caring for the abandoned and overgrown garden which her mom used to care for. This book is about how with time the loss of a loved one will become less painful. That eventually there will be space again in your life for beauty and happiness. This book also has main characters with a BAME background
Age range: 3-6 years

I hope that these 5 children’s books on death, loss and grief will be useful to you. Useful in starting a conversation with your child around life, death and about the feelings of sadness, anger and loneliness which are a part of the grieving process. Do you believe that books are powerful conversation starters? And which books can you recommend in helping to discuss the harder topics with your child?

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