9 books for helping children to cope with bereavement and death

The best books for helping children cope with bereavement

by Emily Gilbert |
Updated on

Some of the best children's books aren't just there for enjoyment, but they can support with education, with some books about death helping children to learn about loss and how to cope with it. In fact, there are also many children's books about death that can help our little ones cope with bereavement.

When somebody dies, it can be really difficult to navigate discussions of grief and death with our children. We may fear upsetting or frightening them or losing control of our own emotions in front of them. In fact, child psychologists agree that it’s healthier to be open about bereavement and death than to hide everything away.

Children's books to help with bereavement at a glance:

The best children's books about death overall: Badger’s Parting Gifts by Susan Varly - Buy now on Amazon
The best children's books about sibling loss: Where Are You Lydie? By Emma Poore - Buy now on Amazon
The best lift-the-flap children's books about death: Goodbye Grandma by Melanie Walsh - Buy now on Amazon

One of the most constructive ways to open up this kind of conversation, and to demystify death, is by having a few children's books about death in your bookcase. Fortunately, there are lots of beautiful stories, new and old, about loss, grief and the process of life and death.

The best children's books about death overall

Badger's Parting Gifts by Susan Varly
Price: $10.96

One of the most celebrated children's picture books about grief, Badger's Parting Gifts discusses death and bereavement explicitly, but through animal characters. Badger is old and will die soon. He isn’t afraid, but he worries about how his friends will cope. At first, they are distraught, but gradually they come to remember all the things Badger taught them and realise that he lives on in their memories. For many children, a story about bereaved animals is more acceptable than human characters, while teaching the same comforting message.

The best children's books about sibling loss

Recommended by The Miscarriage Association, Child Bereavement UK, Shooting Star Children’s Hospices and Marie Curie, Where Are You Lydie? helps children understand bereavement and loss. Written by mum Emma who tragically lost her baby girl Lydie nine years ago, this book is written for young children about childhood loss, as she aimed to help her own children through the loss of their sibling.

The best lift-the-flap children's books about death

This colourful, lift-the-flap children's book about death is aimed at toddlers, though pre-schoolers may find it reassuring, too. A little boy hears that his grandma has died, but he doesn’t really understand what death means. He asks his mum important questions about death and bereavement – such as ‘Where do we go when we die?’ - and gets clear answers. Goodbye Grandma is a good starting point for tricky conversations.

The best simplistic children's books about death

Goodbye Mousie by Robie H. Harris and Jan Omerod
Price: $9.99

One morning a boy finds that his pet, Mousie, won't wake up. At first, the boy can’t believe it. He gets angry and then sad. But by talking about Mousie, burying Mousie in a special box, and saying good-bye he begins to come to terms with the loss. Goodbye Mousie explores a range of normal feelings, and healthy ways of dealing with death, in simple child-friendly terms. It also contains good advice from Child Bereavement UK.

Recommended

The Memory Tree by Britta Teckentrup
Price: $9.99

When Fox lies down and dies in the forest, his friends gather around him and one by one the special moments that they shared with Fox. As they do so, a tree begins to grow, becoming stronger and taller with each memory, sheltering and protecting all the animals, the way Fox did when he was alive. The Memory Tree is a gentle, soothing picture book about celebrating loved ones and feeling their presence even after they have gone.

Recommended

Granpa by John Burningham

Rrp: $14.99

Price: $12.53

Granpa is a classic story about a devoted grandfather and his special bond with his granddaughter. Unlike many other books about loss, it infers his death rather than discussing it head-on – with a page showing Granpa’s empty armchair and the little girl looking sad. It may sound counter-intuitive, but for some children, this visual may make for a more organic discussion than a direct description of a grandparent’s death.

Recommended

 I Miss You: A First Look at Death by Pat Thomas and Lesley Harker
Price: $12.31

I Miss You is by a psychotherapist and counsellor, so it’s great if you’re feeling overwhelmed yourself and want clear pointers on guiding your child through their grief. It focuses on helping bereaved children to express their feelings and promotes positive interaction among children, parents, and teachers. The advice to parents at the end of the story, on managing your child’s loss alongside your own, is also really constructive.

Recommended

 Where Do They Go? by Julia Alvarez and Sabra Field

Rrp: $18.95

Price: $16.15

“When somebody dies, where do they go? / Do they go where the wind goes when it blows? … Do they wink back at me when I wish on a star? Do they whisper, ‘You’re perfect, just as you are’?” The poignant Where Do They Go? doesn’t sugarcoat loss, or offer certainty when – frankly – there is none. Instead, via poetry and beautiful illustrations, it meditates on the questions we all ask about loss. This would be a good fit for a sophisticated child who isn’t engaged by some of the more euphemistic books on this list, and finds solace in knowing they aren’t alone in their confusion.

Reccomended

Goodbye Mog by Judith Kerr
Price: $16.84

Judith Kerr’s clumsy cat Mog is already a much-loved character, making this book the perfect way to explain a pet’s death to children – especially if they are already a fan of the Mog books. With sensitivity and humour, Goodbye Mog tackles the sadness of losing a pet and offers a reassuring conclusion.

How books can help children cope with bereavement

Emotional outlet: Books can serve as a safe space for children to express their emotions. Characters in the story can model how it's okay to feel sad, angry, or confused when someone they love has died.

Understanding death: Children often struggle to grasp the concept of death. Books written for children can use age-appropriate language and imagery to explain what happens when someone dies. This can help demystify death and make it less frightening.

Normalisation: Reading about characters who have experienced loss can help children feel less alone in their grief. It lets them know that others have gone through similar experiences and that it's a part of the human condition.

Encouraging communication: Books can serve as conversation starters. After reading a book together, parents or caregivers can ask children questions about their feelings and thoughts, which can lead to more open and constructive discussions about the loss.

Emily Gilbertis the Features & Reviews Editor for Mother&Baby and has written for the website and previously the magazine for six years. Specialising in product reviews, Emily is the first to know about all the exciting new releases in the parenting industry.

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