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There’s no denying that grief is taxing, difficult, and stressful, no matter your age. For children, grief can be particularly confusing because they haven’t emotionally and cognitively developed enough yet to examine and name their feelings. When they feel an emotion, it comes out in their facial expressions, their play, or their behavior (crying, acting out, etc.) because they don’t yet know how to identify and deal with their emotions in a healthy way. That’s where you – the parent or caregiver – come in. You can use books and story to help your child name their emotions and begin to process them.

Through storytelling, we can help our children identify their emotions, see themselves in others, and begin to understand complex situations. On top of that, reading books centered on certain topics – like grief – can open conversations that will allow you to talk to your child and educate them on important life topics.

Below we will review 10 different books for children ages 3-12 that focus on grief, loss, and death. These are certainly not the only books available, but they will give you a place to start. Let’s begin!

The Goodbye Book by Todd Parr (Ages 3-6)

Told from the point of view of a fish who has lost his companion, the book weaves a touching story of how to say goodbye. Touching on a wide range of emotions and responses to loss, Todd Parr gently reminds readers that it’s okay to not have all the answers and that you can rely on others to support you when you’re sad.

Click here to view the book.

“There are many little ways to enlarge your world. Love of books is the best of all.” – Jacqueline Kennedy

I Miss You: A First Look at Death by Pat Thomas (Ages 4-7)

If you are looking for a more straightforward approach, Pat Thomas discusses grief and death in a simple, factual manner. Practical at its heart, the book shares reasons why people die, introduces the concept of a funeral, explores how to say goodbye, and assures children that it’s normal to feel sad after a loss. I Miss You will open opportunities for discussion with your child so you can help them understand the difficult topics of death and dying.

Click here to view the book.

The Invisible String by Patrice Karst (Ages 4-8)

With more than half a million copies sold, this picture book has touched the hearts of readers, young and old alike. The Invisible String shares the story of two siblings who discover that there is an invisible string connecting them to their loved ones through life’s hardest situations. The book offers a simple approach to dealing with loneliness, separation, and loss while helping children explore deeper questions, such as how we are connected to each other through love and unbreakable bonds.

Click here to view the book.

Reading should not be presented to children as a chore or duty. It should be offered to them as a precious gift.” —Kate DiCamillo

Nana Upstairs & Nana Downstairs by Tomie dePaola (Ages 4-8)

In his beloved and signature style, Tomie dePaola tells the story of four-year-old Tommy, his grandmother, and his great-grandmother. Through beautiful illustrations, dePaola explores the concepts of aging, compassion, loss, and taking care of our elderly loved ones. Perfect for children who have lost or are facing the loss of a grandparent, they can follow along with Tommy as he learns how to say goodbye.

Click here to view the book.

Ida, Always by Caron Levis (Ages 4-8)

Inspired by two real-life polar bears, this endearing tale is a moving depiction of loss and friendship. With its focus on long-term illness, the words and pictures blend together beautifully to create an unforgettable exploration of the complicated emotions associated with the death of a loved one. Simple, graceful, and gentle, Ida, Always will help you navigate through your child’s emotions and give them the chance to ask their questions in a healthy way.

Click here to view the book.

There is no substitute for books in the life of a child.” —May Ellen Chase

The Memory Box: A Book About Grief by Joanna Rowland (Ages 4-8)

Sometimes the best way to grieve is to remember. Told from the viewpoint of a young child who is afraid she might forget someone who has recently died, this comforting book shares the power of creating a memory box, filled with mementos and cherished moments, to grieve a loss. Whether the loss of a friend, family member, or pet, this book will help parents and their children discuss the complicated emotions of grief while also giving them a practical activity to help process death and loss.

Click here to view the book.

Dog Heaven and Cat Heaven by Cynthia Rylant (Ages 4-9)

For many children, the first loss they experience is the loss of pet. In both Dog Heaven and Cat Heaven, author Cynthia Rylant offers comfort and a look into what could be. Each picture book features bright, bold images to show a peaceful and happy heaven where dogs receive delicious biscuits, and cats never lack a soft angel lap for naps. Slightly unconventional in its depictions of God and heaven, the book has brought comfort to many families.

To view Dog Heaven, click here.

To view Cat Heaven, click here.

It is not enough to simply teach children to read; we have to give them something worth reading. Something that will stretch their imaginations—something that will help them make sense of their own lives and encourage them to reach out toward people whose lives are quite different from their own.” —Katherine Paterson

Tear Soup: A Recipe for Healing After Loss by Pat Schwiebert and Chuck DeKlyen (Ages 8+)

Filled with wisdom, comfort, and practical tips, Tear Soup focuses on assuring the reader that grief is natural and normal. Its pages address the different emotions a child may feel after loss. Additionally, the book offers a cooking tips section that is full of guidance and solid suggestions for processing grief. With this book, you and your child can navigate the grief journey together, giving you the opportunity to sensitively answer your child’s questions along the way.

Click here to view the book.

A Taste of Blackberries by Doris Buchanan Smith (Ages 8-12)

Children in the 8-12 age range have most likely come into contact with grief in some way. It could be the loss of a friendship, the death of a pet or loved one, or some other life-changing event. At this age, children already have a foundation for loss. Even so, it’s good to bring in story and books to help them ask questions and process emotions.

In A Taste of Blackberries, the author follows the friendship of two young boys when something terrible happens. Honest and open, this book will be a conversation starter with your child. It will give you the opportunity to explore how we move forward in a healthy way after loss.

Click here to view the book.

Reading is important, because if you can read, you can learn anything about everything and everything about anything.” —Tomie dePaola

Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson (Ages 8-12)

Another opportunity to learn through story, Bridge to Terabithia is a compelling tale of loss, friendship, and coming of age. Written by Newbery Medal-winning author Katherine Paterson, this children’s classic dives into the bonds of friendship and how people change us in positive ways, even if we only know them for a short time. Its encouragement to deal with grief in a healthy way and to rely on loving family for support will help your child learn how to deal with loss and lean on loved ones.

Click here to view the book.

Now that you have a place to get started, consider which books are most appropriate for your child. Read them, talk about them, and teach your child about grief, loss, and how to honor, remember, and celebrate the lives of those we have loved and lost.

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