Explaining grief and bereavement to children

Updated: Mar 9


The best books that explain grief, death, and bereavement to young children in a very gentle way.


Books for kids about grief, bereavement, death, loss
Books that help children to cope with loss


If you are finding it difficult to explain grief, death, bereavement to young children, you need to try it with a storybook!



In this Blog Post, you will find advice and appropriate book recommendations that handle the topic of Loss - coping with grief and bereavement for children.


Books For Kids That Talk About Grief and Bereavement


It's so important that children accept that death is just a natural part of life, it is nothing to be feared - just accepted and understood - it is not the end. Yes, it will be sad and painful, but people and animals can live on through beautiful memories.


There are children's books on bereavement that aid the loss either of a parent, grandparent, other family members, friend or a pet. They are written and illustrated in such a caring manner to ease the pain and bring a little understanding and relief.


Our researched choices are aimed at helping young children.


Coping with grief and loss for children


Losing someone close to you is hard. Children often have a very confusing, and difficult time coming to terms with the passing of someone they normally have contact with.


Whether a pet, relative or a friend - death is a hard subject to deal with for young or old alike. Older people have a whole different understanding of death and grief. Little ones need to have gentle support in experiencing and trying to understand what is going on.


The more the subject of death is approached at a young age, the easier it will be to accept and discuss later on.


So, thank goodness for children's books on the subjects of loss, grief, bereavement. They are not sad or depressing - they are full of life and tributes!


A child struggles and is often confused. The subject of death needs to be confronted and gently explained to kids. Depending on their ages, and their parent's point of view, many children cannot grasp what is going on - Where has their relative/friend/pet suddenly gone?


Choosing the right book


Choose your book carefully. Take into account who the book is aimed at - for a child of a certain age. A child who has suffered the loss of a parent, friend, pet. Then think about which type of story would be best for that child - one about the loss of a direct person, or maybe a gentler book that explains death by using a tale about the cycle of life with nature as the example.


Books about grief must focus on how a child feels, radiate love, care and meaning, memories and comfort.


Many of the storybooks about death are not too invasive in a deep religious sense. They seem to respect that not every family is deeply religious. Therefore, these types of books should not talk excessively about heaven, angels, etc. Families have different beliefs or no beliefs, and it's not nice for a book to force religion onto young children, especially in the midst of grief.


Once again, we stress that books about bereavement and grief for children must focus on how a child feels, express love, memories and comfort. They need to provide simple and calming explanations that are realistic.


Some books about grief concentrate on the cycle of life using nature as a beautiful natural example, so the mention of an afterlife in heaven with angels is not needed. A child can still get the concept of death being a natural cycle full new life.


Children need to focus on their feelings and emotions in their struggle to understand what is going on during such a sad and confusing time. It is your own decision and belief if you choose to tell your child about heaven and angels afterwards.


There are also healing activity books on the market, and special guide books to help with understanding death.


Remember to reassure your child that...


...Many happy times will follow.

Let time be the great healer. It's important to still talk about people and pets that have passed - remember the good times and feel the warmth of having known that person or pet.



We have created a list of 14 top-selling books that talk about death, grief and bereavement in a natural, beautiful, and soft manner.

You will find extra books mentioned that will help with:

  • The loss of a parent.

  • Books that grief therapists and counsellors recommend.

If you just need books about specific Loss, then you can visit our other Blog Posts for books that deal with:





Here are our 14 top-selling book recommendations that help children to cope with Loss


Each recommendation has a short description



1. IDA ALWAYS - Talks about Grief


By Caron Levis. Illustrated by Charles Santoso


For ages 4 - 8 approximately.



A beautiful, non-religious book. It will help any child (or adult) who knows or has known someone who is terminally ill. Gus and Ida are two polar bears that live in the zoo. They share many memories such as splashing water on each other, flopping onto their favourite rock, and hearing the city sounds. Ida becomes very ill and they both know that she will not be able to recover. Together with the other zoo animals, they face the difficult realisation that Ida will pass - but they are all determined to let her live on in beautiful memories. It discusses the topic of dying in a healthy, understandable way. 'Ida, Always' is inspired by a real bear friendship in New York's Central Park Zoo (Ida died in 2011, Gus died in 2013).

'Ida Always'


2. SOMETHING VERY SAD HAPPENED - Talks about Grief


By Bonnie Zucker. Illustrations by Kim Flemming


For ages 2 - 4 approximately



A toddler's guide to understanding death. A mother is talking to her son about the loss of his grandma. Aimed at pre-schoolers. Certain words in this book are highlighted so that names and pronouns can be substituted to the name of the loved one that has passed. The parental guide in the back is a great help as it talks about attending funerals, cemeteries and ideas for commemorations. 'Something Very Sad Happened'

'Something Very Sad Happened'


3. ONE WAVE AT A TIME - A story about grief and healing.


By Holly Thompson. Illustrated by Ashley Crowley


For ages 5 - 7 approximately



This rhyming story follows a boy called Kai who has lost his father. Fear, anger and sadness roll in like waves. Emotions are tackled during everyday occurrences when the presence of a lost person is felt the most. Beautiful artwork and wonderful

use of a wave as the metaphor. Resources are available at the back of the book to help children manage their emotions that can be overwhelming at times. This book lets them know that healing happens gradually - 'One Wave At A Time'

'One Wave At A Time'


4. THE MEMORY BOX - A book about grief.


By Joanna Rowland. Illustrated by Thea Baker


For ages 4 - 8 approximately.



This story is a very helpful resource. It's aimed at children who have suffered a loss of any kind. There is a guide for parents at the back. The guide has tips using a Christian perspective, but it's not overbearing for those who are non-religious or have another faith. It has suggestions on how to make your own box full of loving memories.

'The Memory Box'


5. THE INVISIBLE STRING - Talks about the fear of separation


By Patrice Karst. Illustrated by Geoff Stevenson


For ages 4 - 8 approximately.



Suitable for children who may have suffered a loss, or feel lonely, or have been separated from friends, or parents. Heaven is only mentioned once, very briefly. It tells the story of how we can be connected to our loved ones by an invisible string.

'The Invisible String'

Also see The Invisible String Workbook - Creative activities to Comfort, Calm, and Connect

6. THE GOODBYE BOOK - Covers Loss in a beautiful and simple manner


By author and illustrator Todd Parr.


For ages 2 - 4 approximately.



Perfect for young children whose families have individual family beliefs. 'The goodbye Book' approaches the subject of grief by using a lonely fish as an example. Simple illustrations that are boldly colourful and get to the point in such a soothing way. It lets children know that it's okay to feel anger, sadness and other emotions. This is a book that encourages children to be brave, but still remember their loved ones through good memories that they have left behind. Very well-meaning. It can comfort those who have lost a cherished person or a family pet.

'The Goodbye Book'


7. I MISS YOU - A first look at death.


By Pat Thomas, who is a psychotherapist and counsellor.

Illustrated by Leslie Harker.


For ages 4 - 8 approximately



This lovely book is gentle and reassuring. It follows a little girl who seems to have lost her grandma. 'I Miss You' asks the reader/listener direct questions to promote talking about how they feel and lead into discussions if needed. It talks about death being a natural part of this life. Death in other cultures is also discussed. 'I Miss You' is one of many books in a series that are there to assist emotions and situations felt by young children.

'I Miss You'



8. TILL WE MEET AGAIN - A poetic children's book about grieving


By Julie Muller. Illustrated by Camryn Cox


For ages 2 - 8 approximately.




Emotional support for young children who are missing a loved one, or may have anxiety at the thought of losing someone. 'Till We Meet Again' helps to provide comfort in showing children that they can cherish the precious memories of a loved one and let them live on. This book lets children know that maybe one day we might meet again.


'Till We Meet Again'




9. WHERE ARE YOU? - A child's book about loss.


By Lauren Olivieri. Illustrated by Kristin Elder


For ages 3 - 8 approximately.



This book offers different perspectives on death through the eyes of a child. 'Where Are You' has been a tremendous support to many. It uses the senses to let children know that a loved one can still live on and stay in your heart forever. Clear text and very supportive illustrations to match. This is a story that a child will want to hear over and over again as a great source of comfort.

'Where Are You?'


Bestseller...


10. THE SCAR - The loss of a parent


By Charlotte Moundic Illustrated by Oliver Tallec


For ages 5 - 9 approximately


About a boy who has experienced the loss of his mother after her illness.



'The Scar' is a brilliant book that will help greatly to connect and ease the pain of a child who is, unfortunately, experiencing the sad loss of a parent. A child can quickly relate to the main character, realising that they too feel the same, and so do others around them that knew the person that has passed.

'The Scar'




11. THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM - A gender-neutral children's book for grief and loss.


By Amanda Edwards & Leslie Ponciano. Illustrated by Julia Horwitz.


For ages 2 - 8 approximately.



A story in rhyming verses and whimsical illustrations. This is a lovely book for children that is full of positive strategies for processing grief. An important resource for families, social workers, teachers, therapists, etc. It covers many areas associated with loss, separation, traumatic experiences. This book is a great tool for helping very young children cope with grief in many forms. There may be some sentences in this book that you may not agree with, such as a child being told to accept hugs, which is fair enough. But overall this book has been a great help to many.

'The Elephant In The Room'.

12. SOMEONE I LOVED DIED - Grief


By Christine Harder Tangvald. Illustrated by Anne Kennedy.


For ages 4 - 8 approximately.



A book that is full of beautiful watercolours. It does take on a very Christian viewpoint, so it is likely to not be suitable for the non-religious. It provides resources for parents to aid their child through the stages of grief. First brought out in 1988, it has been updated and revised. 'Someone I love died' is interactive, it has spaces for a child to fill out with their own personal details, emotions and pictures. It contains some biblical mentions.

'Someone I Love Died'


13. WHEN SOMEONE VERY SPECIAL DIES - Grief


By Marge Heegaard.


For ages 9 - 12 approximately. Also helps adults greatly!


Children can learn to cope with grief. This is a book that is also highly recommended by grief therapists. It is easy to understand and instantly helps children to open up. It is full of pages for a child to draw on and colour. 'When Someone Very Special Dies' explores life cycles and the natural process of dying. The activities allow a child to express what they are going through by writing and drawing. Thoughts and feelings can easily be discussed. A much-needed resource!

'When Someone Very Special Dies'




14. HELP ME SAY GOODBYE - Activities for helping children to process events and cope when a special person dies.


For ages 2 - 8 approximately.



'Help Me Say Goodbye'





Other books to watch out for that will help young children or teens to ease the pain from the loss of a parent or other family member...


  • 'Missing Mommy' by Rebecca Cobb. A young boy going through the emotions at having lost his mother. Ages 5 - 8


  • 'Goodbye Dad, The Funeral' by William Bentrim. A book that talks about the aspects of a funeral from the viewpoint of a 10-year-old boy who has lost this dad.








Recommended by grief councillors and therapists:


Creative Interventions for Bereaved Children.

By Liana Lowenstein.


Creative Interventions for Bereaved Children



WHEN DINOSAURS DIE

By Laurie Krasny Brown. Illustrated by Marc Brown

Ages 4 - 8



'When Dinosaurs Die'



HEALING ACTIVITIES FOR CHILDREN IN GRIEF


By Gay McWhorter.



It has very high recommendations by

professionals who work with grieving children.


It is divided up into three sections of activities:

  • Ages 5 - 8.

  • Ages 9 - 12.

  • Ages 13 - 18.

This is a book full of user-friendly resources and creative techniques to help children to process and cope with bereavement.


'Healing Activities For Children In Grief'.



TEAR SOUP

By Pat Schwiebert & Chuck DeKlyen. Illustrated by Taylor Bills