Death and bereavement can be difficult for parents to talk about with children, especially if they are grieving themselves; there are many books that can help children to process what can be a difficult and confusing experience, and Growing Together explores some of them below.
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by Laurie Krasny Brown & Marc Brown
This book really describes how someone may die (war, car accidents, illness, suicide, cremation etc.), and what goes on when someone dies; it talks about what happens logistically with funerals etc, as well as how people might feel when someone dies. It provides a child friendly explanation of what happens to the body when someone dies. It may be a little wordy for younger readers. A very factual reference book when children have specific questions.
by Elke Becker
This books deals directly with the loss of someone close, a parent, and as such is probably best in this specific situation or a close relative, as it could otherwise mean some children becoming anxious or fearful of loosing a parent. The book uses the author's son’s own words to ask and answer questions about death with clarity and tenderness - the anxiety, curiosity and unavoidable, drawn-out sorrow that a parent’s loss brings in its wake.
also by Elke Becker
This book follows on from 'Is daddy coming back' and deals directly and sensitively with the realities of burial and cremation, again there it shows how we can talk to children and answer questions in ways that really support parents supporting children.
by Wolf Erlbruch
This is a very different, but lovely story book about a Duck that becomes aware that a person with a skull for a head is following her everywhere. Eventually she becomes friends with Death who talks to her about the afterlife and what will happen to her after she dies. Then Duck does die, and Death tends to her body, placing it gently in the river which carries it away.
by Glenn Ringtved
Firstly the illustrations in this book are lovely. The book is about the death of Grandma, from the viewpoint of four sibling; the siblings make a pact to keep death from taking her away. But Death does arrive all the same, as it must. Death then tells the siblings a story that helps them to realise the value of loss to life and the importance of being able to say goodbye.
by Pat Thomas
This reassuring picture book explores the death of animals in nature and people. The book can help to explore children's feelings and questions in a simple but realistic way, to help them to understand their loss and come to terms with it. It includes a useful glossary of terms and a section suggesting how to use the book, for teachers, in class.
by Diana Crossley
This is an activity book, which offers some practical & sensitive support for bereaved children. It includes a series of helpful activities and exercises accompanied by the friendly characters of Bee and Bear. It aims to help children make sense of their experience by reflecting on different aspects of their grief, and is most relevant for children around 6-8 year olds it is very easy to use for small children with the help of an adult.
by Judith Kerr
This book looks at the death of a pet cat 'Mog' (There is a lovely series of Mog books). After she dies Mog keeps watch over the upset Thomas family, who miss her terribly, and she wonders how they will ever manage without her, at the end Mog flies up and up right towards the sun. This book uses euphemisms I wouldn't recommend such as ' wanting to sleep forever' however this is a lovely story that many will love especially if you are already familiar with the other Mog books.
by Patrice Karst
Although this is not specifically about death; this book is worth a mention as it is an effective book to help children with separation anxiety and grief; by teaching children how to deal with missing a parent and understand that they are still connected to their parent (or others) via an invisible string. The invisible string theme is easy to talk about in relation to friends and family members and how we are all connected and link to activities to help children to open up and talk about any concerns they may have.
What are your thoughts on these books? Can you think of a book that isn't on the list that you think should be?
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