There are many wonderful books on the subject of grief for children. Some of the best are available for free from various specialist organisations, like Winston’s Wish for example. We have picked five to share, hopefully covering a range of situations that children may have to face.
1, Water Bugs & Dragonflies by Doris Stickney
An older book, but still an excellent way to explain death to children. It looks to the natural world to explain that death separates us from those we love. This has no specific religious messages, although it is often used for faith based funerals. There is also a colouring book version available. We even found a related craft project from a You Tube search – and some animated versions that would be suitable for a school assembly for example.
2. Ben’s Flying Flowers
This beautifully illustrated book, deals with the death of a younger sibling after an illness. It talks sensitively about the slow progression of feelings and mix of emotions that are all normal in grief. It then reminds us all that moments of happiness or joy are also OK.
3. Badgers Parting Gifts
The focus of this book is more akin to an elderly person dying, who had lived a long and rich life. It talks of the ‘gifts’ of knowledge or skills that each of his friends has learned from Badger over time. They reflect on their deep sadness but also appreciation for the time they had with him. Another beautifully illustrated, and well loved classic. It doesn’t pull it’s punches and Badger describes his own death as ‘walking down a long long tunnel’, he also leaves a note for his friends which may be relevant to know.
4. The Lonely Tree
Another chance to look to the natural world for metaphors about the circle of life. In this book, a small tree is befriended by a very old Oak. It’s a charming, but sad, tale based in the New Forest. The images are computer graphics but still very evocative. The main message is that there is a natural progression, and new life will always continue to come after loss.
5. The Tenth Good Thing About Barney
Barney is a cat, so this book is about the loss of a much loved pet. The story is told by the little boy who is confused and upset by the death of his cat – it’s a little dated, but the message is very relatable. It mentions heaven, but has no strong religious content.
For more general ideas about sadness or natural behaviour changes during grief, two titles spring to mind. From Michael Rosen – The Sad Book, and by Virginia Ironside – The Big Book of Worries. You can ask at your local library for any books on grief for children, you may wish to request that your child’s school or other childcare have some available or check out some of the suggested reading lists from experienced organisations e.g. Children’s Bereavement Centre.