Books to Help Children Deal with Death, Loss, and Grief

My husband’s best friend died of brain cancer four years ago, leaving a two-year old and a pregnant wife. I wanted to give their daughter books. I searched bookstores and found lots of books for losing a pet, and a few for losing a grandparent, but hardly any on losing a parent.

Times have changed. Now there are more available books and excellent workbooks for kids who have lost a parent; kids who are dealing with grief and hard-to-answer questions.

EXCELLENT Rainbow Reach Workbooks on Loss & Grief

The best resource for children dealing with loss of many different kinds (deployment, loss of a pet, or loss of a loved one) is the Rainbow Reach Workbook Series by Certified Grief Recovery Specialist Susan Weaver. (Who happens to be one of the kindest people I know!)

I’m so impressed with the quality of the Rainbow Reach workbooks. If you experience a loss or a death or know someone who  is, keep these books in mind.

Why I recommend Rainbow Reach books:

- perfect amount of writing = not too much with a big, readable font size
- very interactive! Each page is for the child to use: draw, write, color, & paste in something.
- black and white line drawings encourage coloring
- activities that help children process feelings, memories, and questions
- facilitates children creating remembrance rituals, something important in the grieving process
- see an example here:  download sample pages

The 4 Books:

Love & Memories: Activities for Kids Who Have Lost a Loved One (like a parent or relative)
sample pages here 

Forever Friend: Activities for Kids Who Have Lost a Pet
sample pages here 

Heroes! Activities for Kids: Dealing with Deployment (a much needed book with many families coping with this!)
sample pages here 

Worry Busters! Activities for Kids Who Worry Too Much (wow, very helpful)
sample pages here

Rainbow Roar Blog = Kids Own Words

Susan is about to publish the Rainbow Roar blog, a community blog for children ages 4 – 14 for them to: share feelings and thoughts, find community, begin a grief journey, find helpful suggestions, and not feel alone. She’s offering a chance to win a Kindle Fire to the first 75 kids who register starting October 25, 2012. Visit Rainbow Roar for all the details.

Picture Books about Death and Loss

Reading books opens up conversation about difficult topics as well as gives the readers new lessons. Here are some picture books you might consider when grieving a death.

Nana Upstairs and Nana Downstairs by Tomie De Paolo
Young Tommy visits his grandma and his great-grandma every Sunday. One day, Nana Upstairs isn’t there any more and Tommy must say good-bye.

Chester Raccoon and the Acorn Full of Memories by Audrey Penn
Chester’s is upset because his friend, Skiddel Squirrel, has died. Chester’s mom helps Chester and his friends remember and celebrate Skiddel’s life.

The Tenth Good Thing about Barney by Judith Viorst
A book about dealing with the loss of a pet.

Sophie by Mem Fox
Sophie and her Grandpa have a close relationship. When her Grandpa dies, it’s not until she has a child of her own that the feelings of love remind her of what she had with her Grandpa.

The Memory String by Eve Bunting
Laura uses a string with buttons to remind her of her family history, the most important being her mom’s prom dress button and the button off the nightgown she wore the day she died.

Grandma’s Gloves by Cecil Castellucci
When Grandma dies, her granddaughter feels so sad. As she grieves, she remembers all that she learned from her Grandma.

Daddy’s Promise by Cindy Klein Cohen
Jesse’s father died and Jesse doesn’t understand. Both dreams and his mother help answer his questions about what happens and why.

Always and Forever by Alan Durant
Mole, Hare, and Otter don’t think they will ever get over their sadness after Fox dies. Soon they realize that Fox will always be with them in their hearts and memories.

Please comment if you recommend any other picture books or workbooks for children. For those of you experiencing a loss, I send you a big hug and my sympathies. It’s no easy thing what you’re going through.

books to help kids deal with loss and grief

top image by ☺ Lee J Haywood

Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links” which means I will receive an affiliate commission, but you pay the same price as you usually would. I only recommend products or services I recommend personally and believe will add value to my readers. 

Read also:
Art and Writing with Kids When a Parent Is Sick
Supporting a Friend Who Has Cancer

  • MaryAnne K

    Thank you for this post. Such a difficult topic.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1299970423 Kathy Reschke

    Thanks for sharing your “finds,” Melissa! Books can be a powerful way of supporting young children who are dealing with the difficult, confusing experience of death or other loss.

    For those who are specifically looking for children’s books for young kids from military families, I’ve put together a list that includes many books to help kids deal with being separated from their parent during deployment. I also found a few that deal with the death of a parent. (I also made a PDF doc out of it, for easy printing and sharing.) I’ll definitely be adding some of these to the list! Here’s the link: http://www.extension.org/pages/64821/childrens-books-for-young-children-in-military-families
    I would also encourage everyone to share these lists with child care providers, Sunday School teachers, etc. They’re ALWAYS looking for high quality children’s books that deal with difficult emotions or circumstances.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1299970423 Kathy Reschke

      You and your readers might also be interested in the National Alliance for Grieving Children. Lots of helpful info, resources there. Here’s their Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/NAGCnews

      • http://imaginationsoup.net Melissa Taylor

        thanks, Kathy!

  • Rue

    Loss takes many forms. Death is a final parting, but a family separated through illness or divorce, or lack of reconciliation is a lingering on-going grief.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mary.nel.98 Mary Nel

    My little boy’s dad committed suicide a year ago when he was five. A good book without an explicit message, but that encourages the idea that expressing feelings is good, even though you’re sad, is “The Heart and the Bottle” by Oliver Jeffers.

    • http://imaginationsoup.net Melissa Taylor

      I’m so sorry – thanks for sharing.

  • Erin

    Yes, “The Heart and the Bottle” by Oliver Jeffers is fantastic! I also recommend “Her Mother’s Face” by Roddy Doyle; and “My Father’s Arms Are a Boat” by Stein Erik Lunde. I also think that “Tap the Magic Tree” by Christie Matheson is a good option – although it isn’t specifically about death, it is a wonderful reminder of the regenerative power of life. Great list you have here – thank you for posting it.

    • http://imaginationsoup.net Melissa Taylor

      thanks for the additional suggestions!

  • Pingback: Cancer Sucks! When a Parent has Cancer