Death is an inevitable and natural part of life. However, when tragedy strikes a family, it is often times difficult for children to conceptualize what death is, how we grieve, and what it means to die. We at Funerals360 have compiled a list that details 11 great books to talk about death with children and where to find them. These books can be incorporated while a family is going through hardships or even as a bedtime story - they’re that versatile.
1. The Next Place by Warren Hanson
This is a great book for children who are dealing with someone who is dying as a result of an illness. It is an inspirational story about hope and light. It also helps to show the reader that even though the person who died was sick and hurting, they are no longer in pain.
2. I’ll Always Love You by Hans Wilhelm
This moving tale called, "I’ll Always Love You" is about how Elfie, a dachshund, along with her very special boy, advance through their life with each other. When she is younger, Elfie is filled with pep. On one particular morning Elfie doesn’t awaken. The whole family grieves and buries Elfie. The watercolor pictures, soft and comfortable in both mood and color, match the simplistic wording very well.
3. Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Patterson
The Newbery Medal-winning novel by bestselling author Katherine Paterson is a modern classic of friendship and loss. Jess Aarons and Leslie Burke are two children in the fifth grade who become fast friends, and spend most days in the woods behind Leslie's house. In the woods, they invent an enchanted land called Terabithia. One morning, Leslie goes to Terabithia without Jess and a tragedy occurs. It will take the love of his family and the strength that Leslie has given him for Jess to be able to deal with his grief.
4. Goodbye Mog by Judith Kerr
In this novel a cat named Mog is very tired and thinks, ‘I want to sleep for ever,’ so she does. However, a little bit of her stayed awake to see what would happen next. Mog keeps watch over the upset Thomas family, who miss her terribly, and she wonders how they will ever manage without her. One day, Mog sees a little kitten in the house. The new family pet is settled in but Debbie, Mog's owner says she will always remember Mog.
5. Lifetimes by Bryan Mellonie
When you are searching for a wonderful book to explain death to a child, "Lifetimes" is one that you can turn to. Whether the death is of a friend or a family member, this book is a useful tool for parents to help broach the subject of death. This book is also regularly suggested to adults who are dealing with the loss of someone. Many people read this to their children even though they are not in the time of grieving because parents want to show them that death is a normal part of life.
6. Jasper’s Day by Marjorie Blain Parker
In "Jasper’s Day," Riley's family is celebrating Jasper's Day. Everything they do will be in honor of Jasper -- sort of like a birthday. But it isn't Jasper's birthday. The old dog's cancer has gotten really bad. Riley knows they can't let him suffer any longer, but letting go will be the hardest thing he's ever had to do. Marjorie Blain Parker's tender story is filled with smiles, tears and the joy of special memories, and Janet Wilson's gentle pastels capture the depth of love shared by a boy and his dog. Together, they speak of acceptance, remembrance and the importance of cherishing life's every moment.
7. Goodbye, Mousie by Robie H. Harris
In the novel, "Goodbye, Mousie," one morning a boy finds that his pet, Mousie, won't wake up. The truth is Mousie has died. At first the boy doesn't believe it. He gets very upset at Mousie for dying, and then he feels sad. But talking about Mousie, burying Mousie in a special box, and saying good-bye helps this boy begin to feel better about the loss of his beloved pet. The book accurately details how going through the grieving process is normal and helps children to feel at peace while dealing with loss.
8. Tear Soup by Pat Schwiebert
Although this is in the list of children’s books about death, this book is excellent for adults too. It’s about a woman who has suffered some kind of loss and makes something known as tear soup. The soup blends different unique ingredients of the life she lived within the process of her grieving. She also gives some sound advice for the people who are mourning or who know another person that is in mourning.
9. Gentle Willow by Joyce C. Mills
"Gentle Willow," written for the children who might not make it through their sickness, or even for the young that know those children, is a sensitive and emotional tale that will help handle feelings of shock, rage, and depression. It is combined with love as well as sympathy. This is a great tale of friendship and helping friends to get through an illness in their life.
10. The Invisible String by Patrice Karst
"The Invisible String" is a children’s story that talks about an invisible string which connects people to their loved ones. When someone thinks of another person, there is a tug on the string that is felt. This book is not just for those who have lost others to death. In fact, a lot of families use it when someone has been deployed overseas.
Hopefully these books will not only advance story time, but also encourage dialogue between parents and children about death. Be sure to check out Funerals360 for more information about funerals and death.
11. The Healing Book: Facing the Death, and Celebrating the Life of Someone You Love by Ellen Sabin [BONUS]
The Healing Book: Facing the Death, and Celebrating the Life of Someone You Love is an award-winning interactive book to help children (6-12) and families navigate a loss. The book helps them express their feelings, ask questions, and explore their memories about a loved one who has passed away.