Facing the loss of a loved one is tough no matter what age we are when we lose them
For children, encountering death for the first time can be a confusing, upsetting time. While we may hope that they are too young to feel the depth of emotions that bereavement cause, our natural instinct can be to protect them rather than share the details of what has happened. However, delaying conversations with them can make it tougher for the both of you.
Sharing books on related topics can help children to explore and identify what they are feeling. They may find comfort in reading that they are not alone in their grief, and could find it reassuring to read about feelings and experiences others have had, as feelings of excitement or happiness can lead to children feeling guilty.
Knowing where to start looking can be tricky, so we’ve put together a few of our top children’s book recommendations to help grieving children.
Death of a family pet
From the author of the best-selling The Tiger Who Came to Tea, Goodbye Mog gently introduces children to what might happen when a beloved family pet dies.
A gentle, beautifully illustrated book, Goodbye Mog reassures children that it’s ok to still have fun and to miss a pet after it dies. It reminds children that, when they do have another pet, it will be different, but that’s ok. Loving your new pet doesn’t mean you’ll forget your old pet.
Badger's Parting Gifts
Death of a grandparent or elderly relative
A sensitive, comforting illustrated book, Badger’s Parting Gifts can help children who have a grandparent or elderly relative who is approaching death, or who may have lost an elderly loved one.
Verley reassures children that Badger has lived a long, fulfilling life, and he is not afraid of dying. His friends and family must learn to come to terms with his death, and face their own feelings of unhappiness, loneliness, and abandonment.
As Badger’s friends begin talking about the happy times that they had with him, they share the things Badger taught them and remember how he made them feel. As they talk, they realise that each of them has a special gift from Badger - a memory of something he taught them that they can now do extremely well.
Badger’s Parting Gifts helps show children the power of talking through their grief, and the gifts their loved ones leave behind.
Missing Mummy: A Book About Bereavement
Death of a parent
A touching picture book focusing on death and loss from the perspective of a young child, Missing Mummy explores the wide variety of emotions a bereaved child may experience.
Cobb shows the potential confusion children can experience when adults try to use softer language to explain death. The main character (a gender-neutrally drawn child) thinks their Mummy has ‘gone’ somewhere because of their bad behaviour and wants to know when she will come back. A poignant reminder for adults of the importance of using simple, clear language when talking to children about death, Missing Mummy highlights the emotional journey and confusion young children can experience with the death of a parent.
Missing Mummy focuses on the journey young, bereaved children may experience, finishing with a positive message. Although an important member of the family has died, the child is still part of a family, and can treasure the memories they have of their mother.
Death of a friend or classmate
A novel for older primary school students written in Jacqueline Wilson’s signature quirky engaging style, Vicky Angel tackles the emptiness and confusion the death of a friend and classmate can leave behind.
Vicky Angel tackles some of the more uncomfortable aspects around grief and bereavement for older children and young teens. Jade’s parents are reluctant for her to talk to a grief counsellor, while a teacher encourages her to open up and talk through what she is experiencing. As Vicky’s control of Jade goes as far as to encourage her to join her in heaven so they can be together again, Jade begins to realise that the Vicky she knew and loved would never have wanted that. Through talking to a grief counsellor and opening up to another student, she is able to start taking control of her life, make her own decisions, and begin making new friends.
An engaging, sensitive yet humorous introduction to death for older primary school aged children, Vicky Angel shows children that they don’t have to change who they are or what they want to do in memory of someone who has died. They can still stay true to themselves, and make their own path, without forgetting the person they have lost.
Muddles, Puddles and Sunshine: Your Activity Book to Help When Someone Has Died
Diana Crossley and Kate Sheppard
Death and bereavement activity book
Designed as not only an activity book to help grieving children, but also as a keepsake to help children remember their deceased loved one, Muddles, Puddles and Sunshine is filled with a mixture of thoughtful and creative things to do, each activity gives children the chance to think and reflect on the person they have lost and what they are feeling.
Many activities encourage children to think, draw, or write about the person who has died, reflecting on happy memories together, their knowledge around the person and how they died, as well as future events and times when they will miss them.
Engaging and therapeutic, Muddles, Puddles and Sunshine helps children to make sense of their experiences and feelings following the death of a loved one, while helping them create something they can keep to remember them by.
Together with Counselling Directory and Happiful Kids, we’ve created a series of free childhood bereavement resources. Find more at: Counselling Directory.
For more top book recommendations for grieving young people and support for children experiencing bereavement, visit Grief Encounter, Child Bereavement UK for preschool and primary school aged book recommendation and support, or Winston’s Wish for suggested books for grieving children and teens of all ages.