Talking about death can be difficult, and some people find it especially hard to approach the subject with children. However, if we do not say anything then there is a chance that children will fill the blanks in for themselves and they might come to some unexpected conclusions.
Reading stories together can be one way to start to introduce some challenging subjects gently and they can help both adults and child to share what they are thinking. Even if the child doesn’t say much during the story, you can use it as an opportunity to reassure them that whatever they think and feel is okay, and that you are there for them if they ever do want to talk about the person who has died or how they are feeling.
Badger’s Parting Giftsby Susan Varley
This wonderful book introduces children and adults to ageing, death and dying without using euphemisms. Badger is old and knows that he will soon die, which doesn’t scare him but leaves him with concern for those he cares about. When Badger’s death finally arrives, the reader is taken through the reactions of those that cared for Badger. Their feelings are discussed, and this provides a helpful opportunity to talk about children might be feeling themselves.
Lifetimes by Bryan Mellonie and Robert Ingpen
‘Nothing that is alive goes on living forever’
In this gentle book readers are taught that everything that is alive has a lifespan, which begins,and ends.
The Memory Tree by Britta Teckentrup
Readers are introduced to Fox who, whilst he has had a long and happy life knows that it is time for him to leave. After he falls asleep for the last time his friends begin to gather round him to share memories, and from this a memory tree grows.
When Dinosaurs Dieby Laurie Krasny Brown
This book explains in simple, honest terms about death, dying and grief. It explores some of the feelings that may be experienced when someone is bereaved, and seeks to answer some of the most commonly asked questions children have about death
Wherever You Are: my love will find you by Nancy Tillman
Even when apart, a parent will always love their child. In death that love will remain. This book contains reassures children that have lost a parent that they will never, ever be without their parent’s love, even if they have died.
Duck, Death and the Tulip by Wolf Erlbruch
Erlbruch’s tender tale of an unlikely friendship between Duck and Death is beautifully illustrated and serves as a gentle reminder that dying comes to us all and does not need to be feared.
Gentleman Sam by Penny Hartdale
Gentleman Sam is an elderly dog who finds his forever home on a farm with other animals. Sam has lots of lumps and he knows that one of them will kill him. He is not scared of dying but has concerns for his friends that will remain behind. When Sam dies his friends are very sad, but in time the sun returns as they begin to understand that Sam remains with them, just out of site.
The Paper Dolls by Julia Donaldson
This is the story about a girl and her paper dolls and is a soft reminder of the circle of life and that those we care about remain with us. It introduces the idea of continued bonds and how memories are important to keep safe and cherish.
Love Will Never Die by Clare Shaw
There are lots of things that children can feel after someone they care about dies. This book explains some of these feelings in honest, clear language, and encourages children to express their feelings through language and through drawing.
Water Bugs and Dragonflies by Doris Stickney
This tale uses the analogy of a water bug turning into a graceful dragonfly to explain death to children. It can start a helpful conversation about the fact that we might not know exactly what happens to someone after they have died but is reassuring and positive about that undertainty.
Is Daddy Coming Back in a Minute? by Elke and Alex Barber
Sudden deaths can be incredibly difficult to come to terms with and often have an added layer of complexity. Elke and Alex Barber have put together this short book that seeks to help children come to terms with someone they care about dying suddenly – it can also be used by adults to open up the conversation about someone’s death.
The Goodbye Book by Todd Parr
Through the perspective of a fish that has lost his tank-mate, Parr explores the variety of emotions one can experience in loss, and those behaviours that may result. The book concludes by encouraging readers that positive feelings can come after goodbyes, even though it might not feel like it at the time.
I Miss You by Pat Thomas
Simple explanations of death, why people die and what people can feel after a funeral are all contained in this book by Pat Thomas.
Ida, Always by Caron Levis
Ida and Gus are polar bears that live in a city zoo. Ida becomes sick with an illness that cannot get better which leads to her death. Through the experience of Gus and Ida the turbulence of caring for someone through a terminal illness to their death is delicately spoken considered.
The Invisible String by Patrice Karst
In this book readers are reminded that no matter what happens and even after someone has died, people are always connected to those that they love.
The Invisible Leashby Patrice Karst
This tender tale seeks to reassure readers that after a pet dies, the love they had for them will remain.
I’ll Always Love You by Hans Wilhelm
When Elfie, a young boy’s dog, dies from old age the boy and his family are sad. Their grief is explored in this book and relief is found in remembering just how much Elfie was and still is loved.
The Scaredy Squirrel by Melanie Watt
Though not specifically about death or dying, this book by Watts can help children understand feeling scared, which they may experience after the death of someone they care about. The nervous main character works to overcome his anxiety and fear and finds he is capable of a lot more than he believed.
Guest blog by Dr Sarah Jones, Funeral Director at Full Circle Funerals, independent funeral director in Yorkshire.