Books to help talk about death and loss with children

Published on: 07 February 2019 Author: Kate Hancock

Mum and children's books specialist Kate Hancock has found that books can help children to process extremely difficult situations, whether it's the death of a pet or even the loss of a parent. 

Illustration by Emily Rowland

Childhood is a time of first experiences, many of which are exciting and enjoyable not only for children but those close to them as well.

Not all first experiences are an enjoyable time, however, and most children will experience loss at some point.

Whether it is a family member or loved one, an adored pet or even losing a cherished favourite toy; every loss is different and how children deal with the emotions associated with loss will vary according to the individual, the circumstances and those around them.

However you choose to process a loss with the children in your life, books can play a role at an emotional and sometimes tricky time.

Here are some ways you can use books to help children with loss:

  • Books can be a great starting point for a conversation and encouraging questions about loss and how it makes us feel. Sharing a book can be a lovely way of supporting each other and can help to create the circumstances for children to ask questions or discuss their feelings. There are a number of great books that can help children of all ages with loss, some of which are recommended below. See some great books suggestions for 5 to 8 year olds
  • Books and stories are also a wonderful way of escaping and can provide some light relief at a time when emotions are high. Reading a funny story or some fascinating facts together can be a really special bonding experience following a loss. Revisiting a familiar favourite book can also be a great idea.
  • Planning a trip to the library or bookshop can be a lovely thing to share and bond over at a time of loss and can provide a welcome distraction at a difficult time.

Here are some recommended books for different ages:

Picture books

The Paper Dolls (Julia Donaldson & Rebecca Cobb) and Goodbye Mog (Judith Kerr)

  • The Paper Dolls (Julia Donaldson and Rebecca Cobb) – A beautiful rhyming story that looks at loss and memory. The gorgeous illustrations are a great starting point for questions and discussions.
  • Goodbye Mog (Judith Kerr) – Perfect for the loss of a pet, this lovely book looks at loss in a gentle and touching way.

Younger fiction

The Cat Mummy (Jacqueline Wilson) and Charlotte’s Web (EB White)

  • The Cat Mummy (Jacqueline Wilson) – A gentle and sweet story that explores both the loss of a treasured pet and that of a parent. Poignant and funny in places, this is a lovely book to share.
  • Charlotte’s Web (E B White) – A true classic and one to treasure. This book explores perfectly how loved ones live on in our memories and when we talk about them.

Older fiction

The Many Worlds of Albie Bright (Christopher Edge) and A Monster Calls (Patrick Ness)

  • The Many Worlds of Albie Bright (Christopher Edge) – Fantastic story about a boy looking for answers after losing his mum. Touching, funny and interesting.
  • A Monster Calls (Patrick Ness) – A deeply emotional and fantastic book that deals with caring and approaching loss. A powerful and unforgettable read for older readers.

There are so many wonderful books that can help children with losses of all kinds. Check out the BookTrust Bookfinder to discover other similar books, which may be the right fit for your child and family. 

Kate Hancock

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