Books can be an excellent way to explore feelings about death and dying with children and young people who have been bereaved. Not only can they encourage them to open up about their feelings, they can also help them feel less alone.
The books below are suitable for pre-school and primary school-aged children. A reading list for children in Year 7 and above and teenagers can be found here.
You might also like to download our leaflet, Lost?, which offers helpful tips for children and young people on coping with grief. Download the leaflet.
Children under 5
Goodbye Mousie - Robie H. Harris, illustrated by Jan Ormerod
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 mad at Mousie for dying, and then he feels very 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.
I Miss You (a First Look at Death) - Pat Thomas
Written by a trained psychotherapist, journalist and parent, this reassuring picture book explores the difficult issue of death for young children. Children's feelings and questions about this sensitive subject are looked at in a simple but realistic way. This book helps them to understand their loss and come to terms with it.
Missing Mummy - Rebecca Cobb
Written and illustrated by an award-winning author-illustrator, Missing Mummy deals with the loss of a parent from a child's point of view. The text and artwork explore the many emotions a bereaved child may experience, from anger to guilt and from sadness to bewilderment. Importantly, the book also focuses on the positive - the recognition that the child is still part of a family, and that his memories of his mother are to be treasured.
Children aged 5 - 10 years
Always and Forever - Alan Durant, illustrated by Debi Gliori
When Fox dies the rest of his family are absolutely distraught. How will Mole, Otter and Hare go on without their beloved friend? But, months later, Squirrel reminds them all of how funny Fox used to be, and they realise that Fox is still there in their hearts and memories.
Badger's Parting Gift - Susan Varley
Badger knows he will die soon, so he does his best to prepare his friends. When he finally passes away, they are grief-stricken, but one by one they remember the special things he taught them during his life. By sharing their memories, his friends realise that although Badger is no longer with them physically, he lives on through their memories.
Granpa - John Burningham
Granpa nurses his granddaughter's dolls, mistakes her strawberry-flavoured pretend ice-cream for chocolate, takes her tobogganing in the snow, and falls in with her imaginary plans to captain a ship to Africa, like all good Granpas should. It's a friendship that children who read this book will long remember.
The Huge Bag of Worries - Virginia Ironside
Wherever Jenny goes, her worries follow her - in a big blue bag. They are there when she goes swimming, when she is watching TV, and even when she is in the loo. Jenny decides they will have to go. But who can help her? Written by one of Britain's leading agony aunt's, The Huge Bag of Worries can be used as a conversation starter for whatever is making a child anxious.
When Dinosaurs Die: A Guide to Understanding Death - Laurie Krasny Brown
No one can really understand death, but to children the death of a loved one can be especially perplexing and troublesome. Using very wise dinosaurs, this guide helps dispel negative connotations associated with death and provides answers to some of the most asked questions children may have.
All Kinds of Feelings - Emma Brownjohn
How do you feel? Do you ever feel angry, or sad, or excited, or jealous? This lift-the-flap book prompts young children to learn about the different feelings everyone has, and open up about the emotions they are feeling. It includes a 'Feelings Game' with a spinner and wipe-clean board in the image of a blank face for exploring feelings
Books for adults helping a bereaved child
A Child's Grief: Supporting a Child When Someone in Their Family Has Died - Julie Stokes
A very useful and informative introduction for any adult supporting a child through bereavement. It covers a variety of issues that may affect a child when a person close to them dies, both immediately and in the longer term. There are practical suggestions and ideas for activities to do together, as well as additional support suggestions.
What Does Dead Mean? A Book for Young Children to help Explain Death and Dying - Caroline Jay and Jenny Thomas
This beautifully illustrated book guides children gently through the 'big' questions they often ask about death and dying. Questions such as 'Is being dead like sleeping?' and 'Where do dead people go?' are answered simply and truthfully to help adults explain to children what happens when someone dies. Suitable for children aged 4+.