Children's Books on Death, Loss & Grief
Updated: Apr 6, 2020
When I decided to write 'Can You Hear Me?' I searched around for a range of children's books that covered similar themes. I already had a story outlined and knew what I wanted to write but it was still helpful to read up on what was already out there. Some of them gave me an idea of how to tell a captivating story around such a difficult subject matter, and still be able to make it heartwarming and up-lifting. Others inspired new ideas and elements to add to the story.
After I had finished writing, I also asked some fellow writers and readers, parents and teachers to suggest even more books on these themes. Below is a list of some of the books that I enjoyed and found helpful. They each offer different perspectives on the issues - from the loss of a family member, friend as well as different ways to cope with the loss and grief. I have provided a brief summary and my personal review and thoughts about each book.
In no particular order:
1. 'The Invisible String' by Patrice Karst
'The Invisible String' has become a phenomenon across the world and has been used by therapists, social workers and educators as a tool to help kids cope with, not only loss and grief, but separation anxiety as well. The mother in the story tells her two children that they're all connected by an invisible string made of love. Even though you can't see it with your eyes, you can feel it deep in your heart, and know that you are always connected to the ones you love. This heartwarming picture book is loved by readers of all ages and explores the concept of the intangible yet unbreakable connections between us, leading us to deeper conversations about love.
I came across 'The Invisible String' a few times during my searches and it came up in different people's recommendation lists as well. It has become quite a sensation. This simple concept wove into a beautiful story that teaches children the power of the invisible force of love. No one can see love; you can't physically touch it, yet you can feel it - how? It can be a difficult concept to explain to a child sometimes. We are all connected by an invisible string. We cannot see it but we can feel it. It also gives us great comfort knowing that someone somewhere on the other side of the world also has an invisible string, just like us, that can somehow be connected to our invisible string whenever we pour out our love to others. This book does not explicitly discuss death or grief, but it can surely be used as a tool for children to understand the concept of a love that never fades - even when those who love us or those we love are no longer with us.
2. 'My Forever Guardian: Healing with friends from the loss of a loved one' by Kristina B. Jones
This is a very recently published book that offers a different perspective on loss. (All the proceeds from sales for April to May will be going towards families who have lost a loved one due to Covid-19.)
This book is simply a conversation between kids about how to heal from the loss of a loved one or animal. It teaches kids to connect and communicate more with friends and heal as a community. In the story, one of the characters, Sasha, explains to her friend, Kevin, that even though his brother is gone, he is now his Forever Guardian, transitioning from the physical world to the spiritual one. The book also teaches children what to say to friends who have experienced a loss and we can learn through the different perspectives of kids who have lost a sibling, a grandparent, a dog, and a parent. "My Forever Guardian" is about transitioning a relationship with a loved one after they pass away, and how to speak openly about what you are going through with friends.
I like how this book focuses on the conversations kids have with one another about the topic of loss and grief. We often forget that kids feel loss and grief just as deeply, perhaps even more than adults. Kids can find it difficult to comprehend or accept that someone they love will never come back and will never see them again. This story shows us just how open kids can be when talking about their feelings. It can be helpful for them to find a friend sometimes, and this book teaches all kids how to have these tough conversations with one another and provide support, understanding and love as they share about the different loved ones they have lost in their lives. The teacher encourages them to share their experiences with one another who have experienced loss as well. I also love how the book represents different cultures and ethnic backgrounds, showing readers that feelings of sadness, loss and grief are common among all cultures and it is something that can bond us together, despite all our differences.
3. 'Ida, Always' by Caron Lewis
Gus and Ida - the two adorable polar bears in this story - are best friends. They spend every day together in the park. Their friendship is so beautifully portrayed in the story, that when Ida gets sick, it is heartbreaking. The pair try to help each other through the difficult times. They laugh, they cry, they cuddle and continue to stick by each other until Ida finally passes away. However, even though Ida is gone, Gus realises that she will still be with him—through the sounds of their city, and the memories that live on in their favourite spots. He remembers what Ida had told him: "You don't have to see it to feel it. Listen... It's right there with us. Always."
This beautiful story reminds us that even when our loved ones are gone, it doesn't mean they are lost forever. They can still be with you, in your heart, through your memories, the sounds you hear, your experiences, places you visit, and the things you see. You may not see them again, but you can still feel them near and close to you. This is exactly how I felt since my dad passed away. I always felt his presence and kept him close to my heart. His spirit and the memory of him lives on in the hearts of those who love him.
4. 'When I'm With Jesus' by Kimberly Rae
This book was written by a mother, fearing that she may not be there to watch her children grow up due to her multiple health conditions. She wanted to leave behind a message for them to let them know how much she would still loved them even when she is gone. She wanted to make sure that they knew she would be all right when she is with Jesus in Heaven to allow them to heal. Many children often wonder about Heaven, especially when someone they love goes there. They are often afraid to ask other grieving adults about it or talk to them about how they are feeling. They need reassurance that those feelings and questions are normal. This book helps children see that a loved one's transition to Heaven is a joyful thing and it reminds and comforts children to know that they have not been forgotten and are still loved by the ones they have lost, as well as our Father in Heaven. It uses this verse from Revelation (21:4) as a reminder of what eternity with God in Heaven will be like: "There shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain."
Reading this book brought tears to my eyes. My parents are devout Christians and always spread the message of having faith in God. I didn't fully accept Jesus to be my saviour until after my dad passed away and this story just brought it home for me. I feel like if I go into detail about it I would start crying again (and this may turn into a really long post), so I will