Last year, my five-year-old daughter asked me, “Where’s Grandpa Jack?” My father and mother died when I was in my late twenties, before I got married or had children. When I asked Vianna about my father, my first impulse was to avoid the conversation since death felt like a complex and painful subject.
Before my parents died, I hadn’t experienced loss very much, and for many years afterward I was overwhelmed by my intense feelings. As I got older, I learned more about grief, which (slowly) helped me come to terms with my feelings. The process made me understand the importance of talking about grief, as it is an inevitable part of life for all of us.
So, I didn’t ignore Vianna’s question. I searched How do you talk to children about death? Then he explained to her that Grandpa Jack had died. Now I talk to her and her little sister regularly about losing my parents and how it feels to be sad. One way we keep the conversation going is by reading children’s books. Here are five favourites:
1. dead bird Written by Margaret Wise Brown (4-7 years old). “The bird died when the children found it,” is the first line of the book. A group of friends decide to say goodbye to the bird by burying it in the woods, as well as singing “the way adults do when someone dies”. This book gently introduces the concept of death and mourning to young children. I have read this Fianna many times. She usually just listens, but recently she asked “If our dog dies, can we celebrate her too?”
2. Bunny listened By Corey Doerfeld (ages 2-6). A boy named Taylor builds a tower out of blocks but it gets knocked down. Various animals come to comfort him, such as a chicken who tries to get Taylor to talk or a hyena who laughs at it. But Bunny listens as Taylor works through his feelings, until he’s finally ready to build again. This book shows how we can support our loved ones just by being there. Both of my girls love this book.
3. Why do I feel so sad? By Tracy Lambert (4-8 years). Written by a bereavement counsellor, this book shares the different reasons why we feel grieving—death, divorce, changing schools, losing friendships—and the things kids can do to try to feel better, such as moving their bodies, expressing themselves through music and talking to each other. friends. At the end, Lambert also shares tips for parents, including how to talk to kids about grief.
4. King and dragonfly By Kacen Callender (Age 8-12). In this award-winning book, the 12-year-old King loses his older brother, Khalid – and, in his grief, believes that Khalid has turned into a dragonfly. The book deals with race, sex, friendships and love. I was moved by the character’s courage shown in learning to love himself, and I can’t wait to read this book to my children in a few years.
5. When you corner a tiger By Ty Killer (9 years and up). When Lily was a child, she Halmony (Korean for grandmother) She told her popular stories about tigers. When Helmony falls ill, Lily, her mother, and her older sister move in to help take care of her. Soon after their move, a magical tiger from Halmoni’s stories comes to life and Lily is forced to confront the tiger while also grappling with the truth of Halmoni’s failing health. When you corner a tiger It’s a beautiful story about illness, family, and learning to find your way.
What are your favorite books about grief? Do you have any experiences of grief that you wish he would write about?
Katie Riley Writer (and mother) based in California. Her writing focuses on women’s health, mental health, and parenting, and has been featured in InStyle, The New York Times Magazine, and Elle.
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