6 Books To Explain Grief To Children


Last Updated on December 1, 2021 by Lady

Death is such an abstract idea, that even adults have difficultly adjusting to the idea. So, imagine how difficult it can be for little kids who have never had an existential crisis in their life, yet here they are stuck in the middle of their first. All kids learn better when the lessons are geared to their age level and development, and when they incorporate a little bit of fun and imagination. That’s why using creative means, such as art therapy, imaginative play, and reading books works so well. Here are 6 books to explain grief to children. These few non-fiction books can at least be a start.

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child reading while sitting on a pile of books

The Goodbye Book

Fish are natural first pets for children, and can be their first experience with death.  How apt it is then, that Todd Parr uses a goldfish as the story’s main protagonist, mourning the loss of his friend. Good for ages 3-8.

This book is clearly a winner, with reviews using words such as “fantastic”, “pitch-perfect” and “therapeutic”.

For any young child coping with the sudden death of a family member, this book speaks directly to their feelings. It touches upon all of the many emotions that follow after a loss, explaining that there’s no one right way to grieve. That whatever they’re feeling, it’s normal, and okay. It’s validating!

The words are comforting, the pictures simple, and the end message is that life will go on with all it’s imperfections. And that’s okay.

The Invisible String

The Invisible String  has been considered the one book to have in your children’s bookcase if their dealing with any type of separation anxiety. Although it doesn’t deal with grief specifically, it’s an incredible adaptable story that touches on our connections to others, alive or dead, in a deep and meaningful way. Good for kids 4-8.

It is a beautiful story, starting with a pair of children experiencing separation anxiety during a thunderstorm. Their mother uses the metaphor of an invisible string to explain the way love connects us all together even when apart.

This string connects everyone to anyone they’ve ever loved, anywhere, at anytime. Regardless if they are here on earth, or passed away, if you tug at the string they can feel it in their hearts.

It then comes to a sweet conclusion as the kids go to bed, dream about the strings and come to a wonderful conclusion about what that all means.

It’s an incredibly reassuring message that can help children who are suffering from separation anxiety, and the illustrations are done in soothing watercolours using simple lines that highlight the expressions of the children.

There is also a companion workbook, which guides the reader through creative and thoughtful exercises that builds on your child’s self-esteem, sense of self, and compassion for others.


When the death of a relative, a friend, or a pet happens or is about to happen . . . how can we help a child to understand?

Lifetimes is a moving book for children of all ages, even parents too. It lets us explain life and death in a sensitive, caring, beautiful way. Lifetimes tells us about beginnings. And about endings. And about living in between.

With large, wonderful illustrations, it tells about plants. About animals. About people. It tells that dying is as much a part of living as being born. It helps us to remember. It helps us to understand.

Lifetimes . . . a very special, very important book for you and your child. The book that explains—beautifully—that all living things have their own special Lifetimes.

When Dinosaurs Die

If you’re looking for a comprehensive resource,  When Dinosaurs Die is it. It’s the Encyclopedia Britannica about life and death.

It explores what life is, followed by death. The physical changes that happen. The various religious customs that are applied. That there are different reasons why people die, including suicide. It doesn’t sugar coat death, but it does talk about it gently with friendly illustrations by the artist who brought you Arthur.

Indeed, it is not a book you’d read cover-to-cover. Rather,  scan and read whatever is appropriate to the situation or questions they’re asking. Their many, many questions.

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Always By My Side

Lastly, these two books are basically the same, one geared for the loss of a mother (Mama’s Right Here), the other the loss of a father (Always By My Side). Geared for kids 8-10.

Both are really meant to establish the ever present nature of the parent they lost, how they live on through them in a way how you’ll never be apart.

How they live on in them. That they will realize that they are like them in character, looks and actions; that their spirit surrounds them in their day-to-day activities, and helps to make them who they are.

It’s a simple story, but it resonates, especially for families with just one parent.

Having these books in your children’s library will greatly help them understand grief better. It amazes me how there are so many books about potty training, but not nearly enough books to explain grief to children. These few non-fiction books can at least be a start.

If you’re looking for more support in helping your children grieve, I’m starting a Creativity Challenge that is specifically focused on getting you and your child connected again through art therapy. Join here.


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