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by Erin Dower from familyeducation

It can be incredibly difficult to explain tragedy and death to a young child, and to help them cope. Whether your family is facing a personal loss of a family member or friend, or is struggling with the news of a community or national tragedy, find some children’s books that can help kids learn about coping with sad and scary news, death, and grief.

Read through the book on your own first to see if it is appropriate for your child and applies to your situation. Also, read and discuss just one book at a time with your child so that he has time to process these tough concepts. It helps to consult with your child’s pediatrician or a mental health specialist, especially in cases of a close personal loss or intense or prolonged emotions.

children's books explaining death or grief, Tesss Tree


Tess’s Tree by Jess Brallier

Tess loved her tree dearly. She would swing on it and sit in its shade and catch its leaves in the fall. One day, after a storm blew off some large branches, her tree must be cut down and taken away. In the sad days that follow, Tess puts together a funeral for her tree, where old friends and admirers of it come together to share nice stories. The book is a gentle first introduction to the concepts of loss, death, and remembrance.

Recommended age: 4 and up

children's books explaining death or grief, A Terrible Thing Happened

A Terrible Thing Happened by Margaret M. Holmes

Sherman Smith is a young raccoon who saw something awful happen. He tries to forget about it, but over time it bothers him and makes his tummy feel sick. So Sherman starts to meet at school with sweet Ms. Maple, and he learns to talk about his feelings with her, which helps him feel better. The story never goes into specifics about what “terrible thing” Sherman saw, which makes it helpful for discussing everything from natural disasters to school violence to child abuse — whether experienced personally or heard about on the news or through the grapevine.

Recommended age: 4 and up

book for child separation anxiety, Invisible String

The Invisible String by Patrice Karst

The author came up with the idea of “the invisible string” when her son started preschool in order to alleviate separation anxiety (for both mother and child). The story reminds readers that we are never alone — we are always connected to the ones we love by an invisible string, even when we are not with them. The gentle story provides comfort to children who have lost a loved one or are afraid to be away from their parents after a scary event.

Recommended age: 3 and up

children's books explaining death or grief, Lifetimes

Lifetimes: The Beautiful Way to Explain Death to Children by Bryan Mellonie

Discussing death with children is no easy task. This colorful, careful book explains that everything that is born also dies, and a lifetime is what happens in between. It offers a tender way of showing a child that dying is as much a part of living as being born. Note that the book says many people live to be at least 60 or 70 — which may worry children with relatives older than that, or may upset families dealing with the death of a younger loved one.

Recommended age: 5 and up

children's books explaining death or grief, When Dinosaurs Die

When Dinosaurs Die by Laura Krasny Brown

Parent reviews of this book are mostly glowing but advise reading only some parts of it to your child, depending on your situation. The book offers straightforward, age-appropriate answers to some common questions kids may have, such as “What does dead mean?” and “What happens after death?” (answered in a mainly secular fashion). It also explains some customs involving the dead, such as funerals. Be aware that it also covers tough topics such as suicide and drug overdoses, so gauge whether it’s appropriate to discuss those parts with your child.

Recommended age: 6 and up

book for child afraid of death, Badgers Parting Gifts

Badger’s Parting Gifts by Susan Varley

This hopeful tale shows woodland animals coming together to remember their friend Badger after he dies. How will they go on? They decide that they’ll do it with the help of his gifts: his kindness, his friendship, and his love for them, which they’ll never forget. It’s a timeless, heartwarming story that doesn’t delve into specifics about death.

Recommended age: 4 and up


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