5 Books for Grieving Children: Recommendations from an Art Therapist
The loss of a loved one is always difficult, no matter how old you are. While death is a natural part of life, it can be even more challenging for young children to understand and process grief. They may have questions about what happened and why that you may not be sure how to answer. That’s okay.
One of the most impactful ways to help your child cope with grief and loss is to read books about it together. Children’s books about death, loss, and grieving can provide comfort, understanding, and hope during difficult times. Reading books that explain death and grief to kids can help them understand their feelings and offer a sense of perspective they can carry with them as they heal.
As an art therapist and mother of two young boys who also lost her father to brain cancer, I know a thing or two about processing grief. Most of all, it’s not linear, and we all have different experiences. But there are many children's books about grief and loss in a sensitive and age-appropriate way.
So, I’m recommending five children's books that can help your child understand grief and loss. These recommendations are best suited for preschool to eight years, but I do believe they are helpful to all families. I hope these books can offer some solace during this difficult time.
When Dinosaurs Die: A Guide to Understanding Death by Laurie Krasny Brown & Marc Brown
I love this book because of the way it presents a gentle but real approach to the different ways and reasons people may die. It breaks down things like what happens to our bodies and how the funeral process can be in an age-appropriate way without a religious agenda. Plus, there are lots of scenarios for young audiences to identify with, and it gives parents the language for certain aspects of death they may not for explaining something like this to a child.
The Invisible String by Patrice Karst
This is much more than just a children’s book on death and dying. It’s also a children’s book on emotions and feelings that acts as a therapeutic tool to help them understand how we are all connected despite where the journey takes us. The concept of the invisible string that ties us all together resonates with children who’ve experienced loss but also kids whose parents/family members are deployed or separated from them by circumstance.
I'll Always Love You by Hans Wilhelm
This is a classic children’s book about a boy and his dog who have to say goodbye to each other. It is a sad story, but it also shows the power of love and how it can never be taken away, even after death. It is the most innocent of love stories, and while it is most especially relatable to children and families who have lost a pet, there are takeaways for all circumstances related to grief. You might need the tissues for this one, but its message is highly impactful.
The Memory Box: A Book About Grief by Joanna Rowland
As an art therapist, I know there’s a lot of power in helping children gain the tools they need to find ways to remember their loved ones through creative outlets. This book does just that, providing a hands-on way to process grief through writing and collecting things in remembrance. It’s told from a child’s point of view to connect with young readers and help them come to terms with their experience on their level.
Three Brave Stars by Robyn Spodek-Schindler
I want children to know they’re entitled to feel whatever may come up when they’re experiencing a loss, and those feelings are valid. What’s important that they know is that while not all stories end the way we want them to, it doesn’t mean we can’t find a way to seek comfort despite tough circumstances like death. The activity at the end of Three Brave Stars intends to give young readers a way to commemorate the person they’ve loved that can last a lifetime.
Using bibliotherapy to help children deal with grief can also help them build their communication and social skills. It promotes emotional development and encourages them to use their imaginations. Reading helps us all understand the world around us. When exploring books about death and grief for children, consider the books that will normalize their experience, and know they have a safe space to discuss their feelings.
About Robyn Spodek-Schindler:
Robyn Spodek-Schindler is an accomplished clinician, artist, mother, and owner of Paint the Stars Art Therapy who lives in New Jersey with background work in children’s hospitals and mental health facilities. She holds dual Masters degrees in both Mental Health Counseling and Clinical Art Therapy and an undergraduate degree in Fine Arts. Robyn is also a professor in her field with experience as a full-time faculty member and adjunct faculty at Long Island University.
Her debut children's story, Three Brave Stars, published with Our Galaxy Publishing, strives to support children by working through the stress and trauma of losing a loved one and understanding grief.
Our Galaxy Publishing is a New York City-based, women-owned, and operated independent press with a nationwide team serving aspiring authors the tools to write and publish. Our seamless publishing experience focuses on action-based tools and resources to publish, exploration of all core storytelling elements, and empowering an entrepreneurial mindset. Whether seeking to self-publish a book or find a traditional publisher, work with us for book publishing, book editing, book marketing, and writing mentorship to publish a successful book.