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Grab the Tissues: The Best Kids’ Books for Death and Grief

According to Benjamin Franklin …in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes. We Mamas can add one more thing as absolute certainty – our kids will have questions. Whether your little one just watched The Lion King for the first time (and you forgot about the part where the father dies…) or you’ve recently lost some one in your life, I hope this list of kids’ books about death and grief will help you talk to your young ones about death and move forward along the journey of understanding.    

More than ever, I encourage you to preview these books before you read them with your young one. Ask your librarian for more suggestions that meet your family’s needs more specifically. These books focus on death of a loved one but there is an abundance of books dealing with death of a pet too.  

These books for kids on death and grief listed below are intended for children ages 3-10 years old. Most come with parent discussion guides and can be edited or abbreviated to meet your family’s needs.

Picture Books for Kids on Death and Grief

the invisible string: books for kids on death and griefThe Invisible String by Patricia Karst

This gentle story develops beautiful imagery of an invisible string made of love which connects us to those we love – even when we cannot see them. The story is very adaptable for all types of separation- divorce, deployment, a big move, and ultimately death as well. While it doesn’t explicitly address death, it creates a natural image of connection after profound loss. 

my heart : books for kids on death and griefMy Heart by Corinna Luyken

Some days your heart is a puddle or a fence to keep the world out. But some days it is wide open to the love that surrounds you. I love the astounding illustrations of black and white with a slight touch of the yellow heart on each page. What makes this book so powerful is the permission it gives to follow your feelings. Grief is a process of so many swirling emotions and this book touches on them all.  It gives the readers permission to feel all the feels meanwhile offering hope that the dark ones will be balanced with the joyful ones.   ida, always: kids' books about death and grief

Ida, Always by Caron Levis

Based on a true story of two Central Park Zoo polar bears, this is a touching story about two best friends, Gus and Ida, who prepare for Ida’s terminal illness and ultimate death. After Ida passes away, Gus mourns her loss but ultimately knows she will always be with him in his heart and memories. Sweet illustrations and sweet bears. You will definitely shed a tear.

Always and Forever by Alan Durant 

This has become a go-to grief book since it was published in 2013. After Fox’s death his family and friends are bereft. They cannot imagine life without Fox and are sad for quite a while until they slowly remember the joy, laughter, and fun they shared with Fox. This helps them realize Fox lives on in their hearts even though gone from their lives. Sweet imagery and sweet love- a classic for sure. I know several families who keep this on their shelf and revisit it over and over. 

The Memory Box by Joanna Rowland 

A memory box is a great tool for the grief process.  It is simply a treasure chest of mementos to remember your loved one. Told from the perspective of a young child who has recently lost someone, The Memory Box is a great book to encourage sharing of memories and includes wonderful discussion suggestions for different developmental stages in the back.

The Funeral by Matt James

Funerals can be confusing for kids. On the one hand they get to see cousins, friends, and family but on the other everyone is so sad. It can be scary to see adults so sad, right? This book explains just that.  Matt James illustrates and writes in such a delightfully youthful way that it makes this a great book for preparing kids for a funeral service and burial.  

Non-fiction

I Miss You: A First Look at Death by Pat Thomas

Written by a psychotherapist and counselor, I Miss You addresses death in a more factual manner explaining why death happens and how complex emotions can be.  The writing and illustrations are simple and clear. It includes write-in places for you to ask questions and customize the discussion. While it does not have sweet metaphors of boxes or strings, it has the important role of answering essential questions. A great book for the 3-6 year old crowd.

Death Is Stupid by Anastasia Higginbotham 

The minute this landed in my hands I knew it was unique and superb. Like I Miss You, Death Is Stupid book approaches the topic with honest facts. Geared for elementary aged kids-  this book faces death straight on and honors the complexity of emotions and questions older children may be experiencing. I love how it addresses some of the platitudes adults say in times of grief. For example, “She’s Gone To A Better Place” is confusing and it is acceptable for kids to just think death is stupid.  Unique collage-style illustrations will also appeal to older children.   

What Happens When A Loved One Dies? Our First Talk About Death by Dr. Jillian Roberts 

This book is great for families who have recently experienced loss as well as those who are answering curious children (post Lion King, for example). Written by a child psychologist, each page asks and answers one question simply but clearly. The questions become more complex as the book continues which allows you a natural way to hop in and out of the conversation when you think your child is ready. 

Lifetimes: A Beautiful Way to Explain Death to Children by Bryan Mellonie and Robert Ingpen

Originally published in 1983, this classic explains how every living thing has a life cycle. Elaborate and stunning illustrations accompany this poetic narrative about how everything that lives also dies and has a lifetime. Its universality makes it great to have on hand for general conversation as well as the loss of a pet, a family member, neighbor, classmate, etc. 

More resources for grief support

National Alliance for Grieving Children

Child Mind Institute

Hospice Foundation of America

How have you dealt with these tough topics with your kids? Share your insight in the comments! Any more kids’ books about grief and death you’d add to this list?

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4 Responses to Grab the Tissues: The Best Kids’ Books for Death and Grief

  1. Avatar
    Leslie Scuderi January 16, 2020 at 10:18 am #

    My yellow balloon is amazing and so is The Rabbit Listened. Chester Raccoon and The Acorn full of memories, And Grief is like a snowflake.

    • Avatar
      Mollie January 17, 2020 at 3:48 pm #

      Great suggestions Leslie! There are so many (which is a good thing!!!) and it is so important to find the right one for your family and your situation. Thanks for sharing them with us….

  2. Avatar
    Laura Geason January 21, 2020 at 7:03 pm #

    A Hug from Heaven by Anna Whiston Donaldson is beautiful

    • Avatar
      Mollie January 25, 2020 at 11:36 am #

      Thanks for sharing Laura!