Grief and Emotions

Kids books about grief, death and emotions

Young children on occasion have to deal with loss, grief and emotions. 

It may be a pet, a friend or even a family member. Children often find it difficult to express their feelings and, as it is an abstract concept, it can be very hard for them to grasp.

I believe it’s important to be honest with children about death as they can always sense change and may feel confused if they’re not included in the discussions. 

It’s generally not necessary to explain it in detail but death is part of life and it is ok to feel sad or angry. Books can assist by explaining the process of death in a simple way or can present children with stories of others who have been through similar experiences. It’s important to choose books that are appropriate to a child’s age and understanding.

It’s good to read the books together and have some time afterwards for a chat about the book itself and how the story relates to them. It can be easier for children to explain their feelings through the characters in the book. For example, Bella is sad because her cat died and she is feeling angry that a car hit it.

Find a quiet space and allow enough time for questions and discussions. 

If your child asks you a question that you do not know the answer to, it is OK to say “I don’t know.”  Actively listen to your child. Ask open-ended questions and let them talk. It can be helpful if you can find special and unique ways to celebrate the “life” of your loved one with your child. Maybe draw or write a story or letter or plant a tree or let a helium balloon go in the garden.

The following is a short list of books for toddlers about emotions and grief that I feel are most appropriate for young children:

  1. Grief is Like a Snowflake

Authors: Julia Cook, Anita DuFulla

This fiction book portrays real feelings and themes in a simple way. 

Children can see how the little tree coped with his father’s death.

Grief is like a snowflake. Each snowflake is different, and everyone shows grief differently. After the death of his father, Little Tree begins to learn how to cope with his feelings and start the healing process. With the help and support of his family and friends, Little Tree learns to cope by discovering what’s really important in life and that his father’s memory will carry on.

Julia Cook also offers an activity book with “hands on” activities that explore the grieving process, helping children gain a better understanding of what grief is and how to personalize it and how to endure it.

The grieving process is unique to every person, regardless of his/her age. Hence, “Grief is Like a Snowflake” – everyone does it differently. Just like snow, sometimes grief comes one flake at a time. Other times, it comes like a blizzard. It always melts…but it always comes back.

2.  Lifetimes: The Beautiful Way to Explain Death to Children

Authors: Bryan Mellonie, Robert Ingpen

This is a non fiction book that explains the process of life. Its a nice explanation to confront the question of “Why?”

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

3.  I Miss You: A First Look at Death

 Authors: Pat Thomas, Leslie Harker

This book is basic while also explaining how the body stops functioning. I like how it explains that good people die too.

When a close friend or family member dies, it can be difficult for children to express their feelings. This book helps boys and girls understand that death is a natural complement to life, and that grief and a sense of loss are normal feelings for them to have following a loved one’s death. 

Titles in this sensitively presented series explore the dynamics of various relationships experienced by children of preschool through early school age. Kids are encouraged to understand personal feelings and social problems as a first step in dealing with them. 

Written by psychotherapist and counselor Pat Thomas, these books promote positive interaction among children, parents, and teachers. The storylines are simple and direct making them easily accessible to young children. There are full-color illustrations on every page.

4. The Invisible String

 Authors: Patrice Karst, Geoff Stevenson

Not necessarily a book on death, this books addresses the feeling of being alone. Its a lovely concept to explain the bond between a child and the loved one.

Specifically written to address children’s fear of being apart from the ones they love, The Invisible String delivers a particularly compelling message in today’s uncertain times that though we may be separated from the ones we care for, whether through anger, or distance or even death, love is the unending connection that binds us all, and, by extension, ultimately binds every person on the planet to everyone else. Parents and children everywhere who are looking for reassurance and reaffirmation of the transcendent power of love, to bind, connect and comfort us through those inevitable times when life challenges us!

Let’s tell the whole world know that we are all connected by Invisible String.

See our complete Grief and Emotions booklist