Six books to help children understand loss and grief

Death is a huge concept for little ones to grasp - the revelation that somebody they have always known suddenly won’t be around anymore. Some of the most challenging conversations we will ever have with our children are about losing loved ones, not least because in the event of a death we are also likely to be struggling to come to terms with our own emotions. We’ve collected six of our favourite books to help approach this challenging topic with children - they may even prove cathartic for grown-ups too.

Grandad’s Island

by Benji Davies

This subtle, sensitive story with gorgeous cinematic illustrations will give comfort to little ones who may be worried where their loved ones go when they die. It’s poignant that Grandad takes Syd to his island to show him how beautiful and bright it is and how he is surrounded by friends, before he lets Syd know that he won’t be returning home with him. While Grandad’s house is now empty, Syd will always be able to imagine him on his island amongst friends

and be comforted by his memories of their

time together.

Missing Mummy

by Rebecca Cobb

An understated but deeply touching book about the loss of a parent seen through the eyes of a child. The book moves through the different emotions of the bereaved child from confusion and bewilderment to guilt to deep sadness and is also extremely poignant in its depiction of the remaining parent’s grief. The childlike language and warm, evocative illustrations make this an accessible, sensitive book to support and reassure a child in grief.

Michael Rosen’s Sad Book

by Michael Rosen

An intensely moving book written by Rosen as he coped with his own grief following the sudden death of his son. More suitable for slightly older children in its depiction of sadness as a complicated, ever-changing concept, Quentin Blake’s illustrations are haunting in the expressive way they capture Rosen’s grief. We also love Rosen’s suggestions for coping with sadness, such as doing one thing every day that means you have a good time.

The Heart and the Bottle

by Oliver Jeffers

Jeffers is truly a master at presenting complex events or emotions in his stories in a gentle thought-provoking way. When his protagonist loses someone special, she also loses her sense of curiosity and wonder at the world around her and shuts her heart away in a bottle. With his award-winning rich illustrations and lightness of touch Jeffers explores how she is eventually able to re-open her heart to the world, with a little help from a friend.

The Memory Tree

by Britta Teckentrup

After Fox passes away, his friends in the forest gather at his final resting place and share their memories of him. As they remember Fox, a tree begins to grow until it’s large enough for them to live in and around, forever held and sheltered by the memories they have of their friend. The stylish illustrations will give little ones a strong visual image of a tree nurtured by remembrances and signifying hope and possibility for the future.

Where Do They Go?

by Julia Alvarez

A poem that meditates on where our loved ones go when they die, wondering if they still see and hear us and what they are saying to us if they can. We love the affirmations in the closing lines of the poem, reminding us that our loved ones are everywhere in the beauty of the world they have left to us, and the expressive images that feature white spaces where those we have lost might be. Also available

in Spanish, Donde va a parar?


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