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Moms Must Read: Books for Kids about Death and Grieving

 Moms Must Read: Books, kids, death

Moms Must Read:
Books for Kids about Death and Grieving

 

Death, dying, and grieving are the main topics of the news lately. It seems we just can’t get away from it. And as much as we try to shield our little ones from tragedy, sometimes there are issues you must face. Death is a common situation in life and while you can usually filter what your children are exposed to, the deaths of pets, grandparents, or sick friends, will eventually crop up. If you’re like me, you want a book to turn to to support your child’s emotional understanding of death.

There are a surprising number of books available that discuss death. Kids don’t need or want a heavy handed book discussing the ins and out of death and dying. Save that for biology class or for church, depending on your beliefs. What kids want in books is to understand that it’s ok to have certain feelings and that other people have similar feelings as yours and also probably that things will get better. Following are books for kids of varying ages that discuss death, dying, and grief in ways that children will appreciate.

 

1. Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White

charlotte's web

I have two words for you: “Some pig.”  Is there anyone born in the past half century who hasn’t been moved to tears by this beloved title? Everyone is cheering for our favorite pig and his friends. Not only do we learn the meaning of friendship from Charlotte’s Web, we also learn the value of the brevity of life on a farm and we learn about death and grief. Sure there’s a death in the book, but there is also the invaluable lesson of how to grieve when someone you love has died. This little gem can teach even the youngest of readers about life and death.

Read More:  10 From GEM: 10 Ways To Teach Your Kids Compassion

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2.  Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson

bridgetoterabithia

Here’s another classic that inadvertently teaches middle graders the value of friendship and the process of grief. I love this story because at this age kids don’t care whether their friends are boys or girls. They just want a friend. Jess and Leslie become friends and during their time together they help the other one become better people. The magical land they’ve created helps them deal with the issues they each face. In the end when one of them dies, the remaining child must confront their fears, the loss of a friend, and learn how to move on.

Read More:  Moms Must Read: Books To Read In Times Of Tragedy

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3. Old Yeller by Fred Gipson

oldyeller

No book list for kids is complete without Old Yeller. Kids and dogs just go together! Be advised there is derogatory talk about Native Americans, which was indicative of the book setting.  This old yellow lab, a dirty, scrawny useless looking dog worms his way into a boy’s heart and the rest is history. Is there anyone who doesn’t know what happens to Old Yeller in the end? It’s the cry you know is coming and the one that cleanses you and makes you feel so much better for having loved Old Yeller, even if only just inside the pages of a book. Aside from Snoopy, this was probably the first dog I ever wanted. Sadly, many children have to learn to part with a beloved family pet and this is the book that will spark the conversation.

Read More: Ask Rene: How Can I Teach My Child To Move On After The Loss Of Our Dog?

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4. Nana Upstairs & Nana Downstairs, by Tomie de Paola

nanaupstairs

Tomie dePaola writes such good books, there’s practically a book for every situation. Grandparenting seems to be his specialty, though. Little Tommy loves his grandmothers: he has a grandmother upstairs and a great grandmother downstairs. You know where this is going, right? Naturally the grandmothers die and Tommy has to learn how to grieve. There’s a bit about a falling star that will have you in tears remembering your own grandmother’s kisses.

Read More:  Ask Rene: Drama After Death.. Should I Get Involved?

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5. Tiger Eyes by Judy Blume

tigereyes

It’s a Judy Blume book. Do I need to say anymore? The woman who has helped every young girl grow up  in the past 50 years? Yeah, her. This time, Blume discusses a very sensitive issue at the time; the death of a parent.  Not only does Davey lose her father, but he is killed in a violent crime. Books about this topic were unheard of in its day. But somehow, shockingly, kids today are experiencing this type of tragic loss and will need help getting through it. The book also discusses the dysfunction that’s left behind when a family member dies tragically: depression, alcoholism, family instability; it’s all there.

Read More:  Our Story Begins: On Death And Dying.. What Do You Tell Your Kids?

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Believe it or not, there are more books I could have included in this list. One book that didn’t make the cut is The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer L Holm, a magical realism story about a girl whose goldfish dies and is reincarnated as her grandfather dressed as a bespectacled new friend. I thought perhaps the lesson might be too “out there” to catch; but I love this story. Another runner up is City Dog, Country Frog by Mo Willems (yes, THAT Mo Willems), about a dog and a frog who are friends which ends with the death of the frog. Great stuff again from Mo Willems, but I thought two dog books in one list was too much.

Isn’t it great that there are so many books on this topic says that kids never have to go through any situation alone, that there is always a book available to lend an ear, lean on or to provide other ways of support?

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