[Updated] Resources for Talking to your Child about Death, Loss, and Grief

Many children lose someone that they love early in their lives. It is hard to watch a child in pain, and even more difficult to help heal the heart of someone you love while you, yourself are hurting. Whether the loss is of a parent, grandparent, friend, or beloved pet,  understanding death, its permanency, and all of the ways that it touches our lives is a complicated matter. Whether we’re ready or not, grief and loss are a part of everyday life – and we can’t always shelter our students from them, or the pain that they bring. Sometimes, we have to deal with the subject head on, and try to be a resource to help children understand and deal with the tragedy around them.

An illustration from the beautiful new book Always Remember, which begins with “old turtle’s last day” and celebrates his life

Death is a difficult subject that can be very hard to explain, and even more difficult for little ones to understand. No adult knows how to answer questions like, “But where did they go? When will they be back?” Children are curious, and expressing feelings can be tough – everyone handles grief and loss differently. It’s hard to know if your child understands the gravity of the situation, or if the way they’re reacting is “normal”. If there’s one thing that I’ve learned, it’s that when it comes to learning about loss and pain, there’s no such thing as “normal”. But if you feel like your child, or you, needs assistance to get through a difficult situation, please contact a professional for help.

Sometimes the easiest way to talk about the loss of a loved one is through a story that approaches death or loss in a sensitive, gentle way. Whether speaking directly about the loss of a special person, learning about the cycle of life, or watching characters mourn a loss of their own, seeing grief and loss reflected in literature can help children to understand and recognize their own feelings. Here are a few resources that have helped me when working with little ones that have experienced a loss.

Other great resources on talking to your family about death, loss, and tragedy:

Many of these books are available to be checked out from the Jefferson Madison Regional Library, or you may choose to purchase a copy and keep it in your home for future conversations. No matter the route that you choose, your child is sure to have questions, worries, and fears; I hope that some of these resources help.

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