Children’s books about death and dying

There are numerous children’s books out there which focus on death and dying. I thought it would be useful to share our favourites with readers.

We have always loved reading to our children, it’s a part of our daily bedtime routine. When Abi died, we turned to books as a way to share our feelings, comfort our children and prompt discussion about what happened. We’ve tried books of all kinds recommended to us, but the ones I’ve listed below are the stories we find we return to again and again.

Some aren’t even about death but are ways to reinforce love and security in your child, which is particularly useful at bedtime.

While we have faith, these books are not religious (except for the books at the bottom) and don’t mention God, angels, heaven (other than Up in Heaven, which only refers to heaven as a place rather than relating it to God, although I feel referring to heaven is more easily understood than saying up in the sky, which can be worrying to a child). Even the Waterbugs and Dragonflies story isn’t religious in itself, despite being written by a pastor, you take from it what you will. Being clear about what you believe is important to children and these books offer comfort at a time when life (and death) is confusing.

I recommend keeping a copy of any of these handy if you have children up to about age 12 who are asking questions about death, know of someone who has died or who have experienced a bereavement in the family.

I’ve added links to each book to Amazon’s UK website, where you can read more about them and see customer reviews. I’d also welcome your suggestions as we are always looking out for new books to add to our library.
Our top five children’s books about death

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1. Always and Forever by Alan Durant
This has to be my number one book. It tells the story of a family of animals living together, but when Fox dies, the others are left feeling so sad and are unable to stop crying because they miss him so much. I like this story because it shows the passing of time, through the seasons, and how the friends’ grief changes with it. It also presents the grief in stages, rather than saying that one day ‘everything was okay again’. It shows them starting to laugh again, but still feeling sad and not ready to face their friends. But then they gradually start to feel better and are united in remembering their dear friend. It’s really very lovely.

2. Up in Heaven by Emma Chichester Clark
Emma is the author behind the fabulously endearing Blue Kangaroo series, which my children loved. This is a story of a dog that dies and his owner, a young boy, can’t stop crying and missing him. The story is told from the dog’s perspective in heaven and he sends the boy dreams to help him come to terms with his loss. It’s not religious but is based on the concept that when we (and our pets) die, they go to heaven and have a lovely ‘new life’ with old and new friends. My son regularly asks for this one, I think the way it clearly portrays the difference between heaven and earth appeals to him.

3. Waterbugs and Dragonflies by Doris Stickney
A classic story that inspired my blog after Abi died, which I have written out in this blog post. It is useful to have a copy of this handy and it’s only a few pounds so is easy to get hold of. It’s not that pretty to look at but it’s short and is something that you can read to your child. It offers a way of understanding death and ‘where we go’ that children and adults can draw comfort from. There are also short prayers at the back of the book.

Update:

I am publishing an adaptation of this story which will be a large format picture book that is beautifully illustrated for children and adults to enjoy and treasure. If you’d like to contribute to my crowdfunding campaign to help this book get to market I would be very grateful. Please see the Crowdfunding page for more details.

4. No Matter What by Debi Gilori
We love Debi’s illustrations (she illustrated Always and Forever above and Tell Me Something Happy below) so this book was a great addition to our collection. This isn’t a bereavement book as such, more a reassuring story of love. It is about a father fox and his son discussing ‘what if this happens…’ ‘will you still love me’. It beautifully gives the message that even in death love does not end. A lovely bonding story.

5. When Caterpillars Fly by Lisa Mallins
We were given a copy of this book by Winson’s Wish (a child bereavement charity) and it is lovely. A collection of short poems written by children about the death of a child or baby. This could be useful if you know that a child will die or if a child has died. It’s also good for parents and older siblings. I couldn’t find a decent link to it on Amazon so you may have to search around the internet or auction sites.
Other books we have found useful or enjoyable to read together

6. Wherever You Are, My Love Will Find You by Nancy Tillman
This is a love-affirming book based on the premise of ‘my love will find you, wherever you are’. It reassures the child that even though you are separated at times during the day, you are always thinking of them.
7. Muddy Puddles and Sunshine by Diana Crossley
This is an activity book which helps families work through painful and positive memories of the child who has died. Our children completed it once in the early days, which they found hard, and then about six months later, which they found to be a more useful exercise. It helps you to discuss the facts around the death, the funeral and their feelings in a relaxed and engaging way.

8. Badger’s Parting Gifts by Susan Varley
This is another popular bereavement book; however, as it was about an aging badger we found it best suited to the death of a grandparent or elderly relative, as we lost a child, my children weren’t particularly engaged by the story but it has some excellent reviews.

9. Tell Me Something Happy Before I Go To Sleep by Joyce Dunbar
Also illustrated by Debi Gilori, this is a sweet story of two rabbit brothers, the younger asking his older brother to tell him something happy before he goes to sleep. While not a story which is about death, we find we read this often, especially when feeling sad at bedtime. It reinforces giving thanks for the day and ending the day with a positive thought.
Christian children’s books
If your child is interested in heaven and God and has numerous questions, these simple books were popular with both our children so may be worth looking at.

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10. Jesus Calling by Sarah Young
A dedication or prayer for each day of the year. It’s simple and the subjects are relevant to children and young people.

11. Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones
This is a lovely book with gorgeous illustrations. It covers key stories in the Bible which are simple and engaging.

12. Pocket Book of Children’s Prayers by Christopher Herbert
This pocket book offers short prayers, including some written by children.

I do hope this list has been useful to you. I’d love to hear of any other recommendations you might have.

I’ve linked up with Brilliant Blog Posts over at Honest Mum. Why not have a look at what others have shared?

Brilliant blog posts on HonestMum.com

When perfect isn’t perfect enough

(Warning: this post contains a rant that makes me sound very much like ‘my mother’!)

I was at the hairdressers at the weekend, getting my locks revived and tidied. I go every 6-8 weeks and it’s a real treat. I get to sit down for three hours and chat to my hairdresser (who’s become a friend now), have a cappuccino and flick through the women’s mags. Bliss.

I don’t buy mags or look at them much anymore, other than in the hairdresser’s.  I was given a copy of OK with a pregnant woman on the front, who I thought at first glance was Natalie Imbruglia. I realised it wasn’t quite right but when I saw that it was in fact Corrie starlet Helen Flanagan I was amazed and kind of horrified.
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Losing a child, two years on – fear and vulnerability

Two years on from the day we lost Abi (10th February) is approaching and I feel like I’m spinning in an endless cycle of grief. One minute I’m fine, the next I’m not. Over and over and over again. I’ve come to realise that as well as grieving her, the girl, my first-born, I’m grieving for the life I had and am confused about the life I have left.

I thought perhaps two years on I’d feel more acceptance, but I’m nothing but a shadow of my former self.

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Word of the Week: Me-time

Is ‘me-time’ one word or two? I don’t know but it’s definitely my theme of this week.

Now that I’ve finally found the mental strength to get fit, I thought I’d share my fitness journey. I never exercised. Ever. I was a gangly beanpole of a girl at school and avoided sports as I wasn’t that good and just looked wrong!

I think it was some boys calling me Penelope Pitstop that meant I never ran again. I wouldn’t even run for a bus if I was late! But as you get older, and a whole lot wiser, you realise that those kids were just being bullies and you stopped caring what other people thought a long time ago. But even so, it wasn’t until I was about 34 that I blended making time for exercise into my life.

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Postpartum oppression (or, how not to freak out a pregnant woman!)

Why is it that some people seem to enjoy scaring or putting down a pregnant woman?

At eight months pregnant I was entering the ‘anxious, this isn’t funny anymore stage’ – one minute looking at the pram with excitement, the next feeling terrified of how my son was going to arrive into this world. I was thinking of the birth and soaking up things to fret about, I didn’t want to but I couldn’t help it, and this was my fourth time! It should be like shelling peas!

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Football crazy! When it’s your child who isn’t picked

At the weekend, I posted a picture on Instagram of Crackernut proudly holding up his Golden Boot – the weekly award given to the coach’s trainer of the week. He’s been waiting for ages to get something like this, so I’m sure many of you know that when the day finally comes it’s a very special moment, and a real confidence booster. However, I’m actually annoyed at the football club and here’s why…
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This girl can… can’t she?

Have you seen the This Girl Can advert? A celebration, if you like, of all the ‘normal’ girls out there making exercise a part of their life. It’s a positive look at real women exercising. It’s inclusive. There’s not a high-cut Lycra thong in sight! It’s great!

I’ve had a slow start to my New Year’s get fit resolution, and have felt a pang of envy as I’ve seen the streets full of runners and people sharing their achievements on social media. Unfortunately I’ve not felt well and it’s set me right back, but the air and the bugs have cleared and I’m feeling ready to get out there.

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Breastfeeding and bedsharing … so who’s the needy one now?

I posted a picture of my baby son sleeping on my bed on my Instagram page (pop over and follow me if you like) and also his unmade cot in my first Project 365 weekly update. Sleep’s been on my mind a lot lately.

I’ve always co-slept with my babies, it was easier with breastfeeding and meant I could sleep as much as possible in between. But with the other three, they were always, and quite naturally, ‘off the boob’ by six months and in their own rooms (because by then they were sleeping through).

Except Baby J has decided he’s not doing things the way his siblings did!

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Counselling for copers

I’m taking the plunge. It’s long overdue. If you think you’re ‘coping’ with your grief, or you’re worried about talking to a stranger, read this post and you might find that bit of courage to open up and allow the wound to heal.

These Widow's Shoes

An article on grief counselling that I wrote recently for the Pilgrims Hospices website

Despite being very keen to encourage my late husband  to take up Pilgrims’ offer of counselling, and being, in theory, very open to the idea of going to it myself, in reality I was a bit slow to take it up; I remember saying  “Oh I’m fine… I’m managing… I don’t think I need it.”

I’d wager that a heck of a lot of people, caregivers and patients, have resisted having counselling, or at least procrastinated about it, using reasons like that. The implication is that counselling is only for the ‘non-copers’, those who are ‘struggling’ or ‘not managing’. If you’re doing a half-decent job of keeping your chin up, cracking on and ‘coping just fine thank you’, then what good can talking to a counsellor do? “I’m FINE!” we cry.

But on my first…

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