When Sadness Visits:
Helping Children Navigate Grief
Helping children deal with grief is challenging, but there are picture books to help you navigate these difficult waters. These are the books you would rather not have to share about situations you and the child in your life would prefer not to face. When you need to guide a child through a significant grief or sadness, though, books are accessible tools for you to read with your child.
When choosing books to share with children in these circumstances, remember that the most important element is the conversation and connection between a child and adult that the book encourages. The real magic lies in that conversation the book creates: the questions, the love and support of open and empathetic listening and responses of the adult. Just being present to the child, reflecting and sharing and allowing the expression of sorrow, anger, guilt and grief, is what matters most. The books are a tool for the conversation and the process and can be safe conduits for every feeling each member of the family has.
While these recommendations are written specifically to support children (and adults) in grief, the real healing is in the interactions had while reading the book aloud, perusing the pictures together, or just talking about the stories. May these books be a stepping stone to good conversation with the child in your life about their sadness and grief.
Grief and Sadness
When Sadness Is At Your Door written and illustrated by Eva Eland
If you only choose one book to explore from this list, make it When Sadness Is At Your Door. This simple story personifies Sadness as something that accompanies you in your everyday life, accurately portraying the way grief and sadness can feel relentlessly present. From griefs small to big, specific to general, this book is perfect for any age, child to adult, to start a healing conversation.
Maybe Tomorrow? written by Charlotte Agell and illustrated by Ana Ramirez
This book features Norris and Elba (a crocodile and a hippo) in conversation about the hippo’s sadness about loss. Norris encourages Elba in her grief and helps her talk about big feelings. It’s a sweet story about how to support someone who is sad.
Death of a Parent
Boats for Papa written and illustrated by Jessixa Bagley
Boats for Papa is beautifully illustrated, full of melancholy, and packs a big punch for a picture book. It would be excellent for any family with small children facing the loss of a parent, particularly a father. Anyone who is grieving would benefit from the themes of this book, regardless of age.
Death of a Grandparent
Grandpa’s Stories: A Book of Remembering written by Joseph Coelho and illustrated by Allison Colpoys
This book shows the loving relationship between a young girl and her grandpa. Midway through the book, grandpa dies and the young girl starts exploring her feelings about the loss of her grandpa. Grandpa’s Stories honors children’s grief and their need to remember and talk about loved ones who have died.
Death of a Pet
BIG CAT, little cat, written and illustrated by Elisha Cooper
One of the best picture books for helping children understand the death of a pet, BIG CAT, little cat gently tells the story of a new little cat who learns the ropes of a new home from the big cat. Eventually, though, Big cat gets older and dies. Little cat grows up and becomes a big cat and later welcomes a new little cat. If you’re facing the loss of a pet, read this book.
For further recommendations, please see this list online curated by TCCL Librarians.