A book is a very simple and versatile tool to use when talking to children about the end of life and their grief. Over the years, I have found myself recommending three books time and time again. Here's a brief description of each book and when I typically use each one.
When Dinosaurs Die: A Guide to Understanding Death
by Laurie Krasny Brown & Marc Brown
When Dinosaurs Die is written at a young reading level and appropriate for both anticipatory grief and bereavement. What I love about the book is that it's broken into short chapters that address very specific aspects of death and grief. For example, "Why does someone die," "What does alive or dead mean," and "Ways to remember someone." The book can certainly be read straight through, however, it's nice to flip to one chapter to address a particular topic. The illustrations are kid friendly and the language is straightforward. The dialogue between the adult and child dinosaurs will give adults good ideas for what to say with their children. If you purchase just one book, this is the one I would suggest. You can find the book here.
Jungle Journey: Grieving and Remembering Elenaor the Elephant by Barbara Betker McIntyre
Jungle Journey is appropriate for bereaved children and young teens, and I have typically used this book to explore different ways people grieve and cope with loss. The book discusses the death of Eleanor (a parental figure) in simple terms. What I really likes is that each of her animal friends has a very distinct emotional and/or behavioral reaction to her death. I find that youth easily identify one or two animals that grieve like they do. After outlining each animal's grief response, the book transitions into ways the animals mourn and support each other as they continue on with life. The illustrations are beautiful and the book normalizes a variety of grief reactions. Jungle Journey is a wonderful tool to facilitate a discussion or art-based activity about grief and healthy coping. Find the book here.
The Invisible String by Patrice Karst
The Invisible String is appropriate for children, teens and adults in both anticipatory grief and bereavement situations. It's my favorite "back door" grief book because it talks about how even though we may be separate from our loved ones (for whatever reason), we are never truly alone and always connected by an invisible string of love. I frequently use The Invisible String with children who are having fear/separation/anxiety issues to reassure them that they will always be connected by love and memories. Adults seem to be profoundly touched by this book's message as well. The Invisible String is a great reminder that no matter what life brings us, we can trust that the love we have for family and friends will be with us forever. You can find the book here.
This blog entry was written by Becca White, Arbor Hospice Grief Support Coordinator. You may contact Becca by commenting below or emailing her at firstname.lastname@example.org.