We’ve compiled links to a selection of books on childhood bereavement which will be useful in your professional practice. Most can be bought online from Amazon.co.uk or Book Depositry. You may also borrow them from your local public library or an academic institute if you are a past pupil. The Irish Hospice Foundation has a death, dying and bereavement Library and many of the publications will be available to borrow through their Library. The Library is based in Dublin but they can send a book by post to those living outside the city.
Understanding the implications of grief on children is important. These books can help to develop a context and understanding of how death affects children.
Healing children’s Grief; surviving a parent’s death from cancer Christ, G. H (2000)
Living with Grief; Children, Adolescents, and Loss Doka, K (2000)
Children Grieving, Grieving Children Doka, K (1995)
Helping Children Cope with Death, Dougy Center (1997)
Grief in Children A handbook for Adults Dyregrove, A (2000)
Bereaved Children and Teens: A Support Guide for Parents and Professionals Grollman, E (1995)
Working with Bereaved Children and Young People Mallon, B (2011)
Never too young to know Death in Children’s lives Silverman, P (2000)
Then, now and Always Stokes, J (2004)
Living after a death Walsh, M.P (1995)
Helping your child through bereavement Walsh, M.P (2000)
Children and Grief When a Parent Dies Worden, J.W (1996)
Family Assessment – Guidelines for Child Bereavement Practitioners Winston’s Wish (2006)
A comprehensive document to guide practitioners in undertaking assessment with children and families. “I found this most helpful when starting out working with bereaved children as it really limits the chance of ‘missing’ something!” – ICBN member
Muddles, Puddles and Sunshine Winston’s Wish – “This is a very child-friendly workbook which covers most areas of the bereavement experience and an opportunity to explore any misconceptions the child may have about the cause of death. It has engaging exercises which children will find easy to interact with. Some of the exercises are just for fun and although they take time, they are very useful for relationship building, particularly with a shy or reluctant child.”
Angel Catcher – This is a workbook that can be used with a child to explore aspects of grief that are difficult to share. It allows communication with the deceased. There is also an adult version to encourage parents and children to work together.
Waving Goodbye: An activities manual for children in grief The Dougy Center. Features more than 45 activities to use with children and teens in peer support groups, or, for parents to use with their own children. These activities are categorized by topic and are designed to help children process their unique grief.
When some very special dies: Children can learn to cope with grief Heegard, M (1991). A practical format for allowing children to understand the concept of death and develop coping skills for life.
Grief Encounter Workbook. A worthwhile resource with lots of ideas for working with children. Available here.
‘Someone To Talk To’: A handbook on childhood bereavement by Barnardos. An introduction for staff to supporting a child who is bereaved. Download here.
‘Does This Mean That I am Mad?‘ by The Psychological Society of Ireland. A sheet for practitioners on preparing children and young people to see a psychologist. These tips come from consultations with children and professionals and aim to be a resource for mental health practitioners who are introducing themselves to young service-users and their families.
The Candle Project in the UK have helpful information and leaflets about children, young people and loss on their website here.
Reading to children about death
A selection of books as recommended by ICBN members who have used them in their work:
When Dinosaurs Die; a guide to understanding death Kransy Brown, L. (1998)
I miss you; A first look at death Thomas, P. (2001)
A very simple and clear book that can be used with younger children.
Water bugs and dragon flies; Explaining Death to Children Stickney, D (1997)
A wonderful tale for small children about the difficulty of knowing what lies beyond the grave.
Badgers Parting Gifts, Varley. S (1994)
An excellent book. Enjoyable to read, but most useful as a tool to introduce young children to the idea of mortality. It will help to get across the notion that memories of shared times can keep someone alive.
Missing Mummy, Cobb R (2011)
A beautifully illustrated book for children (3-6) who have lost a parent. It is very simply and sensitively written through the eyes of a small boy as he tries to understand how much his world has changed since his mother’s death.
What on Earth Do You Do When Someone Dies? Romain, T and Verdick, E (2008)
Plain and simple language helps children to understand those delicate questions about death and what happens after a death.
When Someone Very Special Dies; Children Can Learn To Cope With Grief Heegard, M (1991)
Remembering Hare: The Great Race
A story about remembering and learning to live with the death of someone special. Lee, C and Bell, D (2013)
Goodbye Mog by Judith Kerr (2003)
Mog was tired. She was dead tired…Mog thought, ‘I want to sleep forever.’ And so she did. But a little bit of her stayed awake to see what would happen next. Mog keeps watch over the upset Thomas family, who miss her terribly, and she wonders how they will ever manage without her.
Heaven by Nicholas Allan (2014)
A little girl has a conversation about heaven with her dog.
Scrumpy by Elizabeth Dale (1996)
When Ben’s dog dies, he thinks he will never be happy or want another pet again. As time passes, he remembers the happy times they shared and can move on with his life.
It Must Hurt A Lot by Dr Doris Sanford (2014)
All children experience loss. It is a part of growing up. When Joshua’s puppy is killed by a car accident he learns that some surprises come wrapped in the “package” of loss. We encourage adults to talk about these gifts with children. Sensitive, caring adults are made, not born.
The Scar by Charlotte Moundlic (2011)
When the boy in this story wakes up to find that his mother has died, he is overwhelmed with sadness, anger and fear that he will forget her. With tenderness, touches of humour and unflinching emotional truth, Charlotte Moundlic captures the loneliness of grief through the eyes of a child.
Her Mother’s Face by Roddy Doyle (2012)
Award winners Roddy Doyle and Freya Blackwood team up to create a heartwarming story of loss, love, and what it means to be a family. When Siobhan was just three years old, her mother died, leaving Siobhan and her father alone in their house in Dublin. They never talk about her. Now, at ten years old, Siobhan no longer remembers her mother’s face. With time, she and her father and her own daughter are able to remember Siobhan’s mother with joy and laughter instead of tears.
I Must Tell You Something by Arno Bo (2012)
Nine year old Rosemary tells the moving story of her family’s stay in hospital after a car accident in which they are all badly injured. Her mother dies and they have to come to terms with her death.
Sara Takes Charge by Joyce A. Stengel
When Sara and Davey’s mother dies, their father buries himself in his work leaving twelve year old Sara to worry about everything.
Missing Mummy by Rebecca Cobb (2012)
This book deals with the loss of a parent from a child’s point of view. Perfectly pitched text and evocative artwork explore the many emotions a bereaved child may experience, from anger to guilt and from sadness to bewilderment. And importantly, the book also focuses on the positive: the recognition that the child is still part of a family, and his memories of his mother are to be treasured.
What on Earth Do You Do When Someone Dies? by Trevor Romain (2003)
Trevor Romain knows, because it happened to him when his father died. This book can help you through a painful time. Using simple, honest words, Trevor answers questions you might wonder about: Why do people have to die? Is the death my fault? What happens to the person’s body? How can I say good-bye?
Is Daddy Coming Back in a Minute? by Elke Barber (2016)
“When we were on a No Girls Allowed! holiday, my daddy’s heart stopped beating and I had to find help all by myself. He was very badly broken. Not even the ambulance people could help him…” This honest, sensitive and beautifully illustrated picture book is designed to help explain the concept of death to children.
Samantha Jane’s Missing Smile by Julie Kaplow (2007)
Since Samantha Jane’s dad died, she has been sad and quiet, keeping to herself. One day, her neighbor Mrs. Cooper gently asks her about her missing smile, and Sammy Jane begins to open up about her grief, her worries, and her confusion.
The Heart and the Bottle by Oliver Jeffers (2010)
Award-winning picture book star Oliver Jeffers explores love and loss in this life-affirming and uplifting tale. Once there was a girl whose life was filled with wonder at the world around her… Then her father died and that made the girl take her heart and put it in a safe place. However, after that it seemed that the world was emptier than before. How could she get her heart back?
Come Back, Grandma by Sue Limb (1995)
Bessie loves her Grandmother very much. When she dies, Bessie never stops missing her until she grows up and has a daughter who is just like Grandma.
Goodbye Pappa by Una Leavy (1999)
Shane and Peter love staying at their grandfather’s. After they return home, he dies suddenly and they return for the funeral. Their mother suggests that they should remember all the happy times they shared. A picture book for sharing.
Just Grandpa and Me by Sally Grindley (1998)
A story about a little boy‟s happy day out with his Grandpa as they remember Grandma. A comforting book for sharing with a child who has recently lost a grandparent.
Remembering Grandad By Sheila & Kate Isherwood (1999)
A little girl remembers all the happy and special times she has had with her Grandad before he died.
Are You Sad, Little Bear? by Rachel Rivett (2013)
Grandmother Bear has gone forever, and Little Bear is feeling sad. His mother wisely suggests that perhaps asking his woodland companions what saying goodbye means to them will help him understand his loss. This charmingly illustrated picture book helps young children in times of bereavement.
Tell Me About Heaven, Grandpa Rabbit! By Jenny Album (2014)
This gentle and uplifting story is designed to help young children come to terms with losing someone special. At the beginning of the story, Grandpa Rabbit had given Bradley a gift. At the end of the story, this gift reappears, and serves as a moving reminder to Bradley that, whilst the grandpa he loves has left, in some way, he will always be with him.
A Place in my Heart by Annette Aubrey (2008)
Andrew’s grandad has died, and Andrew is feeling very sad and confused. Explore with your child the difficult issue of bereavement as Andrew talks about his feelings with his mum and dad.
Cry Heart but Never Break by Glenn Ringtved, Charlotte Pardi, and Robert Moulthrop (2016)
Aware their grandmother is gravely ill, four siblings make a pact to keep death from taking her away. But Death does arrive, as it must. He comes gently, naturally. And he comes with enough time to share a story with the children that helps them to realize the value of loss to life and the importance of being able to say goodbye.
The Invisible String by Geoff Stevenson (2001)
A story that teaches of the tie that really binds. Mums (and Dads) feel the tug whenever kids give it; and kids feel the tug that comes right back: the Invisible String reaches from heart to heart. Here is a warm and delightful lesson teaching young and old that we aren’t ever really alone.
Children Also Grieve: Talking about Death and Healing By Linda Goldman (20016)
This is an imaginative resource that offers support and reassurance to children coming to terms with the loss of a close friend or relative. The first part of the book is designed to be read and worked through by children. The story tells of the experiences of Henry, the dog of a family whose grandfather has died. At various stages of the story, Goldman provides readers with the opportunity to share their own reactions to loss through words and pictures, using specific prompt questions that encourage the exploration of different facets of grief.
Supporting Traumatized Children and Teenagers: A Guide to Providing Understanding and Help Dyregrov, A. (2010)
Counselling Adolecents: The proactive approach for young people Geldard, K. and Geldard G. (2009)
Helping Teens Cope with Death The Dougy Centre (1999)
Fire in my Heart, Ice in my veins: A journal for teenagers experiencing a loss Samuelel Traisman. Teens can write letters, copy down meaningful lyrics, write songs and poems, tell the person who died what they want them to know, finish business and use their creativity to work through the grieving process.
Healing a Teens Grieving Heart: 100 Practical Ideas for Families, Friends and Care Givers Wolfelt, A. (2001)
Out of the Blue: Making Memories Last when Someone has Died by Julie Stokes and Paul Oxley (2006)
When parents die: learning to live with the loss of a parent (1999) Rebecca Abrahams Taylor and Francis. This book covers the course of grieving from the death of a parent through to the point where the teen learns to accommodate the loss. It pays attention to the many circumstances that can prolong or complicate the grieving
Dying to know (2010) Andrew Amastasios, Hardie Grant Books. This book was written after many conversations with professionals who deal with grief and loss. It doesn’t claim to have all the answers. Just ideas, advice, and inspiring illustrations about a subject none can escape.
The Grieving Teen: A Guide for Teenagers and their friends (2000) Helen Fitzgerald, Fireside. Advice for teenagers on coping with the death of a parent, friend or loved one. It discusses the emotional impact of bereavement, signs and symptoms of getting into trouble, and special needs and concerns during the grieving process.
When a Friend dies: a book for teens about grieving and healing (2005) Marilyn E Gootman, Free Spirit Publishing. Speaks directly and simply to anyone who has suffered the loss of a friend.
Straight talking about death for teenagers: how to cope with losing someone you love (1993) Earl Grollman. What to expect when you lose someone you love. It discusses normal reactions to the shock of death. It looks at grief’s effects on your relationships, surviving special dates in the year, and how to work through grief and begin to live again. There is a journal section where you can record your memories of the person who has died, your feelings about the loss and your hopes for the future.
I Never Told Her I loved Her (1997) Sandra Chick (Livewire Books for Teenagers). Fiction. This novel explores a range of feelings, including the guilt experienced by Frankie after her mother dies.
A Gathering Light (2004) Jennifer Donnelly, Bloomsbury Publications. Fiction. A coming-of-age novel about a young woman. The tale of a drowned girl merges with Mattie’s own story giving her the courage to define her future.
The lost Boy’s Appreciation Society (2004) Alan Gibbons
Orion Children’s Books. Fiction. A 14 year old boy’s journey through the loss of his mother and negotiating his relationships with his father and brother when they are all grieving.
The Fault In Our stars (2013) John Green, Penguin. Fiction. Hazel is 16 and is living with a cancer diagnosis. Her life changes when she meets and falls in love with Augustus Waters at a cancer support group. The story follows their friendship and shared cancer diagnosis.
Alone at Ninety Foot (1999) Katherine Holubitsky, Orca Book Publishers,
Fiction. A powerful story of a 14 year old girl grieving for her mother who has committed suicide. Sometimes in control often overcome with grief and tears. Pam finds solace in the place where her mother died. It is there that she finds the peace that helps her to hold her life together.
On Eagles Wings (2004) Sue Mayfield. Fiction. Tony’s Mum is dying and there is nothing he can do about it. Tony has to find his own way in this awful situation.
Bridge to Terabithia (1977) Katherine Paterson, Harper Collins Children’s Books. Fiction. This story is about the friendship of two school friends. Leslie dies in an accident and Jess fears he is somehow to blame. Through his sadness he rebuilds his relationship with his father and helps his younger sister.
Wipe out (2003) Mimi Thebo, Collins Publishers. Fiction. 11 year old Billy’s mother has died and his father is suffering. Billy is sent away to stay with his aunt. With her help he begins to express his grief openly. He then takes action to bring the colour and his father back to life.
Vicky Angel (2007) Jacqueline Wilson, Corgi Yearling Books. Fiction. Jade’s best friend Vicky dies in a road accident after they have quarrelled on the way home from school. Jade blames herself for her friend’s death. This story is about grieving following a difficult and complex relationship. It also explores how the isolation felt by Jade is made worse by adults who don’t understand.
Out of the Blue Julie Stokes and Paul Oxley. Non Fiction. A book for teenagers using activities to guide them through their grieving process.
You Just Don’t Understand Winston’s Wish. Non Fiction. This book helps us to understand the difficulties for teenagers when their normal development is interrupted by the death of a loved one.
A Monster Calls Patrick Ness. Fiction. Exploring love, loss and hope, this is an excellent novel for early to mid-teens who lose a parent to illness.
These books support professionals conducting group work with bereaved children.
Mourning Child Grief Support (Early childhood, middle childhood and adolescence editions) Lehman, L, Jimerson, S. Gaasch, A (2000). Aimed at providing group support, some of the materials can also be used in individual work. The curriculum covers a wide range of grief related topics. View a presentation on the modules, or purchase here.
Teen Grief Groups: An Eight Week Curriculum for Bereaved Teen Groups compiled by Scott Johnson, Director of Trauma and Youth Services, North Coast Hospice, California.
Kids Grief – A Handbook for Group Leaders by Diane McKissock. A resource handbook for those involved in palliative care services, and professionals involved in the care of the dying and bereaved.
Red Chocolate Elephants by Dr. Diana Sands. A wonderful activity book and DVD to help children bereaved by suicide. In a world where children are often forgotten mourners, this unique combination of text, pictures, and voices – all in the words of bereaved children themselves – creates a treasured safe haven for young people to hear their fears, questions, and difficulties put into words by other children just like them.
Young People bereaved by suicide: What hinders and what helps by David Trickey, Childhood Bereavement UK
A Special Scar By Alison Wertheimer (1992). A discussion of suicide from an adult perspective. An invaluable resource for those helping children and families bereaved through suicide.
Silent Grief by Christopher Lukas and Henry M Seiden
Up on Cloud Nine by Ann Fine (2006). A story about the friendship between two boys, one of whom is in hospital after a serious ‘accident’ – the implication is that this has been a suicide attempt. The subject is handled with warmth and appropriate humour.
Beyond the Rough Rock: Supporting a child who has been bereaved through suicide by Winston’s Wish. An excellent resource for helping parents to talk to children about suicide, especially if the child had not been told at the time of death