Fall- what do you associate with it? Pumpkins? Leaf stomping? Candy? Harvest?
We associate fall with many wonderful things. It is a time for families to come together to celebrate the harvest, to be silly on Halloween, and to appreciate all we have. But it is also a time of loss. Leaves fall off trees, plants return to the ground, and animals go into hibernation. This makes it the perfect time to talk about dying with your child, and one of the best ways to broach this sensitive subject is through books.
This subject may fill you with chills fit for the scariest haunted house, but for our children, it can be a natural part of life. Books allow us to depersonalize the grief and fear associated with difficult subjects which normalizes those emotions, creates empathy, and prepares for the inevitable day when they will lose someone they love. These second hand experiences give our children the tools to be resilient even in the face of a loved ones passing. So here are a few books that will help you talk about death and grieving.
Nature Books about Dying:
The Fall of Freddy the Leaf by Leo Buscaglia- This book tells the story of Freddy, a Leaf, as he comes to terms with the fact that he too must fall from the tree. A beautiful and gentle story fit for the season.
The Gift of the Tree by Alvin Tresselt- A tree grows in the forest, but like all things it dies. However, this book tells the story of how this tree supports life in the forest after its death. A wonderful message of the cycle of life, and that life continues.
General Books About Death:
Lifetimes: A Beautiful Way to Explain Death to Children by Bryan Mellonie - A gentle book that introduces death in a factual manner. This book uses simple text to explain that everything dies, and the various reasons for dying. This is one that is a must have for every family!
Books About Death and Grief:
Tough Boris by Mem Fox- Using minimal text Tough Boris tells the story of Boris, a pirate who is mean, and big, and tough, but when his pet parrot dies, he responds just like anyone. Use this book to teach that grief and sadness are acceptable even for big tough guys. The ending always chokes me up, but isn't that a wonderful way to model that it is OK to be sad and you will move beyond it? If you don't already have this book, you need to buy it now!
That Summer by Tony Johnston and Barry Moser- The story of child who loses his brother to cancer, and how they cope with the illness, his brother’s care, and the loss. A bittersweet tale of loss and caring, and how we always remember the ones we love.
Nana Upstairs, Nana Downstairs by Tomie DePaola- A little boy lives with his great-grandmother and his grandmother. As his grandmothers age and become ill, he learns to accept their inevitable deaths, and to celebrate their time together.
The Tenth Good Thing about Barney by Judith Viorst- When a little boy loses his cat, he buries him with his mother and father. He tells all the wonderful things about, Barney, his cat which helps him say goodbye.
Tear Soup by Pat Schwiebert- A little boy sits with his grandmother as they grieve over the loss of someone dear. She explains that she is making tear soup, and talks about all the different ways people make it. A wonderful way to explain grief to children, as well as ways you can support others in their grief.
And What Comes after a Thousand by Anette Bley- A little girl loses a friend, and grieves for him. She wishes others would recognize how he would have wanted things, and wonders why he left her, but another friend helps her understand that he never really left and will always be with her.
Michaels Rosen's Sad Book by Michael Rosen- A powerful book from the author's perspective of losing his son and all the feelings associated with grief. It explores the anger, loneliness, sense of loss, and deep sadness that happen when we lose someone we love. A wonderful book for exploring emotions associated with grief, and how we can allow them to happen as we need in order to heal.
As always and even with this topic, I hope you enjoy sharing these books with your child. Please feel free to comment and add your own favorite books about this topic below.
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