It can be hard to talk about death, even between adults. But how do we talk about it with our children?
Whether your child has lost someone they were close to, or you need to tell them that someone they love has a terminal illness, sometimes we need a helping hand to start the conversation.
One way to broach the topic is through books. Based on their wealth of experience, Hospiscare’s nurses and bereavement team have put together a list of their favourite books to help you start the conversation and bring the topic of dying out into the open for your child.
As a guide, we’ve put them into some rough age categories, but every child is different so you might want to look at the other sections too.
“Badger is so old that he knows he must soon die, so he does his best to prepare his friends. When he finally passes away, they are grief-stricken, but one by one they remember the special things he taught them during his life. By sharing their memories, they realise that although Badger is no longer with them physically, he lives on through his friends.”
This story can be used to help explain death in a way that children can understand without them feeling frightened.
This practical activity book is designed for children to illustrate and personalise. Designed to help children express their feelings, this book can help children to understand what is happening in their lives and develop coping skills.
This is a beautifully illustrated story about young Rabbit who witnesses the life, illness and death of his friend Hare. It’s a story full of honesty and warmth which explores some of the feelings and questions children might be experiencing.
The classic book and film ‘The Snowman’ is a gentle way of demonstrating how natural death is and can be used to open up the conversation about death and dying with children.
This book looks at death in a direct, practical way. It offers a good starting point for discussing what has happened and the child’s own thoughts about it.
Connie Heckert, illustrated by Elizabeth Sayles
This is a lovely story about a cat that befriends an older cat who dies. It is compassionate tale, and can be helpful when children have lost family members, friends or pets.
“Milly knows that when people die they can’t come back, not in the way we want them to. But this doesn’t stop Milly wishing a secret and very important wish.
Milly’s Bug Nut is the story of a family finding their way through bereavement and of Milly who finds an unexpected answer to her heart’s desire.”
This workbook is designed to help children deal with feelings about serious illness. It can be used to help children understand what’s going on and gives various age-appropriate ways of coping with someone else’s illness.
Diana Crossley, illustrated by Kate Sheppard
Accompanied by the friendly characters of Bee and Bear, this activity book is designed to help children make sense of their experience when someone has died. This is ideal for children aged 5-7.
This touching story can also be used with older children to help explain death in a way they can understand without feeling frightened.
Earl A. Grollman
This is a good read for teenaged who have lost someone they care about. Without trying to diminish their experience, this book provides answers and advice on all different aspects of grief.
Click here to read more about talking to children and teenagers about death and dying.