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Using books to talk about death with children and teenagers


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. 
 

Books for children aged 10 and under

Books for children aged 10 and over 

Books for teenagers

 

Age 10 and under

 

Badger's Parting Gifts

Badger's Parting Gifts

Susan Varley

"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."

 

Water bugs and dragonflies

Water Bugs and Dragonfiles

Doris Stickney

This story can be used to help explain death in a way that children can understand without them feeling frightened. 

 

When Someone Very Special Dies

When Someone Very Special Dies

Maarge Heegaard

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. 

 

Saying Goodbye to Hare

Saying Goodbye to Hare

Carol Lee

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 Snowman

The Snowman

Raymond Briggs

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. 

 

 

When Uncle Bob Died

When Uncle Bob Died

Althea

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. 

 

 

Dribbles

Dribbles 

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. 

 

 

Age 10 and over 

 

Milly's Bug Nut

Milly’s Bug Nut

Jilly Janney

"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."

 

When someone has a very serious illness

When Someone Has a Very Serious Illness

Marge Heegaard

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. 

 

Muddles, Puddles and Sunshine

Muddles, Puddles and Sunshine

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. 

 

Water bugs and dragonflies

Water Bugs and Dragonfiles

Doris Stickney

This touching story can also be used with older children to help explain death in a way they can understand without feeling frightened. 

 

Teenagers

 

Straight Talk about Death for Teenagers

Straight Talk about Death for Teenagers: How to Cope with Losing Someone You Love

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. 

 

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