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The Highmark Caring Place is committed to helping grieving children get the support they deserve. A community resource, the Caring Place offers services at no charge to grieving families throughout the community. No insurance is necessary. For downloadable PDF brochures on grief, click here.
Highmark Caring Place
620 Stanwix Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15222
Call 1-888-224-HOPE (4673)
Many of us hesitate to talk about death, particularly with children. But death is an inescapable fact of life. Grief is complex; it encompasses a wide range of emotions that can come and go in waves.
Here you will find tips for having honest, meaningful conversations with children of different ages to comfort them and help them understand death. There are tips, videos, children's stories, and a guide to help your family communicate with one another, express emotions, and begin the process of moving forward.
You are not alone. And with time, you and your family will experience new happy moments together.
Most young children know something about death. They may have seen a dead bird or bug or had a pet who died. Also, they may have seen people on television die. Still, their notion of death is very limited and simplistic, and they probably have many misunderstandings. It is because children do not understand what death is about that they need help from loving adults in talking about it.
Here you will find thoughts form Mister Rogers and Helpful Hints in talking to your child about death.
"Young children don't know that sadness isn't forever. It's frightening for them to feel that their sadness may overwhelm them and never go away. That 'the very same people who are sad sometimes are the very same people who are glad sometimes' is something all parents need to help their children come to understand."
Explaining death and grief to young children is one of the most difficult conversations a parent, teacher or caregiver can have. Books are a wonderful resource for children coping with loss and can help open up the lines of communication. The following books have been chosen based on their ability to help bereaved children make sense of the difficult feelings associated with death and the healing process.
For more advice on helping children deal with death and grief, read eFuneral's article on how to help a child cope with loss.
The Invisible String by Patrice Karst, illustrated by Geoff Stevenson
Specifically written to address children's fear of being apart from the ones they love, The Invisible String delivers a particularly compelling message in today's uncertain times that though we may be separated from the ones we care for, whether through anger, or distance or even death, love is the unending connection that binds us all, and, by extension, ultimately binds every person on the planet to everyone else. Parents and children everywhere who are looking for reassurance and reaffirmation of the transcendent power of love, to bind, connect and comfort us through those inevitable times when life challenges us!
I Miss You: A First Look at Death by Pat Thomas, illustrated by Lesley Harker
This book seeks to demystify death for young children by addressing a wide range of issues surrounding the loss of a loved one. It helps facilitate a healthy and straightforward conversation about why people die, how people die and what happens to them afterwards. Through this story, children can see that the feeling of grief is a natural reaction to loss.
The Scar by Charlotte Moundlic, illustrated by Olivier Tallec
After the sudden loss of his mother, a boy fears that with time he will forget about her special qualities. The boy goes to great lengths to preserve her memory, from shutting all the windows in the house in order to keep in her scent, to reopening the scar on his leg in order to remember her love. His grandmother teaches him that a mother’s memory in fact lives in our hearts forever. The Scar is beautifully illustrated and less heavy-handed (it even includes some humor) than some other books for grieving children.
Water Bugs and Dragonflies: Explaining Death to Young Children by Doris Stickney, illustrated by Robyn Henderson Nordstrom
This is a great book for gently explaining death to young children. The story centers on a colony of water bugs that live in a quiet pond. As the bugs mature and fly off into the sky, the rest of the water bugs are left to wonder where they go when they leave and why they never return. This book’s abstract message is appropriate for a range of issues that a grieving child could be dealing with.
The Purple Balloon, written and illustrated by Chris Raschka
The Purple Balloon gained national attention when it was published in 2010. The simple, heartfelt potato print illustrations by award-winning illustrator Chris Raschka explore what it means to be terminally ill in a way that’s remarkably digestible for young children. The main character, a red balloon, experiences the loss of his Grandmother before he himself becomes sick and eventually dies. This is a great resource for anyone working with a terminally ill young child.
When Dinosaurs Die: A Guide to Understanding Death by Laurie Krasny, illustrated by Marc Brown
Rather than taking a narrative approach to explaining death, When Dinosaurs Die is a comprehensive, almost dictionary-like reference book for families with young children. Consider using this as an introduction to grief for children before they go through a serious personal loss.
Muddles, Puddles and Sunshine: Your Activity Book to Help when Someone has Died by Diana Crossley, illustrated by Kate Sheppard
This activity book for a bereaved child provides a structured outlet for the difficult feeling associated with the loss of a loved one. It helps a child make sense of her experience and understand the duality of remembrance and letting go.
The Bear and the Wildcat by Kazumi Yumoto, illustrated by Komako Sakai
Bear is overwhelmed by grief when he discovers his best friend Bird lying dead in the woods. It isn’t until he meets Wildcat that he rediscovers friendship and learns to honor old memories while making new ones. The illustrations in The Bear and the Wildcat are especially beautiful and touching.
The Copper Tree: Helping a Child Cope with Death and Loss by Hilary Robinson, illustrated by Mandy Stanley
In The Copper Tree, a group of students are introduced to grief when their beloved teacher passes away. They learn that even though she is dead, her memory lives on. Author Hilary Robinson takes a tender and lighthearted approach towards helping young children understand death and the subsequent feeling of loss.
Like Muddles, Puddles and Sunshine, this is an activity book for bereaved children. Kids are guided through art therapy exercises to express through drawing what they are unable to describe through words.
The Fall of Freddie the Leaf : A Story of Life for All Ages by Leo Buscaglia
A warm, wonderfully wise and strikingly simple story about a leaf named Freddie. How Freddie and his companion leaves change with the passing seasons, finally falling to the ground with winter's snow, is an inspiring allegory illustrating the delicate balance between life and death.
The Next Place by Warren Hansen
The Next Place is an inspirational journey of light and hope to a place where earthly hurts are left behind. An uncomplicated journey of awe and wonder to a destination without barriers.
A portion of this list was populated on eFuneral.com.
Goodbye Mousie by Robie H. Harris, illustrated by Jan Ormerod
Although Goodbye Mousie is about the loss of a pet, it’s a useful tool for slowly introducing kids to the idea of mortality. By focusing on the loss of a mouse instead of a person, the realities of loss and death become more easily digestible for young children.
Saying Goodbye to LuLu by Corinne Demas, illustrated by Ard Hoyt
A young girl and her lovable dog, Lulu, are the best of friends. They play games together, explore their neighborhood, and even cuddle up to read bedtime stories each night. Lulu is the best dog a girl could ever hope for, but when she grows older and gradually becomes weak, the little girl must face the sad possibility of losing her dear friend, and inevitably, cope with the death of her canine companion. Though she is deeply saddened by Lulu's passing and misses her very much, over time the little girl discovers that the sweet memory of her beloved Lulu will live on forever... in her heart.