Empowering Children

Exploring Death, Loss, and Emotions Together

Our house is filled with books. We shuffle them aside to sit on the couch, trip over book towers in bedrooms, and we love the library bus that visits our suburb each week. The benefits of reading to children are numerous; from language development, emotional bonding, to imagination and creativity. The list goes on. But, have you considered the remarkable potential of books to facilitate age-appropriate conversations with children about death, grieving, and big feelings?

Children’s books can provide a safe and non-threatening way to introduce the topic of death and help children understand what it means. To help you on this journey, I have compiled a list of suggested books to explore at the end of this email. Additionally, your local library can be an excellent resource for exploring more options and seeking recommendations.

It’s important to consider the age and understanding of your child when selecting books. For younger children, stories that focus on the emotions of the characters can be particularly helpful. “The Invisible String” by Patrice Karst, for example, beautifully illustrates the idea that loved ones remain connected wherever they are, even after death. This book can reassure young children that their cherished ones are always with them, albeit in a different way.

For older children, more nuanced narratives that tackle the realities of death can provide valuable insights. “The Memory Box” by Joanna Rowland follows a young girl who creates a special box to remember her late grandfather. This story highlights the significance of processing grief and finding healthy ways to honour and remember loved ones.

If you need ideas on how to start conversations with your child during or after reading, we’ve included a list of conversation prompts in our new e-book ‘Preparing Kids for Death and Funerals’ which is available for free and instant download here.

While it’s natural to want to shield children from the pain and sadness associated with death, during your conversations it’s crucial to use clear and direct language. Euphemisms like “passed away” or “gone to sleep” can confuse young minds and make it harder for them to comprehend what has truly happened. By using fixed and certain language, such as “dead” or “died,” we can help children understand the finality of death and initiate the healing process.

By employing precise language, we can also alleviate fears and provide a sense of security for children. Vague or euphemistic terms can add to their anxiety and leave them feeling uncertain. Letting children know the truth, while age-appropriate, can ground them and help them cope with grief in a healthier manner.

Remember, every child is unique, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach to discussing death. Take things at your child’s pace, allowing them to lead the conversation. There’s no rush when it comes to grief, and there are no right or wrong ways to process emotions.

If you or your child are experiencing loss or grief, seeking external support can be immensely beneficial. Counsellors, therapists, support groups, and grief coaches are available to provide guidance and assistance during these challenging times.

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