Many of you know this already, but my Grandpa passed away at the end of January. We expected him to go, and were glad that he no longer suffered the effects of age and illness. However, it was still hard. We only live a few miles away, so we saw him on a regular basis. This was my kids first close experience with human loss- we’ve had pets pass before, and they lost some other great grandparents when they were too young to understand much. So of course, I wanted to find books to help my kids through the grieving process. I haven’t found the perfect book- probably because every circumstance is different. But, here are a few books we have read that have helped us share and deal with our grief. I hope they might help you too.
The Dragonfly Door by John Adams, illustrated by Barbara L. Gibson is a book that follows the lifecycle of a Dragonfly through a pair of nymph friends, Lea & Nym. Lea is older than Nym, so she changes from nymph to dragonfly ahead of Nym and Nym is left behind wondering what she did wrong for her friend to leave her. It’s a non-denominational way to express a belief in an after-life in a way kids might relate to. It has won many awards (Mom’s Choice, Benjamin Franklin, & Evelyn Turman Young Readers Book Award), and has beautiful illustrations. I personally found the text longer and more cumbersome than necessary, but my kids liked it and we had a great conversation.
What’s Heaven by Maria Shriver, illustrated by Sandra Speidel
Again, very heavy on the text, but sweet pastel illustrations lend to an angelic feeling in this book. I read it to my kids while they were eating dessert so that their attention span was longer than normal. Despite the long text, there were great discussion points and lots of questions and answers that children deal with whenever someone dies. It follows the journey of Kate, who has just lost her Great Grandmother as she comes to understand that when we lose someone to death, they are still a part of us because they have loved us and taught us things.
Grandpa and Me and the Wishing Star by Barbara J. Porter, illustrated by Dilleen Marsh
This one is also an award winner. Yet again, lots of text (it seems to go hand-in-hand with the subject).
This book reinforces my personal LDS beliefs about death and was a great fit for my kids when their Great-Grandpa passed away. The book starts with a little boy named Jamie and his Grandpa who are best friends. But one day Jamie comes home from school and sees Grandpa being taken away on a stretcher. Later he finds out that Grandpa passed away and he is angry at God for taking him. Jamie goes through some of the stages of grief in a realistic way that I feel is useful for kids to read about so that they know that those feelings are a normal part of grief. My kids had some special experiences with my Grandpa and were able to be with him right up to the end, so they had a lot of feelings to work through.
Always my Brother by Jean Reagan, illustrated by Phyllis Pollema-Cahill
Grief is a part of life here on earth- we love people and we miss them when they are no longer with us. What are some of your recommendations of books that help children of all ages through this natural, but often painful process of grieving for a loved one?