Grief comes to us all, in many shapes & sizes, to various degrees, and to greater depths.

It is that basic human experience of loss.  Some are profound, some unspoken, some life-altering. Sometimes it’s the loss of a pet, the loss of a grandparent, the loss of  a relationship, or loss of a community.  It can be the loss of a friend, or family, or even a foe.  Sometimes it’s sudden, sometimes traumatic, and sometimes it’s a relief.  There is no right way to grieve.  There is no formula, but there is solace in finding a way forward together.

I know many in our community are grieving and are also looking for resources to help their children through this sad time of loss. 

Here are some of the great books I’ve seen recommended to offer as a starting point to help a child understand or discuss grief.  Whether you use a book, or just talk together- make sure to leave room for them to talk.  What does your little (or big) one have questions about?  What do they want to know? How do they feel?

The safest place a child can be, is a place where they know they can ask anything and go through life together with their trusted caregiver.  Even when the answer is “I don’t know”… they know that together we may not know, but we are together and they don’t have to wonder alone.  These books are also for those religious and non-religious.  Too often simple answers can bypass the emotions and questions we have.  So no matter what your “answer” is, listening to the person in grief is one of the most important ways to show love.  Also, while many of these are children’s books, they can obviously be profoundly healing for adults- many of us who are raising our inner child to learn to grieve as well. 

 Sending love to you all as you seek to find comfort in the wisdom & stories of others who have also loved and lost.  ~Gabriele Replogle

NOTE: Several of these books can be found on YouTube and have been read aloud for viewers to hear and see without cost.  Also, many have used copies on Ebay or other used book sellers other than Amazon which provide cheaper options so you can buy more than one to find the right fit for your family.  Many of these books are also available at your public library and if they aren’t you can request them to be purchased for use on your behalf and others.

For ALL:

The Invisible String by Patrice Karst 

Over 1.5 mil copies sold the #1 recommended book for children and parents and translated into 17 languages
“This is the story of the String (made out of love!) that connects us all. The Invisible String book series offers children a tangible understanding of love and teaches the world about the String that ‘even though you can’t see it with your eyes, you can feel it in your heart and know that you are always connected to everyone you love.’” Goodreads

Tear Soup ages 5 + by Pat Schwiebert & Chuck DeKlyen 

Don’t be fooled by this somewhat dated cover. This classic book 2001, has been reprinted several times and packs quite the potency declared by its great recommendations on Goodreads and beloved by adults and children.  The authors are a mother and son who have worked in hospice care and know grief well. An easy pick up to read 56 page book. This book tells the story of an old wise woman who after a loss, decides to make a special batch of tear soup- to which she adds memories good and bad, silly & sad.  This is one of the books that seems geared towards older children, it’s reading level is grade 3 and up.  Again and again when I’ve seen people ask for recommendations for books on grief- this is one of the most highly recommended- tried and true.  It also has available companion workbooks.

The Fall of Freddie the Leaf by Leo Buscaglia, Ph.D.

Sometimes the best way to someone’s heart is through metaphor, if that is the case, this is the book for you.

“Appropriate for all ages—from toddlers to adults—and featuring beautiful nature photographs throughout, this poignant, thought-provoking story follows Freddie and his companions as their leaves change with the passing seasons and the coming of winter, finally falling to the ground with winter’s snow.  

An inspiring allegory that illustrates the delicate balance between life and death, The Fall of Freddie the Leaf has helped a generation of readers navigate death and dying, grief and bereavement, the passage of time, and loss of a loved one.”Amazon

“An incisive, sensitive exploration of the questions of life, death, mortality, and immortality uses the leaves of a tree as symbols of enjoying life to the fullest and accepting mortality with dignity and equanimity.”Goodreads

For Kids:

I Can’t Believe They’re Gone by Karen Brough

“Join the mouse family on an emotional journey as Bear, their empathetic companion, helps them navigate the complexities of grief and its unique expressions.

In this beautifully written picture storybook, children will discover the stages of grief, common feelings, and meaningful ways to honor the memory of their loved ones. With tender storytelling, this picture book reminds us that emotions aren’t good or bad, right or wrong; they just are.” Goodreads ~This 2023 book is the Winner of the Firebird Book Award in the Children’s Grief Book Category.

If you or your child are coping with loss, find solace within these pages, knowing you’re not alone and that healing and hope are possible.

Feeling all my Grief for ages 3-8 by Kim T.S.

Written from a secular perspective this 2023 book has all 5 stars on goodreads and 5 stars on Amazon.   In conjunction with the other Feel my Feelings books, this book on “Grief focuses on universal truths about death. It reassures kids that it’s okay to feel sad, angry, scared, worried, confused, or a mix of feelings when someone we care about dies. When we give ourselves time to heal, we can soon make space for gratitude, happiness, and love as well.Key – Secular, non-religious, and non-scientific- Written in soothing, rhythmic rhyme- Validates all types of feelings and ways of dealing with grief- Avoids euphemisms so as not to confuse young children- Vibrant and endearing illustrations with diverse characters- Approved by grief counselors and professionals- Includes a grief journal at the end with reflection prompts” Goodreads 

Everywhere Still ages 4-7  by M.H. Clark

Another newer book: 2023, Everywhere Still is more generally applicable to grief whether permanent or temporary- loss of parent, moving, pet, and helps process the emotions one carries through that process- knowing we can keep them close in our hearts.

The Memory Box ages 4-10 by Joanna Rowland

This shorter 32 page book (2017)  addresses  the common concern that we might forget the loved one who has died.  In the story the child creates a memory box with written mementos and objects to commemorate the loved one. This book is recommended and adopted by parenting blogs, bereavement support groups, hospice centers, social service agencies, military library services, church groups, and educators, The Memory Box offers a very simple approach to overcoming loss, separation, and disappointment while also giving support and encouragement that children easily understand.” It also has a journal that you can purchase as a companion. This book is written from a Christian perspective.  This book comes highly recommended 5 stars on Amazon and 4.4 stars on goodreads.

Always and Forever by Alan Durant

This short 32 page story written in 2013 is simple for the youngest readers but impactful for all readers.  In it Mole, Hare, and Otter have a hard time adjusting to the loss of their friend Fox “until Squirrel reminds them of all the good times they shared in the past–reassuring them that Fox will always be alive in their hearts and minds.”  This book is simple and about friendship- how we can all come together during a loss. Reviewers write it is easy enough for a kindergartner and profound for all ages.


I Miss You:  A First Look at Death ages 3-7 by Pat Thomas

Not all grief books are simple enough for toddlers.  This book written in 2000, is a short 28 page is part of “the A First Look At series and promotes positive interaction among children, parents, and teachers, and encourages kids to ask questions and confront difficult social and emotional questions. Books feature appealing full-color illustrations on every page plus a page of advice to parents and teachers.” Goodreads Reviewers who appreciated the book like how it talks openly about the various ways people die, and also includes sections “What about you?”that promote interactions and dialogue between the readers and listener.  This book was written by a psychotherapist and a counselor.

Something Sad Happened for ages 2-3 years by Bonnie Zucker

Written for those developmentally very young this book explains in very basic terms death and loss and even provides places where the reader can insert names to personalize the book for the child.


The Most Beautiful Story  by Brynjulf Jung Tjønn 

This book is written by a Norwegian author, and I should note that many American readers find it not to their liking.  However, if you have an older child who appreciates a more abstract and imaginative story this could be a good choice. It is artistic and does not leave with easy answers, but through its storytelling uses imagination to cope with loss.  

“At night, Vera, whose brother recently passed away, visits Syl, a magical creature who has the power to tell stories that reframe and thereby help heal the trauma of the past. In this dreamlike story about loss and acceptance, Syl, in a redemptive act, helps the young girl remember her brother as he was when he was alive.”  Goodreads

The Heart and the Bottle by Oliver Jeffers

“Once there was a girl whose life was filled with all the wonder of the world around her. Then one day something occurred that caused the girl to take her heart and put it in a safe place. However, after that it seemed that more things were empty than before. Would she know when and how to get her heart back?” Goodreads.  

Written in 2010, this book is short 32 pages, and while it is written for children, seems to have a more nuanced lesson which not all younger children will grasp.  Although there are many readers who commend the drawing to word ratio and find it very beneficial for young and old alike. One reviewer states  “My heart couldn’t handle the tenderness of this beautifully illustrated story! :’) It’s a short, simple yet introspective tale of a little girl dealing with the loss of a loved one. Kudos to the writer for handling a sensitive topic like death with such warmth and kindness. 💓” Fatima Farzeen

Cry Heart, But Never Break ages 3-10 by Glenn Ringtved

Published originally in 2001, is a tale that is an international best selling book on grief.  Written by a Danish author & illustrator Cry Heart tells the story of four siblings, who are aware their grandmother is gravely ill and they “make a pact to keep death from taking her away. But Death does arrive all the same, as it must. He comes gently, naturally. And he comes with enough time to share a story with the children that helps them to realize the value of loss to life and the importance of being able to say goodbye.” Amazon 

“Although Ringtved is celebrated for his humorous and mischievous stories, this contemplative tale sprang from the depths of his own experience — when his mother was dying and he struggled to explain what was happening to his young children, she offered some words of comfort: “Cry, Heart, but never break.” It was the grandmother’s way of assuring the children that the profound sadness of loss is to be allowed rather than resisted, then folded into the wholeness of life, which continues to unfold.” from Maria Popova’s review 

What Happens When We Die? By Joseph Raphael Becker

This book is for the scientifically curious.  In this story the children, after seeing a bird die, learn about atoms and energy that lasts forever.  It has strong use of imagination to learn what the science says about death.  One reviewer writes, “The laws of thermodynamics combined with poetry, art and the human desire for continuity to explain our relationship with death. Brilliant!” Sabrina Alexander Goodreads  While it says it is written for ages 4-7, readers say it is appropriate for older kids as well.

When Someone Very Special Dies by Marge Heegaard

This is an older book, 1988- short 32 page book written in “a practical format for allowing children to understand the concept of death and develop coping skills for life.”  This book has places to draw and is designed to be a therapeutic tool for the child to cope through talking together about their grief.  Reviewers state it seems more appropriate for children ages 6-12. It was written by a psychotherapist. As a workbook, it might be more beneficial to work through a few pages at a time.

For the Traumatic Death:

A Terrible Thing Happened By Margaret M. Holmes

A gently told and tenderly illustrated story for children who have witnessed any kind of violent or traumatic episode, including physical abuse, school or gang violence, accidents, homicide, suicide, and natural disasters such as floods or fire.

Sherman Smith saw the most terrible thing happen. At first he tried to forget about it, but soon something inside him started to bother him. He felt nervous for no reason. Sometimes his stomach hurt. He had bad dreams. And he started to feel angry and do mean things, which got him in trouble. Then he met Ms. Maple, who helped him talk about the terrible thing that he had tried to forget. Now Sherman is feeling much better.” Goodreads-  This book also contains an afterward with more resources focusing on specific events.

If Anything Happens I Love You by Will McCormack & Michael Govier

This is a young adult graphic novel (2022) based on the Academy Award short (2020 found on Netlfix) with the same name. If Anything Happens, I love you, is a novel “that follows two parents as they reckon with the loss of their young daughter, Rose, in a school shooting. Readers follow Rose from “above” as she watches her parents slowly break down under the weight and pain of their loss. Throughout the novel, Rose’s soul seeks to help her parents reconnect. We learn who Rose was and how much life she lived in her short time.  By incorporating a wide range of characters, her boyfriend, teacher, and her cat, Rose is able to introduce healing into the lives of the people she left behind. If Anything Happens I Love You may be a story about loss, but in it we see ourselves—in the grief, the pain, and, most importantly, in the fight toward human connection, love, and acceptance.” Goodreads

For those just looking to introduce their children to the full range of emotions & empathy.

For those who just need a book to share that emotions have a safe place:  This is a great book for babies on up.

The Rabbit Listened by Cori Doerffeld 

“With its spare, poignant text and irresistibly sweet illustrations, The Rabbit Listened is a tender meditation on loss.

When something terrible happens, Taylor doesn’t know where to turn. All the animals are sure they have the answer. The chicken wants to talk it out, but Taylor doesn’t feel like chatting. The bear thinks Taylor should get angry, but that’s not quite right either. One by one, the animals try to tell Taylor how to process this loss, and one by one they fail. Then the rabbit arrives. All the rabbit does is listen, which is just what Taylor needs.

Whether read in the wake of tragedy or as a primer for comforting others, this is a deeply moving and unforgettable story sure to soothe heartache of all sizes.” Goodreads