My father died when I was a child which means my children have never known their grandfather. It’s not something I wanted to brush under the carpet and we talk about their grandpa (known as Grandpa-who-died) regularly. Of course talking to children about someone who died means that the concept of death is out there and needs to be explained in terms that children can understand.
I have my own beliefs about death and use these as a foundation for our conversations. I also have a few books in our collection which gently touch on the subject. I think having the life cycle as a regular reading subject helps to normalise it. After a recent conversation with a friend I thought it might be useful to share our favourites. Three picture books I think deal with it well are:
No Matter What by Debi Gliori (Bloomsbury Publishing PLC RRP: Â£5.99) this book explores the nature of love with the young fox asking her Mama if love changes or ends. The explanation of what happens to love when we die is one of the single most lovely lines in a children’s book comparing it to the light of long extinguished stars. A reaffirming book about love and not just death.
The Heart and The Bottle by Oliver Jeffers (Harper Collins Children’s Books RRP: Â£6.99) In Jeffers classic understated style this book unfolds with simplicity. A girl filled with curiosity one day finds the person she shared her wonder with gone. She protects her heart by placing it in a bottle until one day she meets someone who makes her want to open her heart again. I think this book is a good starting point for talking about the feelings we have surrounding grief.
Goodbye Mog by Judith Kerr (Harper Collins Children’s Books RRP: Â£5.99) This is the most direct book as it deals specifically with Mog dying *sob*. Mog’s spirit sticks around for a while to check her family are ok and to ensure the kitten they buy knows how to be a good family pet. In the end Mog decides everything will be alright and goes into the light.