Children Facing Grief

Therapists working with children facing grief have recommended the following books to help kids understand loss and healing.  There’s no one book that is perfect for every client but these titles are a great place to start.

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When Dinosaurs Die: A Guide to Understanding Death (Dino Life Guides for Families)by Laurie Krasny Brown, illustrated by‎ Marc Brown

No one can really understand death, but to children, the passing away of a loved one can be especially perplexing and troublesome. This is true whether the loss is a classmate, friend, family member, or pet. Here to offer advice and reassurance are the wise dinosaurs from Dinosaurs to the RescueDinosaurs DivorceDinosaurs Travel, and Dinosaurs Alive and Well. This succinct and thorough guide helps dispel the mystery and negative connotations associated with death. This helpful book provides answers to kids’ most-often asked questions and also explores the feelings we may have regarding the death of a loved one, and the ways to remember someone after he or she has died.

The Invisible Stringby Patrice Karst and 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!

This story by Leo Buscaglia is a warm, wonderfully wise and strikingly simple story about a leaf names 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 Fall of Freddie the Leaf is a warm and thought-provoking story and both children and adults will be deeply touched by this inspiring book. This 20th anniversary edition of this beloved classic has helped thousands of people come to grips with life and death.

Lifetimes: The Beautiful Way to Explain Death to Childrenby Bryan Mellonie and Robert Ingpen

When the death of a relative, a friend, or a pet happens or is about to happen . . . how can we help a child to understand?  Lifetimes is a moving book for children of all ages, even parents too. It lets us explain life and death in a sensitive, caring, beautiful way. Lifetimes tells us about beginnings. And about endings. And about living in between. With large, wonderful illustrations, it tells about plants. About animals. About people. It tells that dying is as much a part of living as being born. It helps us to remember. It helps us to understand.

Lifetimes . . . a very special, very important book for you and your child. The book that explains—beautifully—that all living things have their own special Lifetimes.

The Goodbye Book by Todd Parr
Through the lens of a pet fish who has lost his companion, Todd Parr tells a moving and wholly accessible story about saying goodbye. Touching upon the host of emotions children experience, Todd reminds readers that it’s okay not to know all the answers, and that someone will always be there to support them. An invaluable resource for life’s toughest moments.

Tear Soup: A Recipe for Healing After Lossby Pat Schwiebert and Chuck DeKlyen, illustrated by Taylor Bills

If you are going to buy only one book on grief, this is the one to get! It will validate your grief experience, and you can share it with your children. You can leave it on the coffee table so others will pick it up, read it, and then better appreciate your grieving time. Grand’s Cooking Tips section at the back of the book is rich with wisdom and concrete recommendations. Better than a casserole!


The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn, illustrated by Ruth E. Harper and Nancy M. Leak


The Kissing Hand, used by millions of parents and children starting school or facing separation, is now brought to life in audio form. Package includes a paperback book and a reading of the story on CD, with and without page-turn signals. Also included on the CD, on a separate track, is the new, original “Chester’s Song” with lyrics by Audrey Penn and set to beautiful music. A perfect addition to the home, classroom or library audio collection!

The Heart and the Bottleby Oliver Jeffers

There is a wonder and magic to childhood. We don’t realize it at the time, of course . . . yet the adults in our lives do. They encourage us to see things in the stars, to find joy in colors and laughter as we play.But what happens when that special someone who encourages such wonder and magic is no longer around? We can hide, we can place our heart in a bottle and grow up . . . or we can find another special someone who understands the magic. And we can encourage them to see things in the stars, find joy among colors and laughter as they play.

Water Bugs and Dragonflies: Explaining Death to Young Children, A Coloring Bookby Doris Stickney, illustrated by Robyn Henderson Nordstrom 

This coloring book is set to a beautiful poem written to help children understand death and why they can no longer hear from their lost loved ones.


My Parent Has Cancer and It Really Sucks by Marc Silver and‎ Maya Silver

Real-life advice from real-life teens
Currently one million American teenagers live with a parent who is fighting cancer. It’s a hard blow for those already navigating high school, preparing for college, and becoming increasingly independent. My Parent Has Cancer and It Really Sucks is the first book written especially for teens to help during this tough time.

Author Maya Silver was 15 when her mom was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2001. She and her dad, Marc, have combined their family’s personal experience with advice from dozens of medical professionals and real stories from 100 teens–all going through the same thing Maya did.

The Secret C: Straight Talking About Cancer by Julie Stokes, illustrated by Peter Bailey  








If you know of another book that belongs on this list let us know here or tell us about it in the comments. Make sure you’re also following The Therapist’s Bookshelf on Facebook and Instagram.


Many therapists enjoy recommending books to their clients to supplement the work they are doing together. We also use books to help ourselves grow as people and practitioners. Remember though that books are never a replacement for real human connection or for therapy when it’s needed. If you find yourself needing a therapist, a great place to start is Psychology Today. If you are having thoughts of hurting yourself or someone else, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Hotline.


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