31 Thoughtful Children's Books About Death and Dying

Updated February 28, 2020
Mom comforting son while reading book

Helping a child who has experienced a loss can feel a bit overwhelming. Reading age appropriate books about death, dying, and grief can help children feel understood, and offer a structured way to begin helping them process their emotions. Because the grieving process can manifest uniquely in each child, offering a way for them to externalize their emotions can be a healthy way for them to begin to understand this difficult process.

Books About General Death and Grieving

General books about passing away and grief can help children and their caregivers begin to understand what the grieving process can look like for a child. Because some caregivers may feel a bit uncomfortable, or have a difficult time discussing death with a child, books can offer a great place to begin.

Books About the Death of a Parent

The loss of a parent may be one of the most excruciating experiences a child may go through. Helping a child process this loss in a healthy way is a critical piece of their healing process.

Books About the Death of a Grandparent

The loss of a grandparent can be incredibly difficult for a child to go through. They may feel a myriad of emotions including confusion, sadness, anger, and numbness. Helping them understand death, loss, and grief can help them move through this moment in a healthy way.

  • Farewell, Grandpa Elephant: What Happens When a Loved One Dies? by Isabel Abedi looks at helping children deal with the death of a grandparent. Grandpa Elephant is about to go to the elephant graveyard, but he wants his grandchildren to understand that there is sadness and good memories when someone passes away.
  • Where Is Grandpa? by T. A. Barron is a book written for children four and up. This book helps children understand that a dead loved one is still around in his/her personal memories.
  • One More Wednesday by Malika Doray is a story about a small bunny understanding what the death of his beloved grandmother means. The book is suitable for children ages four and up.
  • Grandma is a Star by Ligia Carvalho is written for little ones who are in the grieving process after the loss of their grandmother. This book highlights remembering the love they had with their grandma.
    Where Is Grandpa?
    Where Is Grandpa?

Books About the Death of a Sibling

The loss of a sibling can be extremely challenging for a child to go through. Using age appropriate literature to help them understand the grieving process can allow them to work through their emotions at their own pace and opens up a safe space for them to experience this process.

Books About the Death of a Friend

When a child loses a friend, it's important to find books that speak specifically to this particular loss. Some helpful options include:

Books Dealing with the Loss of a Pet

Losing a pet can be heartbreaking for a child. There are many children's books available that help young ones understand the death of a pet.

  • When a Pet Dies by Fred Rogers for children ages four through eight. Through this book, the infamous Mr. Rogers helps children understand the loss of a family pet. It helps them explore their feelings of sadness and loneliness.
  • The Tenth Good Thing About Barney by Judith Viorst is written for children ages four and older. In helping to deal with the death of his cat, the boy in this book makes a list of the 10 things he liked about him.
  • No Dogs Allowed! by Bill Wallace is written for children ages nine through 12. This book helps a young girl process the death of a pet horse through learning to love a new pet dog.
  • Remembering Ruby: For Families Living Beyond the Loss of a Pet by Melisa Wells was written for young teens. This book is about a young boy and his family learning to cope after the illness and death of their pet dog, Ruby.
  • Cat Heaven by Cynthia Rylant discusses where cats go after they die and all the fun things that the cat gets to do. This author also wrote a book about the death of a pet dog as well. These stories are appropriate for children four and older.
    When a Pet Dies
    When a Pet Dies

Books for Very Young Children

Young children may struggle to comprehend the dying process. Selecting books that cater to your child's specific age group can be helpful as they move through this difficult process.

  • I Heard Your Daddy Died by Mark Scrivani is aimed for children ages two to six. This book explains that it is OK to be sad; it also has ideas to help the child remember the parent.
  • Nana Upstairs, Nana Downstairsby Tomie dePaola is a story about a four-year-old boy's relationship with his grandparents. In this book, a young child discusses feelings about the death of his grandmother, but finds ways to stay connected to her.
  • Always and Forever by Alan Durant tells the story of how Mole, Otter, and Hare deal with the death of their friend Fox. This story was written for preschoolers.
  • The Empty Place by Roberta Temes is about a boy who loses his sister. This book works well for kids ages three and up and assists with healthy coping and identifying emotions.
  • The Goodbye Book by Todd Parr is a story about a fish who loses his friend. This book helps little ones process their feelings and better understand the complex grieving process.
    The Empty Place: A Child's Guide Through Grief (Let's Talk)
    The Empty Place: A Child's Guide Through Grief (Let's Talk)

Books As a Gateway to Discussion

Books can be incredible tools for helping children understand and process the death of a loved one or a pet. Every child is unique and will work through the grieving process at their own pace, with their own ups and downs. Grief counseling can also be a helpful option in addition to finding appropriate literature.

31 Thoughtful Children's Books About Death and Dying