Many children lose someone that they love early in their lives. Whether the loss is of a parent, grandparent, friend, or beloved pet, understanding death, its permanency, and all of the ways that it touches our lives is a complicated matter. Whether we’re ready or not, grief and loss are a part of everyday life – and we can’t always shelter our students from them, or the pain that they bring. Sometimes, we have to deal with the subject head on, and try to be a resource to help children understand and deal with the tragedy around them.
Death is a difficult subject that can be very hard to explain, and even more difficult for little ones to understand. No adult knows how to answer questions like, “But where did they go? When will they be back?” Children are curious, and expressing feelings can be tough – it’s hard to know if your child understands the gravity of the situation, or if the way they’re reacting is “normal”. If there’s one thing that I’ve learned, it’s that when it comes to learning about loss and pain, there’s no such thing as “normal”. But if you feel like your child, or you, needs assistance to get through a difficult situation, please contact a professional for help.
Sometimes the easiest way to teach the concept is through stories that approach death or loss in a sensitive, gentle way. ChildrensBooksGuide.com offers a list of five wonderful resources to compassionately explain death and loss to your child through a story in their article, Children’s Books About Death and Dying. These stories are a great stepping stone to discussion and, eventually, understanding. Click the link above or the photo below to see their suggestions, and take a look through the additional list of resources at the bottom of the page.
Another great list complete with summaries and suggestions of how to use the books with your child comes from the National Association of School Psychologists. Recommended Books for Children Coping with Loss or Trauma can be found here.
Other great resources on talking to your family about death, loss, and tragedy:
- From the lovable and wise legacy of Mr. Rogers, fredrogers.org’s Dealing with Death
- The Dougy Center’s suggestions for schools impacted by tragedy, When Death Impacts your School
- For teachers or loving adults not in parenting roles that are still looking to be a part of the healing process, Scholastic offers Death and Loss: Helping Children Manage their Grief
- If you’re interested in resources especially geared toward students with special needs, the Autism Speaks organization offers a list of Bereavement and Grief Resources that may be helpful
Many of these books are available to be checked out from the Jefferson Madison Regional Library, or you may choose to purchase a copy and keep it in your home for future conversations. No matter the route that you choose, your child is sure to have questions, worries, and fears; I hope that some of these resources help.