One of the most difficult tasks a parent has to face is talking to their children about death. Whatever your beliefs, this is not an easy conversation to have, as it is hard for children to understand abstract concepts, no matter how beautiful, when faced with the very concrete loss of a loved one. Here are two children’s books about death that have helped me talk to my own kids about this difficult subject.
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Children’s Books About Death
In The New King young Prince Rakoto learns that his father has died and one by one commands the royal courtiers to revive him. When they are unable to meet his demand, the grieving child turns to a wise old woman, who comforts him with a Malagasy folktale. From this the prince learns that the first humans chose to live their lives like the banana plant, which sends out new shoots so that it would live on through them even after it dies, just as people live on through their children. Author Doreen Rappaport (who also wrote Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.) draws on this beautiful metaphor to create a powerful book that will resonate with children emotionally.
A friend introduced me to Mema Says Goodbye, and I’m so glad she did. It is a wonderful, gentle book about death in terms that young children can understand. Mema is dying from cancer and so is forced to explain to them why she is leaving and where she will go. This book is from a Bahá’í perspective but uses terminology and metaphors anyone can relate to. My favorite is the idea of God as a gardener moving a sick plant to another spot in the divine garden where it can thrive. The book strikes just the right tone of acknowledging grief while at the same time rising above it to focus on the joy of death and the idea that spiritual relationships outlast the death of the physical body. It was helpful not just for my kids but for me too when my grandmother passed away recently.
For more ideas on talking to children about death and life after death you can read this guest post from my friend Varya.
How do you approach the subject of death with young children?