Understanding Grief: Mourning and Death described through Children’s B – Cardinal Rule Press
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Understanding Grief: Mourning and Death described through Children’s Books

When discussing death amongst children, grief and the mourning process is a difficult topic to convey. Whether it is due to the death of a close friend or family member, grief is a deep emotion that expresses itself in many ways, and each person handles it differently. Cardinal Rule Press tries to help children understand grief through the book The Heavy Bag by Sarah Surgey. In this new title, a young girl named Enid loses her Grandfather and must deal with the loss. She attempts to put all of her physical reminders of her Grandfather in a bag and carries it with her., she runs into different people who help her carry the burden of her loss and remind her that even after her Grandfather passed, she carries the warm memories of him and their interactions with her. Through the kindness of others, Enid is able to express her love for her Grandpa while lightening the load of her grief; hence, her “heavy bag” becomes lighter.

While grief is sad, this book beautifully conveys the mourning process and focuses on the good memories with loved ones. Beyond The Heavy Bag, I have included several other children’s book recommendations that artistically represent grief in an easily digestible way.

#1. Okay to Cry by Diana Hustell

This story discusses the topic of coping with the loss of a parent, and is recommended for children ages 4-10. It is part of a series by Hustell titled “Understanding My World” that goes over several different topics. This book follows Starr, a young girl who loses her father to a long-term illness and goes through the stages of grief and a range of emotions in response. From my experience with this book, I think it beautifully depicts how one feels from the loss of a loved one, particularly one who has been battling an illness. I highly recommend this book so that children can learn their emotions are valid in every situation, even grief.

#2. Under the Mango Tree: A celebration of life after life by Robyn Fok

Compared to the other stories, Under the Mango Tree focuses on dealing with the loss of a pet and how their memories live on through their owners and loved ones. This book is beautifully illustrated and discusses this topic in a lighthearted yet respectful manner, as both the loss of people and pets are difficult to deal with. This book is based on Fok’s own experience with pet loss and how they buried their beloved pet under a mango tree and carry on their message through this book. 

Here at Cardinal Rule Press, we are happy to help you with resources for your bookstore or library. Click HERE for your freebie!

#3. When Someone Dies: A Children’s Mindful How-To Guide on Grief and Loss by Andrea Dorn, who is a mother, author, and psychotherapist in social work She wrote this book to help children process grief in the form of a “process story”, which has different steps and tips embedded throughout the story, such as questions on each page, as well as other engagement tools for parents and teachers to integrate into their story time. This book follows the main character, who shares the same name as the reader and guides them through the process of saying goodbye to loved ones.

#4. I Will Always Carry You in My Heart: A Children’s Story about Grief and Loss by Charles Hills

This book follows a young boy named Benjamin, who is a curious soul with questions about the world around him. He has many questions about things he does not understand, ranging from different degrees, from grammar to death. This curiosity leads to a range of emotions that Benjamin’s father helps him understand and cope with. Benjamin hears his mother's voice while living with his father and uses her memory to move on with his life while respecting her. I enjoyed this story, particularly experiencing it through Benjamin’s thought process and how imaginative his coping strategies are.

#5. Lost in the Clouds: A gentle story to help children understand death and grief by Tom Tinn-Disbury

Lost in the Clouds is the story of a young boy, Billy, who loses his mother and copes with her loss by picturing her spirit in the clouds and the weather and how it changes the clouds. I think this book is an adorable concept that helps children understand life after death and how people “see” their loved ones through different things (for example, I see a cardinal and automatically associate it with a dear friend, Phil). The illustrations are adorable, and the “not bearing the storm alone” message is beautiful.

#6. The Good Mourning: A Kid's Support Guide for Grief and Mourning Death by Seldon Peden II

As a book written by a young boy for children, this book knocks it out of the park for discussing grief. This book is easy to read for children, as it was written by someone from that age group, and it allows a comfortable conversation that discusses the emotions involved in the mourning process; going over the emotions, thoughts, and pain that is involved with losing a loved one. I credit Seldon Peden II seriously, as this book is an amazing text addressing a difficult topic.

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Emma Bender is a Michigan State University student studying Literature and History while being the Vice President of the English Honor Society, Sigma Tau Delta. Her goal is to go into the publishing industry, and in her spare time, she works at a coffee shop and bookstore and loves books, music, and movies.

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