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Loss and grief aren’t things I like to talk about, but they are a part of life. And they are a part of kids life. Whether that loss is death, absence, or something else, I hope these picture books about loss and grief can give you and your child a way to talk about these tough topics.

Picture Books About Loss and Grief

The Rough Patch by Brian Lies

This book recently won the Caldecott honor, and for good reason. It’s a beautifully woven story of how loss changes everything. When Evan’s dog dies, he’s grief-stricken. He tears up the garden they had loved together. He tends the ugly weeds that grow and reflect his mood. But goodness creeps back in, and Evan’s garden and heart both begin to heal.

My Big Dumb Invisible Dragon by Angie Lucas illustrated by Birgitta Sif

When a boys mother dies, he feels like a big, dumb, invisible dragon has moved in. It sits on his chest. Weighs him down. Keeps him from doing the things he’d normally enjoy. But, he finds that with time, even if it never disappears, that dragon isn’t quite so big and terrible. The mom’s death is dealt with very gently.

The Heart and the Bottle by Oliver Jeffers

This book opens with a little girl, curious and full of joy, until she looses a parent. To keep her heart safe, she hides it in a bottle where nothing can hurt it. But when she’s grown and wants to take it out again, she can’t. Only a child can help her find a way. This is one of those books that holds an extra layer of meaning and emotion for the parent reader.

The Funeral by Matt James

I expected this book to be irreverent–two kids having fun at a funeral?–but it’s actually very respectful. Norma didn’t know her great-uncle Frank. So even though her mom is sad, Norma is excited to see her favorite cousin at the funeral. This book is very childlike and contains some profound questions. It ends with Norma and her cousin playing in the churchyard and Norma concluding Uncle Frank would have liked his funeral. This book isn’t so much for a child who is grieving, but is a good book to help them understand what a funeral is any why other people might be sad.

Boats for Papa by Jessixa Bagley

Buckley, a little beaver misses his Papa and tries to send toy boats to him every night. One day, he finds that his boats never reached Papa. Mama has been collecting them and keeping them safe, just as she has been keeping her son safe. The story ends with Mama finding Buckley’s last boat with a note to her instead of Papa.

When Sadness is at Your Door by Eva Eland

This book isn’t about loss in particular but about the way sadness can be as palpable as a person. I love the way this book helps assure the child that sadness isn’t something you have to get rid of. It’s a feeling that’s ok to have. But there are ways to cope with it and eventually feel better. 

Ocean Meets Sky by the Fan Brothers

Finn misses his grandfather. So he builds a boat to take the trip they had planned together to where ocean meets sky. Finn dreams a fantastical journey and a chance to say goodbye.

The Remember Balloons by Jessie Oliveros illustrated by Dana Wulfekotte

This book is about a different kind of loss–the loss of memories. In this story, balloons are memories, and Grandpa has some fantastic ones. But little by little, Grandpa has let his balloons go. The child is upset. Then he realizes those stories now belong to him, and he can share them with his Grandpa.

The Rabbit Listened by Cori Doerrfeld

I can’t say enough good things about this book. I also reviewed it in my post about helping kids deal with big emotions. Talyor builds something amazing, but gets upset when it’s knocked down. Different animals come by to tell Taylor how to deal with big emotions. Until, finally, the rabbit does the best thing of all and just listens. This would also be a great book for kids whose friends are dealing with loss.

What books about loss and grief have helped your family?