Easy reader and picture books about death and grieving for children
July 8, 2017 4:18 PM   Subscribe

My mother was put on palliative/hospice care on Thursday. I need help explaining this to my son. I'm looking for picture books and easy reader books with some illustrations to help explain death and grieving.

My son is 13 and on the spectrum with severe ADHD, anxiety disorder with panic attacks, and OCD. We lived as a multi-generational house until my divorce when K was nine, so he's bonded close to his Mim.

I've explained things as plainly as I can in the simplest of terms - sometimes when we get very sick, our bodies can't handle it and we die. When someone dies we don't see them anymore, but we can remember them and talk about them. That it's okay to be sad and cry.

We had a cat Windsor that he loved, and when Windsor died we explained it this way, but he still asks if we can go find Windsor EVERY DAY, and if he asks to see his Mim every day it's going to break my heart.

I need a picture book or easy reader with some pictures that explains death and grieving without bringing God and heaven into this. We're athiest to begin with, and it's such an abstract concept that I'm not sure he'll grasp it being a can I see it, touch it, taste it kind of world explorer. Also I need to avoid references to "going to sleep" so he's not afraid sleeping leads to dying.

If you have ASD family and have been through this, any advice you can give would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you.
posted by 80 Cats in a Dog Suit to Human Relations (11 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Tear Soup, by Pat Schwiebert
posted by fancyoats at 4:22 PM on July 8, 2017 [2 favorites]

I'm sorry -- this is hard. Maria Popova over at brainpickings.org often recommends children's books about grieving and death. Roundup here.
posted by apparently at 4:24 PM on July 8, 2017 [1 favorite]

I'm so very sorry to hear you are going through this. "The Dead Bird" by Margaret Wise Brown is super simple and very straightforward.
posted by mmf at 4:24 PM on July 8, 2017

I'm not sure if this might be too young, but The Goodbye Book by Todd Parr might be a place to start?

Here's a list of books dealing with death & bereavement, as well.
posted by modesty.blaise at 5:37 PM on July 8, 2017

The Fall of Freddie the Leaf: A Story of Life for All Ages was given to me when my mother died. It is not religious and does not address "life after death" in any sense - I'd suggest taking a look at the reviews on Amazon and, if possible, checking it out at the library/book store to see if it might work for your son.
posted by VioletU at 6:08 PM on July 8, 2017 [1 favorite]

The Tenth Good Thing About Barney is a book that leaves open the question of what happens after you die and talks a lot about the feelings (related to a kid whose cat died). It's good
posted by hungrytiger at 8:54 PM on July 8, 2017

THIS LINK is what I meant to paste at the beginning of my comment above....silly night shift brain! Sorry for the otherwise useless comment which appears above...

(the link the beginning of this second attempt at a useful post) is a page for helping kids on the spectrum, and I suspect the book list would be helpful if nothing else. There a ton of kids books on death, but I suspect that some of them would be difficult and abstract for you son. As hard as very literal language and concrete statements are to make, they are likely the easiest for your son.

If you have access to someone who can help you make social stories (SLP/OT or maybe even child life department where your mom is getting care), this might be a perfect thing to do for him. If you know what will likely be the process after your mom has died, you can make a social story to explain it in advance, even if you save it to share with him at that time (but have no energy to make it at that point). This could cover funeral/burial/visitors, etc as you expect will happen. I'm sorry you have to go through this.
posted by Northbysomewhatcrazy at 9:24 PM on July 8, 2017

Children's librarian here. There's not a ton in board books on the topic, but in picture books I recommend:

-Everett Andersons Goodbye
-Duck, Death, and the Tulip
-Cry Heart, But Never Break

I also second The Dead Bird.
Obviously, you will want to give each a read through first to decide what might resonate with your child.
posted by donut_princess at 4:26 AM on July 9, 2017 [1 favorite]

The Paper Dolls by Julia Donaldson may be too young for your son, but it does a great job of explaining mortality and the passing of time in a very subtle way. A girl makes paper dolls, and they get cut up, but they remain forever in her memory, and when she grows up she makes paper dolls with her daughter. The text is pretty clear and direct, and there is a repetitive song in it which may help to cement the ideas. I love it and the pictures are beautiful! All the best to your and your son.xx
posted by low_horrible_immoral at 1:07 PM on July 9, 2017

I third The Dead Bird, by Margaret Wise Brown, recently illustrated by Christian Robinson is such a great book about death and funeral rites.

I also like Michael Rosen's Sad Book, but it might be a little bit too feelings based for your child.
posted by momochan at 7:40 PM on July 9, 2017 [1 favorite]

For those interested, I went with Is Daddy Coming Back in a Minute? and it's sequel.

Thank you all so much.
posted by 80 Cats in a Dog Suit at 5:56 AM on July 10, 2017 [2 favorites]

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