While this topic is certainly not fun to discuss, I feel strongly that parents who are empowered with support and resources can successfully help their children through the stress of grief, loss, death and dying. It can be especially helpful to have these resources before an event occurs to decrease the stress of trying to come up with the right words to effectively communicate with a child. Some of my favorite books to use with children when explaining death and dying include:
I Miss You: A First Look at Death
By: Pat Thomas
This book helps children understand that death is a natural thing and that the intense feelings of grief are normal. It helps to put words to the feelings a child may be experiencing and is helpful to parents when words are difficult to come up with.
When Dinosaurs Die: A Guide to Understanding Death
By: Laurie Krasny Brown
This book explains many different aspects of death and does a great job of explaining that death can occur in many different forms, not just when a person is really old.
Tear Soup: A Recipe for Healing After Loss
By: Pat Schwiebert and Chuck DeKlyen
I love this book for teens and adults. It is all about the recipe for healing and how each person will add different ingredients to make it a personal experience.
Help Me Say Goodbye: Activities for Helping Kids Cope When a Special Person Dies
By: Janis Silverman
This activity book can be started when a loved one is dying or after death. It is a great combination of thoughtful topics and normalizing the experience which is important for kids. It also gives them something to do which is so important when things seem out of control.
Along with books, there are some amazing resources on the internet that can help children understand death and dying. These resources can be used by parents as a guide and starting point or children can get on these websites and safely explore the topic of death in a non-threatening way.
The Dougy Center is a National Center for Grieving Children and Families in Portland, OR. This organization has so much to offer, however, it is not always feasible for families to travel to Oregon so they have created a wonderful website that includes different resources for all ages. There is a page specifically created to help parents know what to expect from their children and activities for kids and teens to process the death they have experienced.
Sesame Street also has an amazing website dedicated to helping families through the grieving process. This website has numerous resources that can be downloaded and printed for families to support each other during times of loss. They have also created a long list of resources including camps and counseling centers around the country that specialize in work with children and families after a loss.