Dealing With Death

By: Lisa Sammarco


Death is an enevidable part of life. At some point in life everyone will be faced with a loss of a loved one. Often times people are ill equipped to deal with the loss of someone close to them. When a child experiences death directly, whether through the death of a pet or a loved one, it is an emotional time that must be dealt with. I have found through my research that there is a lot of childrens literature out there that can aid a child though the greiving process. The following web page is dedicated to books that could be used in a third through fifth grade classroom. There are also several book that could be used at higher grade levels.

Picture Books:

The Fall of Freddie the Leaf
     Buscaglia, Leo. The Fall of Freddie the Leaf. Henry Holt and Company, Incorporated, 1982.
      This is a simple story of a leaf named Freddie. Freddie and his other leaf companions change throughout the seasons. In the fall they begin to change until they finally fall to the ground in the winter. This book illustrates the balance between life and death. This book touches the hearts of both young and old.

When Dinosaurs Die: A Guide to Understanding Death
      Brown, Laurie. When Dinosaurs Die: A Guide to Understanding Death. Little, Brown, and
            Company,  1998. Ilustrator: Marc Brown
     This is a simple book that uses dinosaurs to talk about death. It uses simple language to explain feelings children may have regarding the loss of a loved one. It also talks about how children can honor the memory of someone that has passed. This book is a part of a series on books for children who are going through rough times, such as divorce.

  I'll Always Love You
   Wilhelm, Hans . I’ll Always Love You. Crown Books for Young Readers, 1985.
       In this story, Elfie, a dachshund, and her specail boy go through life happily together. Then one morning something tragic happens, Elfie dies. The family greives for their loss and buries her. This book allow people to bring back the happiness and allow the greiving process to begin. Anyone that owns a pet should have this book in their household.

A Special Place For Charlee
    Morehead, Debby. A Special Place for Charlee: A Child's Companion through Pet Loss. Partners in
            Publishing,LLC, 1996.
   A story about how a boy copes with the loss of his dog, Charlee and how his parents learn how to help him throughout the painful, but important process of grief.

What Happens When We Die?
      Nysrom, Carolyn. What Happens When We Die?. New York: Moody Press, 1992.
       Ilustrator: Eria Reeves
     This is a very simple book that talks about death, heaven, and Christ's death and resurrection. Children have many questions about the Christian life. This award-winning series will help you answer questions while spurring them on to godly living.

The Day I Saw My Father Cry
      Cosby, Bill. The Day I Saw My Father Cry. New York: Scholastic, Inc.,1999.
   This wonderful book was written by the actor Bill Cosby. Little Bill confronts two powerful emotions, anger and grief - in this important story in which Little Bill loses a special friend. The colorful drawings and simple language help to teach one of lifes lessons. This book is a good pick for a first book on greif/loss.

What on Earth Do You Do When Someone Dies?
     Romain, Trevor . What on Earth Do You Do When Someone Dies. Free Spirit Publishing, 1999.
      This book discusses all of the complex emotions that are involved in dealing with the death of a loved one. After discussing the emotions it discusses how to cope with the situation. The author answers questions about the topic in simple and honest ways. He describes the strong and complex feelings that someone may have and then goes on to talk about ways in which they can cope with their loss. This is an excellent book for children to use when they are experiencing a loss of their own.

Someday Heaven
      Libby, Larry . Someday Heaven. New York: Zondervan, 2001.
   Heaven is a topic that is extremely hard to explain to children. In this book Larry Libby uses simple, comforting words to explain the mysteries of Heaven to children. Heaven is a topic that creates questions in the minds of both young and old. This book is an excellent source to bring some understanding into the minds of both young and old.

Badger's Parting Gifts
      Varley, Susan. Badger's Parting Gifts. Lothrop, Lee and Shepard Books, 1984.
       Badger knows he's going to die very soon, so he makes sure he gives his secrets away to all his old friends. When Bager dies his friends are sad but they treasure the memories he left them. The book shows the transformation that his friends went through. They transform their grief by seeing how Badger lives on in the parting gifts he left them. Through the memories they share about his gifts they are able to find strength for the future.

Sun and Spoon
     Henkes, Kevin . Sun and Spoon. Penguin Books for Young Readers, 1998.
      When ten year old Spoon's grandmother dies he tries to find artifacts to preserve his memories of her. Spoon is observing changes in his gradfather after his grandmothers death and wants to preserve his memories of his grandmother. This story is exceptionally written. Henkes hadels the topic with care while at the same time creating a story that will interest all children, even those who had not dealt with death. It give a lot of valuable advice for dealing with the death of a loved one.

Granddad's Prayer of the Earth
     Wood, Douglas. Granddads Prayer of the Earth. Candlewick Press, 1999.
            Illustrator: Patrick James Lynch
       This is a very moving book about a young boy and his grandfather. The boy and his grandfather are vey close and go on many walks in the wood. One day, while on one of their walks the young boy asks his grandfather about prayers. The grandfather then explains prayers to his grandson. When the grandfather dies the boy uses what his grandfather told him about prayers to comfort him through the greiving process. The illustrations in this book beautifully brings this story to life.

When Someone Very Special Dies
       Heegaard, Marge. When Someone Very Special Dies: Children Can Learn to Cope With Grief.
                Woodland Press, 1992.
      This book taught the basic concepts of death and helps children understand and express the many feelings they have when someone specail dies. Communication is increased and coping skills are developed throughout reading this book. What I like about this book is you could use your own personal stories to illustrate the book.

The Memory String
      Bunting, Eve. The Memory String. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2000. Illustrator: Ted Rand
    Each button on Laura's memory string represents a peice of her family history. While Laura is grieving for her mother and unable to accpet her stepmother, she clings to the memories represented by forty three buttons on a peice of string. The buttons the she charishes the most are the buttons from her mother, there is one from her prom dress and one from her wedding gown and so on. When the string breaks her stepmother tries ot comfort her and help her to find all of the peices, like her mother would have. The only problem is, she is not her mother. This is a wonderful book about family realtionships, traditions, and healing.


pink  flowers


Five Chinese Brothers
     Bishop, Claire. Five Chinese Brothers. The Putman Publishing Group, 1989.
   This is a floktale about five identical brothers, each with an unusual tallent. When one brother is sentenced to death for a crime that he did not commit, each brother uses their own specail talent to stand up for their brother, so that he can escape his punishment. After four tries, the judges decide the brother sentenced to death is not guilty and all five brothers live happily ever after with their mother for many years.

The Flute Player
    Lacapa, Micheal. The Flute Player. Arizona: Northland Publishing, 1997.
     The tale explains that the sound of wind echoing through the canyons comes from the flute of a young brave serenading his sweetheart. When the young man goes on his first hunt without telling her, she is sure she's been forgotten; she becomes
ill, and dies. Returning home, the boy learns of her death, and continues to play his flute at her grave.


Novel/ Chapter Books:

blue ball Bridge To Terabithia
     Katherine Paterson . Bridge to Terabithia . Happer Collins Children's Books, 1987.
       All summer long, Jess pushed himself to be the fastest boy in the fifth grade but when the first race comes he is beat by a newcomer, a girl. Then unexpectedly Jess finds himslef sticking up for this girl. Leslie and Jess's friendship grows over time. Leslie draws Jess into her magical world called Terabithia. There they rain until an unexpected tragedy forces Jess to reign alone. This is a story of friendship and courage that touches on my of life's lessons.

Mick Harte Was Here
     Park, Barbara Park. Mick Harte Was Here. Random House Books for Young Readers, 1996.
       This is Phoebe's story about her younger brohter and best friend, Mick, who dies in a bicycle accident. Her struggle to accept his death and deal with her own is told in the touching narrative of a thirteen year old girl that will make you laugh and cry at the same time.

Shades of Gray
      Reeder, Carolyn. Shades of Gray. New York:Simon and Schuster Children's, 1999.
     At the end of the Civil War, twelve year old Will, has lost all of his immediate family. He is forced to leave his city home to live in the Virginia countryside with his aunt and uncle. This book captures the hardships that the death of the war brought about.

Charlotte's Web
    White, E.B.Charlotte’s Web . New York: Haper Collins Publishers, 1974.
      This is a story of a little girl named Fern who loved a litle pig named Wilbur and Wilbur's dear friendCharoltte, a beutiful spider who lived in Wilbur's barn. With the help of Templeton, the rat, and wondering up a plan of their own, Charoltte saves the life of Wilbur. This books depicts life and death, the passage of time, and the wonders of nature with sensitivity and humor.

On My Honor
    Bauer, Marion. On My Honor . Bantam Doubleday Dell Books for Young Readers, 1987.
   This is a very heavy book. It is about two twelve year old boys, Joel and Tony. When Tony wants Joel to go ride his bike with him in the state park Joel is unwilling. When he finally decided he will go he promises his dad "On his honor" he will be safe. When Joel follows Tony into the lake for a swim, Tony drowns in the dirty, turbulant water. Now Joel is left all alone to face his guilty conscience, and his father, alone.



The Tenth Good Thing About Barney
      Viorst, Judith. Tenth Good Thing About Barney. Simon and Schuster Children, 1971.
            Illustrator: Erik Blegvad
   The family cat, Barney dies and the family decides to have a funeral. The mother asks her son to say ten good things about Barney. The problem is he only knows nine things. Later, when he is talking to his dad he discovers the ninth thing, and this is when he begins to understand. This story talks about all of the emotions that each of the family members are experiencing. The book also brings up the issue of the afterlife. This book was originally published as a poem and has now been turned into a book. This book can be used to help a child get through the loss of a pet.



When a Pet Dies
     Rogers, Fred . When a Pet Dies. New York: The Putman Publishing Group, 1998.
             Photographer: Jim Judkis
       This book is about a hispanic family whose dog dies and a white family whose cat dies. This book goes through all of the feelings that the grieving child goes through. It talks about how the parents help the children cope with their loss. It talks about everything from the questions that the children had to the funeral that they conduct for their deceased pets. This book comes from the First Experience series written by the star of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood helps children share feelings of the lose of a pet while offering reassurance that grieving is natural.

I Miss You: A First Look at Death
   Thomas, Pat . I Miss You: A First Look at Death. New York: Barron’s Educational Series,
            Incorporated, 2001. Illustrator: Lesley Harker
   When a family member or close friend dies it can be very hard for a child. This books helps children explore their
 feelings about the subject. This book helps children to understand personal feelings and social problems so that they can better deal with them. Written by a psychotherapist, these books promote positive interaction among children, parents, and teachers. What I liked about this book was it had simple text that was easy for young children to understand.


Surviving Hitler
    Warren,Andera. Surviving Hitler: A Boy in the Nazi Death Camps. New York: Harper Collins
        Children's Books, 2001.
   Living in Poland, Jake Mandelbaum is hardly aware that he is Jewish. Than Hilter comes into power and everything chances. He is forced to work for the Nazi's and then torn away from his family. Each day is a struggle for Jake to survive. Jake's friends tell him to think of it as a game and to not take anything personally. But life in these camps is brutal and Hilter's guards are skilled at ruining prisoner's spirits.


Web Pages:

Elisabeth Kuble Ross
    Elisabeth Kuble Ross is a psychiatrist and well respected authority on death and the greiving process.

  Talking with children of all ages about death
        Annotated bibliography for children of all ages on the topic of death.

Dealing With Death and Dying
    This teacher net page gives idea for dealing with death in health class.

Professional Journals

Naierman, Naomi.Reaching out to grieving studnets. Educational Leadership. 55 (Oct. 1997): 62-5

Dakos, Kalli. Poetry feeds the spirit. Instructor. 110.7 (April 2001): 33-6

December 13, 2002