My heart is heavy as I write this post. Oh, how I wish we lived in a world where innocent children didn’t have to know the pain of losing a loved one! Sadly, the reality is that most children will experience a loss of a close relative or friend sometime in their youth. Topical children’s books can offer great opportunities for conversing with your child about his/her feelings in a casual, non-intimidating manner.
I’ve compiled a list of books I believe are beneficial for helping children cope with the loss of a loved one. Please note: I am a Bible-believing Christian. My belief in God, Jesus, and Heaven obviously influence my choice in books that deal with such sensitive issues such as death and the afterlife. I have included a thorough synopsis of each book, so you should be able to get a good indication of the book’s content and the perspective from which it is written.
Heaven is for Real for Kids as told by Colton Burpo
If your child has ever asked, “What is Heaven like?” then this is the book for you! I read the original Heaven is for Real about 6 months ago and I found it to be so comforting and encouraging in my faith. If you are unfamiliar with this book, it is the story of Colton Burpo–a three-year old who claims he went to Heaven during his emergency appendectomy surgery. The details that he shares with his parents are incredibly accurate to the scriptures that talk about Heaven in the Bible. The picture book for children is filled with beautiful illustrations. It is written in first-person as though Colton is sitting in the chair next to you, sharing details from a vacation. Every page also has an additional scripture reference that validates Colton’s message. I will definitely be buying this book to keep in our home library because I feel that it paints a beautiful picture of Heaven that kids can understand while also being extremely compatible with what we know about Heaven from Scripture.
Samantha Jane’s Missing Smile by Julie Kaplow and Donna Pincus
This is the story of a young girl named Samantha Jane (Sammy Jane) who lost her smile after her dad died. She doesn’t want to do anything that she used to do, because everything brings back memories of her dad and makes her want to cry. A wise neighbor, who has known Sammy Jane since she was a baby, encourages her by saying, “Crying can be a very good way to wash some of your sad feelings out, so there’s more room for happy feelings to get in.” This sweet woman also helps Sammy Jane to realize that even though she can’t see or feel her Daddy, that he will always be a part of her life through the memories that she carries of him. Everywhere she looks around her, she can see things that remind her of her dad. This book also addresses the guilt that children (and adults) can sometimes have if they smile, laugh, or have fun after their loved one has died and dismisses the idea that a child shouldn’t talk about their loved one with other family members for fear of making them sad. There is also a very helpful note to parents at the end that provides lots of relevant information to help a child cope with the death of a loved one (written by two clinical Psychologists).
What is Heaven Like? by Beverly Lewis
Two siblings sit in a tree house, missing their grandpa and reflecting on something he told them before he died: “Don’t be too sad. We’ll see each other again someday.” The two children want to find out more and set out to discover what Heaven is like. They decide to ask everyone around them: the mail carrier, a teacher, the librarian, the ice cream truck man, the dentist, a zookeeper, and a neighbor. Finally, the little boy goes to his mom and tells her about his interviews. She helps clarify some things and encourages him to talk to both her and their father. Later, the children’s Grandma answers an important question: “How do I know if I will go to heaven when I die?” This is the only book of the five I read that tackles this tough question. Here is a quote directly from the book:
“God’s only son, the Lord Jesus, came to our world as a tiny baby. Then, when Jesus grew to be a man–when it was just the right time–He died to take away our sins…God wants us to love Him back, but the choice is ours. We can either obey Him or go our own way. If you believe in Jesus–and trust Him to forgive your sins–you can be sure you are going to Heaven.”
Although I think there were some liberties taken that aren’t necessarily true in scripture (getting to eat whatever you want and do whatever you want, for example), overall this book paints a comforting picture of Heaven in a way that a child can understand.
The Invisible String by Patrice Karst
This book is appropriate in any situation where a child is separated from a loved one (death, a deployment, school separation, children being shuttled back and forth to divorced parents, etc.). The premise of this book is, “People who love each other are always connected by a very special String made of love.” The string can reach anyone, anywhere…even loved ones in Heaven! The String can’t go away, even when you’re angry or upset. I really enjoyed this book and think it can be used in a variety of different situations. It is short and interesting enough to capture the attention of children.
Someone I Love Died by Christine Harder Tangvald
This is a book I recently picked up at our local Christian bookstore. One thing I really like about this book is it can be personalized. There are places for a child to draw pictures of how they are feeling, what they look like they are sad, etc. as well as places to fill in the blanks of the name of the person who died and other information as well. This book goes into a lot of detail about death, including details about how the soul continues to live but the body is like an empty house. It was explained extremely well (and is Biblically-based), but it might be a book best read to the child by someone who isn’t super-close to the deceased as I would imagine it to be quite difficult to read without getting totally choked up. This book also talks about Heaven and how Jesus opens the door to Heaven when we accept him as our Savior. It doesn’t go into great detail about Heaven, saying:
“We don’t know exactly where Heaven is or what it is like. But we don’t have to know, because God knows. But we do know Heaven is wonderful. It is not a sad or scary place to be. It is a happy place, a fun place, a terrific place. In fact, Heaven is better than the very best place you can think of.”
The following books were recommended by readers. I have not personally read them, but you can read the comments to see how they have helped hurting families:
:: Someone Came Before You (for talking to children who have older siblings who were stillborn or died as infants)
Has your family dealt with the loss of a loved one? What books did you find comforting to share with your child(ren)???
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