The best books for guiding your child through grief

Who am I?

In the past ten years, I have had to guide my young children through two unexpected and tragic deaths of loved ones. Both times, I was struggling with my own grief and wasn’t sure what my kids understood or didn’t. I made a lot of mistakes (as my son’s therapist can attest) but through it all, I learned a great deal about how much children notice, how deeply they feel a loss, and how to tend to our own grief and our children’s. From that pain, I wrote You’ll Find Me, and since then, have been able to use that book as a jumping-off point to discuss grief with others.

I wrote...

Book cover of You'll Find Me

What is my book about?

Loss becomes remembrance in this book that offers tender ways to pay tribute to, and meaningfully incorporate, a loved one’s lost presence into present and future life experiences. Be it departed friends, family, pets, and more, memories can carry us beyond the precious moments we have together to keep the ones we loved before in mind forever.

Throughout the book the omnipresent narrator encourages thoughtful reflection on the empty spaces left by the loss. The gentle scenes portrayed inspire recovery from sadness and honor those who are absent. This lyrical heartful story provides consent and gently encourages readers to move to a place of peace and acceptance despite the absence.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Something Very Sad Happened: A Toddler's Guide to Understanding Death

Amanda Rawson Hill Why did I love this book?

About 9 months after my 3-year-old son sat in the room with us as his uncle quietly passed away, he began having panic attacks about dying. When I took him to a therapist, I realized that I’d done just about everything wrong in how I handled this loss with him. The therapist gave me this book.

The text is simple and focuses on what is important to the child, including what they are seeing in the people around them. Grief is scary to experience, and when you don’t quite understand what’s happening, it’s terrifying to watch your caretakers experience it. This book helps process all of that. I recommend inserting the name of the relative that died into all the places where the text mentions “grandma.”

By Bonnie Zucker, Kim Fleming (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Something Very Sad Happened as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

When a loved one dies, it can be hard to know how to explain it to a young child, particularly if you are grieving the loss yourself.

Sensitively written and gently illustrated, Something Very Sad Happened explains death in developmentally appropriate terms for two-and three-year-old childern. It reassures the child that it is okay to feel sad, and that love never dies.

Includes a Note to Parents and Caregivers with more information about how to talk about death, answer your child's questions, and maintain your connection throughout the grieving process.

Ages 2-3

Book cover of Death Is Stupid

Amanda Rawson Hill Why did I love this book?

One of the most frustrating parts of losing someone involves all the well-meaning but ultimately terrible things people say to you. It’s even harder for children who often have to grapple with euphemisms like “passed away” or “in a better place.” This book provides space to feel anger about these phrases and talk about why they don’t make sense. It also broaches feelings of missing, the scary feeling of seeing grownups grieve loudly, and gives little ideas for remembering your loved one, including providing a place in the back to write their name and paste in a picture.

By Anastasia Higginbotham,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Death Is Stupid as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


Part of the Ordinary Terrible Things series, the new and expanded edition of Death Is Stupid is an invaluable tool for discussing death, exploring grief, and honoring the life of our loved ones.

When someone we love dies, adults often say things like, "She's in a better place now," or "I know how you feel." You do not, one little boy thinks after his grandma passes away. Caught in the swirl of anger, confusion, and fear that accompanies grief and mourning, he doesn't just think death is unfair-he thinks death is stupid. It takes…

Book cover of The Rough Patch

Amanda Rawson Hill Why did I love this book?

Even though we always talk about how anger is part of grief, it is hard to truly understand the rage that can accompany losing someone until it happens to you. This goes doubly for children with even less control of their emotions. 

In The Rough Patch, Evan, a master gardener, deals with the aftermath of the death of his beloved pet dog. In a fit of rage, he rips out and completely destroys his garden, then only allows ugly and prickly weeds to grow, until one day, new life finds a way in.

A great way to let yourself and your young children know that anger and wanting to destroy things is very normal, and even though it doesn’t feel like it, new things will grow.

By Brian Lies,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Rough Patch as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 4, 5, 6, and 7.

What is this book about?

A Caldecott Honor Book

An ALA Notable Book

A breathtakingly beautiful and luminescent book that is pitch-perfect for anyone of any age who has experienced any type of loss or disappointment, from New York Times-bestselling picture book creator Brian Lies.

New York Times-bestselling author-illustrator Brian Lies has created a beautiful, accessible, and deeply personal story about friendship, loss, and renewal. The Rough Patch was awarded a Caldecott Honor and features stunning paintings from the award-winning creator of Bats at the Beach.

Evan and his dog do everything together, from eating ice cream to caring for their prize-winning garden, which grows…

Book cover of Our Tree Named Steve

Amanda Rawson Hill Why did I love this book?

I did not buy this book because I thought it was a grief book. I got it to do a tree unit for my kids’ preschool. But a year after my father-in-law (also named Steve) died unexpectedly, I couldn’t finish reading this book aloud without crying.

While not a traditional grief book, this is the story of a tree that has become inextricably intertwined with a family’s daily life, until one day a storm blows it over and the children come home to Steve in a new form, as a treehouse. A great way to discuss how we can find our lost loved ones in new ways.

By Alan Zweibel, David Catrow (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Our Tree Named Steve as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 4, 5, 6, and 7.

What is this book about?

Dear Kids, A long time ago, when you were little, Mom and I took you to where we wanted to build a house. . . . I remember there was one tree, however, that the three of you couldn’t stop staring at. . . .

After the family spares him from the builders, Steve the tree quickly works his way into their lives. He holds their underwear when the dryer breaks down, he’s there when Adam and Lindsay get their first crushes, and he’s the centerpiece at their outdoor family parties. With a surprising lack of anthropomorphizing, this is a…

Book cover of Rabbit and the Motorbike

Amanda Rawson Hill Why did I love this book?

When I picked up Rabbit and the Motorbike, I didn’t know it had a death in it. I grabbed it for the beautiful cover and artwork. But the story inside deeply resonated with me, especially so soon after releasing my own grief book. Rabbit has a friend, Dog, who rides all over on his motorbike and comes back and tells Rabbit all his great adventures. Rabbit never goes anywhere but he loves Dog’s stories. One day, Dog dies and leaves his motorbike to Rabbit. Rabbit is mystified. Why would Dog leave him his motorbike? Rabbit never goes anywhere. But then one day he does, and the whole world opens up and now Rabbit has stories of his own to tell.

A beautiful book about how life goes on after grief and learning to live fully and make our own stories.

By Kate Hoefler, Sarah Jacoby (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Rabbit and the Motorbike as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 5, 6, 7, and 8.

What is this book about?

Rabbit isn't sure he'll ever be brave enough to go on an adventure. He's a homebody who lives in a quiet field of wheat he dreams of leaving every night. His world is enlarged by his friend Dog and Dog's tales of motorbike adventures. But one day, Dog is gone, and with him, go the stories Rabbit loves so much. Dare Rabbit pick up the motorbike and live his own story? This timeless fable of the journey from grief to acceptance will touch every reader. For those confronting loss and those eager to explore and experience, Rabbit's bravery in the…

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Trouble in Queenstown

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Book cover of Trouble in Queenstown

Delia Pitts

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What is my book about?

Vandy Myrick became a cop to fulfill her father’s expectations. After her world cratered, she became a private investigator to satisfy her own desires. Now she’s back in Queenstown, New Jersey, her childhood home, in search of solace and recovery.

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Trouble in Queenstown

By Delia Pitts,

What is this book about?

With Trouble in Queenstown, Delia Pitts introduces private investigator Vandy Myrick in a powerful mystery that blends grief, class, race, and family with thrilling results.

Evander “Vandy” Myrick became a cop to fulfill her father’s expectations. After her world cratered, she became a private eye to satisfy her own. Now she's back in Queenstown, New Jersey, her childhood home, in search of solace and recovery. It's a small community of nine thousand souls crammed into twelve square miles, fenced by cornfields, warehouses, pharma labs, and tract housing. As a Black woman, privacy is hard to come by in "Q-Town," and…

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