The best books for guiding your child through grief

Amanda Rawson Hill Author Of You'll Find Me
By Amanda Rawson Hill

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...

You'll Find Me

By Amanda Rawson Hill, Joanne Lew-Vriethoff (illustrator),

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.

The books I picked & why

Shepherd is reader supported. We may earn an affiliate commission when you buy through links on our website. This is how we fund this project for readers and authors (learn more).

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

By Bonnie Zucker, Kim Fleming (illustrator),

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

Why 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.”

Death Is Stupid

By Anastasia Higginbotham,

Book cover of Death Is Stupid

Why 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.

The Rough Patch

By Brian Lies,

Book cover of The Rough Patch

Why 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.

Our Tree Named Steve

By Alan Zweibel, David Catrow (illustrator),

Book cover of Our Tree Named Steve

Why 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.

Rabbit and the Motorbike

By Kate Hoefler, Sarah Jacoby (illustrator),

Book cover of Rabbit and the Motorbike

Why 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.

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in grief, trees, and dogs?

5,888 authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about grief, trees, and dogs.

Grief Explore 55 books about grief
Trees Explore 32 books about trees
Dogs Explore 252 books about dogs

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Ida, Always, Always Remember, and Dance Like a Leaf if you like this list.