child reading a book (children's books about grief and loss)

When my husband unexpectedly died, our son was about to turn 2 years old. I had worked with kids and adults as a clinical social worker, and although I had some professional background to support our son, ultimately, I was a grieving wife and mother who was parenting a grieving child.

We had experienced a devastating loss, and I had to learn to lean on others for support.

I knew I could not fix it or make it all better for our son. I could not wave a wand and have my husband be alive again. One of the ways I helped our son try to understand death and grief was through reading children’s books.

I dove into research mode, searching for books that could help us. And some very thoughtful people mailed us wonderful children’s books that focused on grief and loss. I will be forever grateful to the people who helped and supported us then and continue to now. Sending us books was an incredible gesture of gentle support.

It has been four years — my son is now 6 years old — and we continue to read these books together.

“The Rabbit Listened” by Cori Doerrfeld

The Rabbit Listened — children's book about griefI knew this book would be special when two different people sent it to us. This book also became my own guide and a reminder of who my husband was to so many people in our lives.

“The Rabbit Listened” is a story about a child who builds a wonderful creation only to have it come crashing down. Taylor is then greeted by multiple animals who all take on a “fixing role” in different ways. One can imagine that they are all well intentioned in trying to help Taylor, but we see Taylor not responding, continuing to be silent and withholding emotions. Then, quietly and calmly, the rabbit enters the scene. The rabbit’s calm and no-pressure demeanor helps Taylor to eventually feel comfortable expressing emotions. The rabbit sits and listens to all of it. Eventually, Taylor feels ready to build again.

This is a beautiful story about the importance of each of us having a “rabbit” in our lives. Someone who is present, listening and being with us in our pain. The rabbit never tries to correct Taylor’s feelings or put a positive spin on the situation. For me, this is so important in grief, for both adults and children.

“Something Very Sad Happened” by Bonnie Zucker, illustrated by Kim Fleming

Something Very Sad Happened — children's book about griefThis book identifies the loss as the child’s maternal grandmother, but you can easily modify to the person in your child’s life who has died. This book offers helpful information about the emotions or questions a child may have, while also helping the child to understand the emotions of the mother. The language is concrete and clear, which is what my son needed at that time, given his age. This book also includes a “note to parents and caregivers” with additional information about talking to your child about death.

“Always By My Side” by Susan Kerner, illustrated by Ian Benfold Haywood

Always by My Side — children's book about griefThis book is such a treasure to me. It is beautifully written from the perspective of a child whose daddy has died. The illustrations and messaging around the death of a parent, highlighting that a parent’s love lasts forever, helped us tremendously. My son often says, “Daddy’s love never dies. He is always with me.”

“The Invisible String” by Patrice Karst, illustrated by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff

The Invisible String — children's book about griefWhen I researched children’s books about grief and loss, this one was recommended the most. It is so helpful for discussing the connections we can continue to have with those who have died. It is also useful for non-death losses, as well as helping children to understand that they can remain connected to their parents even when apart.


Sara Noone
Sara was raised in Connecticut and after a few years of enjoying West Coast living in San Francisco, she landed in Boston in 2003 for graduate school. Sara is a Clinical Social Worker who has worked in a variety of roles with children, families and adults. After several years working in community mental health, in 2012, Sara started a psychotherapy practice and she also continues to wear the hat of being a School Counselor. In 2009, she met her future husband — a North Shore native, who loved studying history, coaching hockey & being a teacher— a kindhearted guy with witty sense of humor. After several years of being a duo, they joyfully welcomed their beautiful son in 2017. In 2019, Sara and her son experienced a devastating and life-changing loss with the unexpected death of her husband. She believes in the importance of normalizing grief and talking about the hard parts of life, while also embracing joy. She has always loved cooking and trying new recipes. Sara and her son live in Swampscott. During the summer months they can be found at the beach, going on adventures, chasing down the ice cream truck, relaxing on their front porch and hanging out with family and friends. They love all that living in a coastal North Shore town has to offer!