My family lost two of our loved ones recently. The sudden loss on both occasions came as a huge shock. During this painful time, we found comfort by reminding ourselves ‘ he died peacefully’, ‘he is resting in God’s arms now’, ‘… is eternal in the Heavens’. These words helped to console the aching heart.
But what about the children? These words may be beyond their comprehension. It is helpful to know how children understand death at different stages of development. It varies with age but children in general tend not to express their feelings and keep those emotions to themselves. Partly because they probably are confused and struggle to understand their own emotions and partly because they don’t know the words to express what they are feeling inside. They may seem silent and resilient but it would be helpful if a parent or someone close can approach them and start the conversation just to let their thoughts and emotions flow.
For my two children, they were struck more by fear and curiosity when Grandpa passed away. As pre-schoolers, they do not fully understand the concept of death but they can certainly sense something is happening. The ‘whys’ and the ‘how’ followed from my older one. I was glad Sprinter was asking so many questions. He wanted to understand and… basically he needed assurance that things were going to be ok at the end of the day. That Mummy and Daddy and everyone else for that matter will be strong and will be able to move on.
My younger one meanwhile was also taking in what she was seeing. It made her uneasy for she could make no sense of what she was seeing. There was fear but she was silent. At 3, I doubt she even knew what to ask or say! I was glad Kor Kor was doing all the asking. She listened.
The questions put me in a spot though… being fraught with grief myself, it was challenging to think of good and age-appropriate answers. I found books to be extremely helpful and handy.
These books gave me words when I couldn’t find them.
These books helped present the topic in a gentle way most appropriate.
These books were natural conversation starters.
A few of our friends gifted us with these precious reads. A well chosen book can speak volumes. I hope you will find the list useful too.
1. God Gave Us Heaven
Little readers are introduced to ‘heaven’ as Little Cub asks “Papa, what’s heaven?” This is followed by a string of other related questions (similar to those your own little cubs may ask) as Papa Bear tries to answer each of them. This is a sweet Christian children’s literature for very young ones as Papa Bear also offers a simple explanation of Jesus as the bridge to heaven.
2. The Lonely Tree
This is my personal favourite. There’s something enchanting and real about this book. It tackles the theme of love and death gently through a beautiful, moving story… introducing life, loss and renewal. I recently found out later that this book is a result of a collaboration between the Child Bereavement Trust and the Tree Council in the U.S. A beautiful and successful collaboration I must say. Read my post here for more.
This book gets the message across that we are always connected through “a special String made of love” no matter what. The string can connect anyone, anywhere… even those in heaven! This book can be used in a variety of situations – Separations, Loneliness, Death etc. These words are not used in the book but a children will understand and be able to apply. The Invisble String reaches from heart to heart so you are never alone and our hearts are forever together.
I appreciate this book more than my children. Maybe older children will feel the same too. It is a beautifully illustrated book that tackles what happens after death in a comforting, peaceful and loving way. It reads like a poem about traveling to heaven. Excerpt : “The body I once lived in won’t be part of me at all. I will finally be perfect. I will be without a flaw… I will travel empty-handed. There is not a single thing I have collected in my life that I would ever want to bring except… the love of those who loved me, and the warmth of those who cared…”
I have mixed feelings about this book. If you or your child do not like to use the word ‘death’, perhaps this could be a good alternative. Disappear vs Death. There isn’t a direct mention or visual reference to death but the same questions are asked and answered to comfort readers. This is semi-abstract hence slightly older kids might be able to grasp it.
Kids might be able to relate to this story be. This book tells a story of a grieving girl who struggles to come to terms with reality but eventually finds a way to cope with the feelings of immense loss. She finds relief by remembering what she loved most about her time with her Grandpa. A good reminder to us on how we can still keep Grandpa alive in our memory.
I remember ‘meeting’ this boy on the Oprah show and wow, this is one compelling story. It’s a true story of this young boy, Colton who was very ill. He was just 3 or 4 years old. During surgery, Colton makes a trip to Heaven and meets Jesus, his great grandfather and his sister who was miscarried before he was born. His claims and knowledge of such details made huge news some years ago I remember. The Burpo family published a book on this encounter. They have written a few other books and Heaven is for Real For Kids is a good book for children. Young Colton shares his experience and recounts that amazing encounter. This is a book specifically written for a child’s heart and reaches them on their level.
This is a really sweet story by Lois Rock. It tells us about the many kinds of goodbyes in our lives. Some more difficult than others. A good friend of mine gifted us with this book. Bless her! She gave us a version with both English and Chinese. Perfect for the children to read and learn in both languages.
The new year 2016 has not been easy for me but I’m not going to let it weigh me down and be discouraged. I’m actually going to look forward to the rest of the year. (it’s all about my mindset…ohm….) There’s so much to live for! I will pray and I know He will give me strength and guidance. 🙂