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16 Sensitive Children's Books about Death of a Parent

the invisible string

The Invisible String

One of our favorite books for children grieving a parent, The Invisible String reassures children that they are always connected to the special people in their lives. The string is symbolic for love that binds us even when we can't be physically present with our parents, relatives or friends. Highly recommended by counselors and therapists for any child struggling with separation anxiety or grief from the death of a parent.

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Helpful Kids' Books to Cope With Parent Dying

When a parent dies, children are left behind in a wake of grief and confusion. They are overwhelmed with questions about where their parents are now, and whether or not they will see them in heaven. The depth of emotion is something that young children are not mature enough to understand or process. Their response to this overwhelming sadness may appear in many different ways, some expected and others unexpected. To help cope with a devastating loss, we've put together a comprehensive collection of children's books about the death of a parent.


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Picture Books to Read When a Father Passes Away

It is an unfathomable tragedy when a young child loses a dad. Children's books about the death of a father can be a good resource to help in the journey to emotional healing. We've collected some of the best kids' books  about a father dying. The authors and illustrators  put in words and pictures what kids need to help process and understand their raw emotions and heartache when they lose a father too soon.


boats for papa

Boats for Papa

A boy and his mother live by the sea in a cozy home. He spends his days carving little wooden boats and sending them out into the ocean. When the boats do not return, he is convinced they are sailing off to find his papa. A sweet, simple, soothing story about death for preschool children who will find hope in the message.



one wave at a time

One Wave at a Time

A little boy named Kai is overcome with a mix of emotions after his father dies. Each of his emotions is likened to a wave- a wave of anger, a wave of sadness, etc. These waves sometimes hit him independently, and other times they crash together causing confusion. Kai eventually learns that the emotional waves will always be a part of him, but now he must figure out how to live his life without his father.



the phone booth in mr hirota's garden

The Phone Booth in Mr. Hirota's Garden

A little boy named Makio is devastated when his father is killed in a tsunami. The entire village is grieving over the loss of life and destruction. Silence engulfs the people as they deal with the tragedy.  One day Mr. Hirota builds a phone booth in his garden. It's a strange gesture that does not make any sense at first, but as more people are drawn to it, the purpose of the phone booth becomes apparent. The people finally begin to find their voices again and learn to communicate with their lost love ones through the booth in the garden.



 my father's words

My Father's Words

Two young children are grieving the sudden death of their father as a result of a terrible accident. Their mother struggles to find the right words to give them comfort. When they volunteer to work at an animal shelter, the siblings work through their sadness through caring for dogs that need their love and compassion. Through their experience, their father's words make their way back into their hearts and memories, and the children eventually find peace, comfort, and hope for the future. A compelling read for the tween reading group.


when my daddy died i

When My Daddy Died, I...

A heartfelt picture book written by a little boy whose father died. His father was his very best friend so he decided to write about all the things he will miss about him. An endearing book with a strong religious perspective. 




isaiah dunn is my hero

Isaiah Dunn is My Hero

In this chapter book for kids in grades 3-5, a boy finds himself in the position as head of the household when his father dies and his mother find herself unable to help. He soon realizes how hard this job is, especially since he still has a lot of growing up to do himself. Isaiah navigates his new role and finds comfort in reading through his father's journals. 



beginner's welcome

Beginners Welcome

An award-winning novel about the ghostly reminders a girl named Annie constantly encounters after the passing of her father. While her mother is busy working, Annie is haunted by her father's music that continuously plays on the record player, his favorite basketball team that always shows up on the television, and many other unexplained reminders. When two special friends enter her life, one young and one old, she knows they are exactly what she needs to overcome the death of her father. But will she be able to let them in only to risk getting hurt again? Touching, coming-of-age story about life after loss.


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Suggested Books for Kids When a Mother Dies

Helping a child through grief after a mother dies is a deeply complicated, immeasurably sad process.  Reading kids' books about the death of a mother is an effective way to facilitate communication with the child.  It's important to read a variety of books on the topic of death since each one offers a unique opportunity and perspective on the subject. 


the remarkable journey of coyote sunrise

The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise 

A Parents' Choice winner and Junior Library Guild selection, The Remarkable Journey of Coyote Sunrise follows the journey of a young girl as she copes with the loss of her mother and two sisters in a car wreck. She and her father travel across the country in a school bus, forging relationships with all kinds of people coping with their own personal tragedies along the way. Eventually they must return home and find a new happy-ever-after in spite of their loss and grief. A moving chapter book for the 9+ reading group.


the line tender

The Line Tender

A National Bestseller and School Library Journal Best Book, The Line Tender is a remarkable story about a young girl striving to keep her mother's memory alive by following in her footsteps. Her mother died suddenly during a marine biology expedition. Five years later and still grappling with her mother's death, a girl decides to continue her mother's research and restore her legacy. A deeply moving chapter book about death for advanced readers.


what momma left me

What Momma Left Me

After her father killed her mother, a young teen and her brother are sent off to live with their grandparents. Forced to navigate a strange new life, while holding onto deep, dark secrets, she starts to see some hope in new friendships and a new beginning. Intense, tragic, and painful story that portrays the realistic struggles of adolescents coping as best they can with the cards they are dealt. This book is geared toward 13+ readers.


the garden of hope

The Garden of Hope

A beautiful picture book about a garden that is the foundation for healing after a mom and wife pass away. A little girl and her father channel their grief into bringing back to life a garden that is overgrown and neglected. They experience hope for their future when their special place blooms again and fills up with bumblebees and butterflies. 



 the fix-it man

The Fix-It Man

When a little girl's mother dies, she turns to her father who has been able to fix just about everything in her life up until this point in time. His fix-it skills were applied to broken toys and other items around the house. But now, it's a broken heart that can't be mended with glue or a hammer and nails. The father and daughter come together in their journey to survive and heal from the most traumatic loss either has ever experienced. Heartfelt tribute to the parent left standing when a spouse passes away.

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Kids who are trying to make sense of the grief they feel when a parent dies will have questions that are difficult to answer. Reading books by experts, therapists, and others who have endured this same hardship is a good way to help young children begin their healing journey.


where do they go

Where Do They Go? 

A lyrical picture book about death that will soothe children who have never-ending questions about death. Elements of nature are woven throughout the prose that consists questions and answers. Spiritual themes will open up conversation between you and a child who is seeking insight about what happens to a person after he or she dies.



when mom or dad dies

When Mom or Dad Dies 

A short, easy picture book about death appropriate for preschool and young elementary children. The gentle story addresses the need to talk about feelings and emotions around the loss of a parent.




no matter what

No Matter What

A tender picture book that reassures young children that their parent's love will be with them always. Heartfelt and on point, the author delivers a message that applies to all the events in a child's life when there is separation from a parent. Death is not expressly addressed, but the story applies to the loss of a parent just the same. 


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How to Help a Child Cope with Grief

The death of a parent is one of the most devastating experiences for a child. We'd like to share some suggestions that can help guide your conversations and give you some things to consider when helping a young, grieving child.  Helping a child through grief after a mother or father dies is a deeply complicated, immeasurably sad process. Reading children's books about characters who have experienced the same emotional journey, especially when a lengthy illness like cancer is involved,  is an effective way to facilitate communication with the child.  It's important to read a variety of books about  death since each one offers a unique opportunity and perspective on the subject. Some of these stories deliver optimistic messages of hope. Others focus on the devastating grief a child left behind is experiencing. Concepts of a heaven or afterlife are often introduced, either in religious terms or metaphorically. All of these selections can help in your child's emotional healing. 


child crying


Encourage your child to express emotions using words.
There are many ways a child's emotions will surface. Crying is the obvious expression of sadness and depression, but it's not uncommon for grief to manifest into defiance, anger, withdrawal, rebellion, and a myriad of other behaviors. You can help by using putting your own emotions into words and encouraging your child to do the same. Keep the words simple and concise- scared, lonely, sad- and offer some new, deeper words (like abandoned, depressed, devastated)  that may help young children express themselves. Validate what they are feeling by teaching them vocabulary to describe their emotions.

child upset mother died

Give your child the gift of time to heal.
Everyone who has ever experienced grief understands that the healing process is not linear. A child may appear to be coming to terms with the death of a parent could take a sudden emotional downturn. Prepare yourself for a whipsaw of emotional events and give the child grace in working through sadness on his or her own terms.

sad child father died

Talk about your personal faith and religious beliefs.
During times of grief, many people find comfort in embracing their religious or spiritual beliefs. Talking to children about a parent continuing their life in heaven, for example, can make kids feel better. Stories about angels can also help open a conversation about eternal life and bring peace to young children.

girl crying mother dying

Engage your child in activities to remember the parent who died.
An important part of the healing process is to do things that will keep memories of a parent alive forever.  Encourage the child to make a journal or scrapbook in honor of the parent. Fill it with stories and photographs. Create a memory box and have the child gather special tokens, mementos, notes and other objects that will help them remember the parent.

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 Find fun things to do that will help a child forget for a little while.
Look for ways to give the child a mental break from their sadness. Take a trip to the beach, go out for a day of shopping, visit an amusement park. Indulge in ice cream for dinner, stay up for late-night movie watching. Toss the rules out the window now and then...and especially when it's a chance to make a child forget about things for a moment in time.

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Invaluable Books to Help Grieving Children

Tender Tales About a Grandparent Dying

Helpful Books When a Sibling Dies

Picture Books About a Loss of a Dog

Gentle Stories About Death of a Cat


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