Monday, June 12, 2006

Helping Children and Teens Understand Death and Grief

This week I wanted to feature the use of books for helping children and teens understand the loss of their loved ones and the grief feelings they may be having.  Books are an excellent way to facilitate conversations, between parents and children, surrounding uncomfortable subject matters such as dying, death and grief.  Books are also an excellent resource for parents, teachers and counselors to gain a better understanding on how to help these children and teens.

The first book is geared towards younger children.

"Jungle Journey: Grieving and Remembering Eleanor the Elephant" by Barbara Betker McIntyre and illustrated by Michael O. Henderson.  It is published by Traverse Publishing Company and is about $15.00.

The story focuses on the loss of a dear friend of the jungle animals, Eleanor the Elephant.  The author does a remarkable job of describing the various feelings of grief that the different animals are experiencing.  Some have different reactions to this loss based on their relationship with Eleanor (some were close friends, some were just acquaintances).  Some have reactions to this loss based on what Eleanor did for them (provided protection and comfort). The story goes on to reflect how the jungle animals come together to support each other in their grief and find individual strengths and coping strategies to help them go on without Eleanor. 

There are many pages where the storyteller can stop to ask the children if they have experienced similar feelings (why or why not), and offer a chance for the children to express their feelings in a non-threatening manner.  We use this book a lot in individual counseling sessions and our experience is that it helps develop a trust and rapport between the counselors and the children. 


This second book is geared toward offering guidance to adults who have contact with grieving children and teens.

"Helping Children Cope with Death" by The Dougy Center (The National Center for Grieving Children and Families). The cost of this book is $10.00 and you can visit their website for more information:

This book is very focused, brief and to-the-point regarding different aspects of grief in children and teens.  It is written in laymen terms, with lots of pictures and examples to illustrate the goals of each chapter.  The reader will gain an understanding of the stages of grief from a developmental perspective (different ages will respond to a loss and grieve differently than other ages), learn about some myths in grief, know what they may expect from their child or teen in grief, and get some guidance and advice on how to help children and teens express their grief and develop healthy coping strategies. 

It is important to remember that the adults in a child's or teen's life are their role models in grief.  They will learn from the adults if it is ok to cry or be angry, or if it's ok to ask questions or talk about the deceased. 

If you have any questions, or need more information, please feel free to e-mail me at or call 800-882-1117. 

Be gentle with yourself and your children.

See you next week,


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