By Neva Cole, CMNH Communications Director
When I first started working at the Children's Museum of New Hampshire, I knew my mother had only months to live. She had been diagnosed with cancer and we were in the process of saying goodbye. My daughter was four at the time. My mother, ever the educator, was the first to suggest that we look into some picture books that might help her grandkids understand what was about to happen. So, on top of starting a new job, parenting a four year old, being there for my family, and processing my own grief, I now had to find picture books to somehow help me try to explain death to my daughter.
But Mom was right. She always is. I'm glad I took the time to find some of those books, because talking about death with anyone is not easy, but with kids...it seems even more complicated. Depending on their age, they don't necessarily have the vocabulary to understand what dying really means. And unless you've spent a lot of time pondering the process yourself, you might not be well equipped to explain it to them. My Mom would speak to her in her own religious terms, introducing the idea of Heaven, but with every new word comes a whole different set of questions.
But in the end, those questions are what it's all about. Starting a dialogue with your kids about what death means to you, and encouraging them to ask those hard questions, helps prepare them for something that no one in this world escapes from. We will all be dealing with it, sooner or later, wether we have time to prepare for it or not. We were fortunate to have time.
Four years later, we still talk about Nana with the same language we learned from those picture books. We even have one of those audio picture books that Nana recorded so we could always hear her voice telling us a story. Recently I met Linda Dinndorf who is a Training and Education Coordinator for a NH non-profit called Friends of Aine. Aine was established to provide bereavement support services to grieving children and families. This organization was borne out of the tragic loss of Aine Marie Phillips (pronounced Ahnya) at age 8, and the recognition that bereavement services for Aine's surviving 5-year-old sister Bella, were sadly scarce. I told Linda about my Mom's passing and how it was a struggle to find resources as simple as picture books that would help my daughter process her grief, and she instantly said, "Oh, we have a great library of picture books for all ages! We'd be happy to share some info with you!"
So thank you Linda for this wonderful list, which can also be found here on their website: https://www.friendsofaine.com/...
On this list of resources, I see some of the books that I used, like The Invisible String, by Patrice Karst, and Badger's Parting Gifts by Susan Varley, both gentle, loving stories about how the people we love may leave this world, but their memories and influence remain constant. I hope this list helps you when you need it most.
Sometimes I Feel Like a Storm Cloud – by Leslie Evans
I Will Always Love You – by Melissa Lyons
The Memory Box: A Book About Grief – by Joanna Rowland
A Child’s View of Grief – by Alan Wolefeit
Badger’s Parting Gifts – by Susan Varley
Help Me Say Goodbye – by Janis Silverman
How It Feels When a Parent Dies – by Jill Krementz
In Mommy’s Garden – by Neyal J. Ammary
Lifetimes: The Beautiful Way to Explain Death to Children – by Bryan Mellonie
Saying Goodbye When You Don’t Want To – by Martha Bolton
Sesame Street – When Families Grieve Kit – by Sesame Workshop
Someone I Loved Died – by Christine Harder Tanguald
Tear Soup: A Recipe for Healing After Loss – by Pat Schwiebert
The Fall of Freddie the Leaf – by Leo Buscaglia
The Invisible String – by Patrice Karst
The Mountains of Tibet – by Mordicai Gerstein
The Tenth Good Thing About Barney – by Judith Voirst
Turned Upside Down – by Karen Keesler
Waterbugs and Dragonflies – by Doris Stickney
What On Earth Do You Do When Someone Dies? – by Trevor Romain
When Dinosaurs Die – by Laurie Krasny Brown
Wherever You Are: My Love Will Find You – by Nancy Tillman
Learn more about Friends of Aine here https://www.friendsofaine.com/