Starting To Talk About Death
A Guide For Nervous Parents
Starting around age 2, I taught my kids about living and non-living things so they would have a clearer understanding of what it means to be dead. From there, we discussed life cycles, birth, and the food chain.
This made it much easier to discuss the death of a pet, and later, a family member. Creating a narrative foundation to ground themselves in grief and confusion started with a fundamental idea of what it means to be alive, which was a positive and empowering experience.
The following books are secular, not faith-based (topics like afterlife, judgement, reincarnation, and such, aren’t addressed here). While they lean toward science and the physical, they are inclusive and open enough that they can be used by most families of faith alongside many religious understandings of death.
These books also tend to be death-neutral, and some are even death-positive. Death is a natural part in the cycle of life, it’s a healthy element of generational flux and evolution, and healthy prey/predator/scavenger relationships are beneficial to the ecosystem.
After these foundational books, we’ll tackle more complicated topics, like grief, the death or terminal illness of a loved one, and how to comfort anxious kids who are nervous they or someone they live might die. But those are for later – so sign up at the top of the page for email notifications if you want to know when they’re ready.
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Basic Foundations – Living & Non-Living
Before we even start talking about death, kids need to understand what it means to be alive.
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Death As A Part Of The Life Cycle
The Wolf Birds shows how the death of one animal can keep many others alive, which makes it both a harsh and beautiful story. Sophie’s Squash celebrates and accepts the death of a beloved squash named Bernice – and Bernice’s transition into a vine that creates new life. Big Cat, Little Cat gives kids a bittersweet introduction to generational narrative – how one cat can share their wisdom and joy with the young, passing the torch as this joy continues over generations.
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Comforting Books For Science-Minded Kids
We’re nerds, so the idea of the conservation of mass comforts us. Helping my kids understand that the stuff that makes them up now has always been, and will always be – and that stuff will continue to mix and mingle, together, forever (I think? Don’t correct me if not, IT’S COMFORTING.)
Next Up: Comforting Kids After The Death Of A Pet
I’m working on it now – sign up for email notifications at the top of the page, and I’ll let you know when it’s ready.
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