“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning.”
Helpful Books for Death and Grief
Following a death, people often ask church leaders or Christian educators, “Can you recommend a good book on death or grief?” There are many books out there, so where to begin? The list below was compiled and annotated by Amy Sander Montanez, a professional counselor and therapist. In her work with people of all ages, Amy has used and recommended many of these titles. Additional books, especially the youth and parents sections, have been recommended by longtime Christian educator, Sharon Ely Pearson.
Books for Children
The Fall of Freddie the Leaf
by Leo Busgalia (Slack Incorporated, 1928)
An allegory for all ages, describes the cycle of life.
The Tenth Good Thing About Barney
by Judith Viorst (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 1987)
Encourages children to write 10 good things about a person who has died.
The Invisible String
by Patrice Karst (DeVorss & Company, 2000)
Describes our connection to God, through life and death.
When Dinosaurs Die: A Guide to Understanding Death
by Laurie and Marc Brown (Little, Brown, 1998)
Focuses on feelings of grief and ways to honor the memory of a loved one.
Everett Anderson’s Goodbye
by Lucille Clifton (Square Fish, reprint edition, 1988)
Describes one boy’s journey through the stages of grief.
Samantha Jane’s Missing Smile
by Julia Kaplow and Donna Pincus (Magination, 2007)
Gently guides families through the feelings, thoughts, and hopes that children experience when a parent dies. (quote from publisher)
What is Heaven Like?
by Beverly Lewis (Bethany House, 2006)
A Christian book addressing questions children have about death and heaven.
The Next Place
by Warren Hanson (Waldman House, 2002)
A comforting message of hope and a gift of compassion for the bereaved, with a Christian view of heaven.
Books for Youth (click the title for link)
How It Feels When a Parent Dies
by Jill Krementz (Knopf, 1988)
18 children from age 7–17, speak openly of their experiences and feelings.
When A Friend Dies
by Marilyn Goodman (Free Spirit Publishing, revised edition, 2005)
Honest answers to questions youth may have about their feelings and experiences.
Fire in My Heart, Ice in My Veins
by Enid Samuel Traisman (Centering Corporation, 1992)
Journal format for teens to use through the grieving process.
Bridge To Terabithia
by Katherine Patterson (HarperTeen, 2008; first published in 1977)
The classic novel about the unexpected death of a best friend.
Books for Parents Helping Children
How Do We Tell The Children?
by Dan Schaefer and Christine Lyons (William Morrow Paperbacks, 4th ed., 2010)
The author is a specialist in trauma and this book encompasses death and other tragic situations. Very practical with specific words to say (and not say) at each age group.
Waterbugs and Dragonflies: Explaining Death to Small Children
by Doris Stickney (Pilgrim Press, 1997)
An allegory story that confronts the questions about death.
Lifetimes: The Beautiful Way to Explain Death to Children
by Bryan Mellonie (Bantam, 1983)
Lifetimes tells us about beginnings. And about endings. And about living in between. (quote from publisher)
What Children Need When They Grieve
by Julia Wilcox Rathkey (Harmony, 2004)
The author arrived at four essentials that each child would need: routine, love, honesty, and security. (quote from publisher)
The Grieving Child
by Helen Fitzgerald (Touchstone, 1992)
A highly practical book that addresses questions parents may have about what children can handle. Includes ideas for involving children in appropriate rituals associated with death and grieving.
The Grieving Teen
by Helen Fitzgerald (Touchstone, 2000)
Highly practical, dealing with the issues teens may have following a death.
Books on Grief with Daily Meditations
Through a Season of Grief
by Bill Dunn and Kathy Leonard (Thomas Nelson Press, 2004)
Day by day reflections, with Christian inspiration.
Healing after Loss: Daily Meditations for Working Through Grief
by Martha Hickman (Avon Books, 1994)
Highly recommended. The short meditations are so helpful because people who are grieving often have difficulty concentrating through a lengthy book.
Books on the Grieving Process
The Unwanted Gift of Grief
by Tim Van Duivendyk (Routledge, 2007)
Not only for the grieving persons, but for ministers and counselors and those who support those in the grieving process.
by Granger Westberg (Fortress Press, 50th Anniversary ed., 2010)
A classic that has been republished for years. Outlines the 10 stages of grief, and the complexity and uniqueness of each person’s grief.
The Grief Recovery Handbook
by Russell Friedman (William Morrow, 2009)
Can be used alone but better in a group. Offers specific exercises and discussion prompts.
by Norman Wright (B&H Books, 2004)
A brief but powerful book to help lead readers out of their grief experience through five stages of grief. At the end of the journey is peace and a seasoned, more mature faith. (quote from publisher)
A Grief Observed
by C.S. Lewis (HarperOne, reprint ed., 2015)
Describes Lewis’ personal journey after the death of his wife. Great book for all, but perhaps especially for men in the grieving process.
Swallowed By A Snake: The Gift of the Masculine Side of Healing
by Thomas Golden (GH Publishing, 2000)
Highly recommended as being helpful for men. (Update: the author recently published The Way Men Heal, which is more concise and updated.)
by Mary Oliver (Beacon Press, 2007)
Poetry. The Pulitzer-prize winning Oliver wrote after death of her partner, and how she found her way back to faith.
Books Following the Death of a Child
Joy in the Mourning
by Deborah Rodenhizer (Tate Publishing, 2011).
Extremely helpful for parents who have lost children. Reflective, with Christian emphasis.
The Morning After Death
by LD Johnson (Smyth & Helwys, paperback ed., 2008)
Written after the loss of his young adult daughter. Deeply moving.
Books about Preparing for Death and the Dying Process
Grace in Dying
by Kathleen Singh (HarperOne, reprint ed., 2000)
The author has been a career hospice worker. A deeply spiritual book, she describes how people approach death. Beautifully written.
by Atul Gawande (Metropolitan Books, 2014)
Discusses the transition into old age, and losses and changes that come with age. Written by a medical doctor who believes that we need to ask different and better questions about aging and death.
Grief After a Suicide
Finding Peace Without All The Pieces: After A Loved One’s Suicide
by LaRitaArchibald (Larch Publishing. 2012)
There are so many books about death and dying, but grief following a suicide is different in many ways. This book was highly recommended.
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The Rev'd Samuel S. Thomas, Ph. D.
You also might like to consider “When Breath Becomes Air” by Kalinithi (?sp)
It is about a surgeon who finds out he has a terminal illness at 34 years of age and faces death.
The Rev’d Samuel S. Thomas, Ph. D.
For children you might also consider these for talking about death, not so much in time of acute grief. It is good to talk about death when it isn’t immediate:
“Dog Heaven” by Cynthia Rylant, 1995, Blue Sky Press–my favorite book to talk about heaven;
“The Dead Bird” by Margaret Wise Brown, 1938 & 1965, Yearling (Dell)
“Goodbye Mousie” by Robie H. Harris, 2004, Aladin;
“Tapestry: Grandma sews a picture of hope” by Bob Hartman, 2011, Authentic Media, UK