After Joseph died, it became clear very quickly that while his death went way over my two-year-old twins’ heads, my oldest didn’t understand too much more than they did. She turned four just 2 months after Joseph died.
We took all of our kids to the graveside service and we talked a lot about Joseph in the weeks following. We still talk about him often. I knew she didn’t understand everything, but just how little she understood became clear when she started asking questions. The two that startled me the most were “Did the twins die when they were born?” and “Where did you bury me?”
It breaks your heart to hear these come out of your four-year-old’s mouth, but I know that these questions, while morbid-sounding, just reflect a lack of understanding.
This pushed me to look for books that would help us know how to talk about Joseph and grief in such a way that she could understand a little better.
Today I am sharing my favorite! It’s “The Goodbye Book” by Todd Parr.
Genre: Picture book
Age Range: 2-6, although I think the content is great for any age
Concepts discussed: Grief, feelings, loss
The book begins, “It’s hard to say goodbye to someone.”
This book is great for any loss of a loved one, including a pet, a cousin, a grandparent, etc. By talking about the effects of grief (sadness, anger, loneliness, etc.) using “you” as the main pronoun, I felt like it gave me a way to talk to my daughter about how I was feeling.
The main character is shown as a fish missing another fish whom we understand is gone. Todd shows going through different parts of grief, such as sadness, anger, isolation, denial, validating them all through the context of this fish.
The book is a simple, easy read with bright pictures that engage young children. All of my kids will easily sit through a reading of this book, and I love how it gives me a chance to talk about my grief as we read it.
I also love the inscription Parr wrote at the end: “Of all my books, this was the hardest to write—because it’s never easy to say goodbye.”
I highly recommend this book to anyone trying to find a way to talk about grief with a preschool-elementary age child.
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