Bedtime Just Got Real – Death and Bereavement in Children’s Books

IMG_3268“When I came home from school the next day, Mommy told me Lulu was dead.  She took me on her lap and we both cried.  ‘Do you want to see her and say goodbye?’ Mommy asked.  I wanted to say goodbye, but I was afraid, too.  Mommy held me close.  It was Lulu’s body, but so still, still as the floor or the walls or the chair.  Mommy reached out and ran her hand along Lulu’s back.  She held my hand so I could touch Lulu’s fur.  It was soft and fuzzy.  I wanted to say goodbye to Lulu, but all I could do was cry.”


This is an except from Corinne Demas’ sincerely written book entitled, Saying Goodbye to Lulu.  It’s the touching story of a young girl who is coming to terms with the death of her dog Lulu, her once energetic, and spunky little companion.  Told with deep compassion, and beautifully illustrated by Ard Hoyt, this book tenderly deals with a topic that can at once be viewed as both shocking and scary, but it’s conveyed in a very eloquent and tactful manner.

When we discovered this book on a recent trip to the library, I hadn’t a clue what it would be about until I cracked it open for our evening story time.  As you might guess, we checked out the book in the first place because there is a dog on the cover.  I must say that once I began reading, I was instantly taken aback the profound subject matter.










Of the countless books that they’ve read themselves, and that I’ve read to them, this is the first (that I can remember) which deals with such a somber subject.  For a moment, I wasn’t sure if I should continue reading, but I chose to press on – carefully judging their reactions.  They seemed to be taking the story in stride, and by the end, gave me the impression that they were rather unfazed by the solemn experience of Lulu’s passing. They seemed to possess a quiet “knowing” that death is just a fact of life.  Maybe this stems from the five goldfish, one hamster, and one rabbit, we once called family, that have since passed on to the great beyond.

My concerns over reading this story to my girls left me with this question:  When is the right age to expose children to the inevitable fate that ultimately awaits us all?

As I sought to answer this question for myself, I remembered that there have been many children’s books that have focused on death and bereavement in the past, but had forgotten about.  Stories like, Charlotte’s WebGoodnight Mister Tom, and The Giving Tree!  And I find it encouraging to see that there are books that attempt to address other moral issues as well as social concerns.  For example, my book The Girl Who Carried Too Much Stuff, touches on the issues surrounding materialism and over-consumption.

IMG_3272I suppose that these books that wrestle with stronger subject matter such as death and dying are important and valid – and in an essential way, help us remember our loved ones with a tremendous amount of love.


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I enjoyed reading this Marc. While it does touch on delicate issues, I guess children these days realize to some degree that death is a part of the life cycle. Thanks for reminding us that the story you wrote is also part of the life/learning cycle as well. Listening for your children’s reactions to the subject matter helps us all to be consciously aware of our how our interactions with others affect them.

Thanks for your thoughtful and insightful comments. The girls and I venture out to the library every Thursday, so be on the lookout for other book reviews in future posts.

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