It is never easy to handle death, but there are resources available, whether you’re planning for death, explaining it to a child, or facing a sudden loss yourself, there are books available to ease the pain and healing process a little. These books on death provide information, advice, comfort, and more.
Children’s Books About Death
Explaining death to a child may seem impossible, but these children’s books can make it a bit easier.
1. The Sad Dragon: A Dragon Book About Grief and Loss
Steve Harmon’s Dragon book series is known for taking tough mental health conversations and making them accessible, including the loss of a loved one. This book can be helpful when explaining death to a child so that they are prepared for the emotions they may face. How do you help your dragon when he’s sad about losing someone? As this book illustrates, you explain death, grief, and loss, all while being there for him.
2. Something Very Sad Happened: A Toddler’s Guide to Understanding Death
This book, written especially for toddlers, is meant to be read aloud by a parent or loved one and features color-coded cues to substitute the name of the loved one who has passed. It reminds them they are loved, that they may still love those who have died and that the person who has died still loves them.
3. The Rabbit Listened
When Taylor learns the worst news, he turns to every animal he knows, asking them how he should deal with it. They all have various advice, but it’s the rabbit who simply listens and is there for him. This compassionate read is perfect for children who are facing difficult emotions and have no understanding of how to handle them.
4. The Circles All Around Us
The Circles All Around Us started out as an Instagram video that went viral. Creator and author Brad Montague was initially inspired by a conversation he had with his kids about how to expand our world with inclusivity, kindness, and mindfulness. After putting the conversation up online, he decided to turn it into a children’s book. While Circles does not call death out explicitly, it is a great introduction to what can be a scary or overwhelming conversation for kids – that we all make ripples in the world that continue on expanding long after we are gone.
Books on Planning for Death
Death is inevitable, but that doesn’t make it any easier to handle, especially if you have a fear of death or are afraid of dying alone. These books offer guidance on planning for death, whether facing health conditions or simply the inevitability that each of our lives will come to an end.
5. A Beginner’s Guide to the End: Practical Advice for Living Life and Facing Death
This kind-hearted guide outlines all you’ll need to face the end with peace while handling all that comes with it. Navigate healthcare, difficult conversations, wills, and more. There is also advice for survivors, like closing social media accounts and cleaning out the house.
6. The Art of Dying Well: A Practical Guide to a Good End of Life
Being practical about death doesn’t mean you have to be morose. This book is full of inspirational stories, tips, and advice from others on topics like aging gracefully, knowing when to call 911 (and when not to), and more. It’s an honest, compassionate “book of preparations” that hopes to make your last years and days a little bit easier.
7. The Final Chapter: An End of Life Organizational Planning Tool
This workbook is designed to serve as a place for someone’s sensitive information, such as passwords and other valuable information. This makes it easier on all involved so that a person’s final days can be met with peace.
8. The Lost Art of Dying: Reviving Forgotten Wisdom
Dr. L.S. Dugdale, a Columbia University physician, was inspired to write The Lost Art of Dying after coming across a medieval text on dying well that was written after the horrors of the Black Plague. The text, and ultimately, The Lost Art of Dying, both explore what it means to rethink death and dying well. Dugdale argues that many people (if not most) die poorly due to the way we have institutionalized and medicalized death. To die well, one must live well, and that requires us to confront our fears, accept the limitations of our bodies, develop meaningful rituals, and adapt the wisdom and knowledge of the past to our modern lives.
9. When Breath Becomes Air
When Breath Becomes Air is a memoir written by Paul Kalanithi. At age thirty-six, he was diagnosed with late stage cancer, taking him from being a neurosurgeon-in-training to a patient struggling to survive. He wrote this book to chronicle his difficult journey to confront his own mortality. Kalanithi asks (and attempts to answer) poignant questions like, “What makes life worth living in the face of death?” “What does it mean to nurture new life as old life fades?” and “What do you do when your future flattens into a perpetual present?” Although he died while working on this memoir, his words continue to live on as a guide for readers on how to face death with courage, clarity, and dignity.
Books for Those Who are Grieving
As the unsurprising side effect of death, grief hits everyone differently. Here are a few books to help you navigate any tough emotions you may be facing while losing a loved one, from anticipatory grief before their passing to marking their death anniversaries
10. It’s OK That You’re Not OK: Meeting Grief and Loss in a Culture That Doesn’t Understand
Losing someone is hard enough, but facing the cultural expectations of grief, including how long it “should” take to grieve and move on, can make the experience all the more difficult. Therapist Megan Devine offers advice and insight into a terrible time and empowers readers to embrace all that they’re feeling, regardless of what society tells them is “acceptable” grieving.
11. How To Go On Living When Someone You Love Dies
There can be such a sense of loss when losing a loved one; not just for the obvious loss of that person, but about what to do next. How are you supposed to go on without that person? What will your life look like now? Bereavement specialist Therese A. Rando’s book is a comprehensive guide to a heartbreaking experience nearly everyone will go through at some point. It offers advice on talking to children about death and ways to resolve your grief, as well as taking care of yourself and your loved one’s unfinished business.
12. Bearing the Unbearable: Love, Loss, and the Heartbreaking Path of Grief
Bereavement educator Dr. Joanne Cacciatore reminds readers with this touching and compassionate book that humans are designed to meet tragedy with unfailing connection and kindness. Each chapter brings readers through the stages of loss and the doors it opens to our humanity. Designed both to be shared in support groups or as a stand-alone read, it offers hope in the face of overwhelming grief.
13. The Beauty of What Remains: How Our Greatest Fear Becomes Our Greatest Gift
This national best seller was inspired by author and rabbi Steve Leder’s most popular sermon. His experience in one of the world’s largest synagogues taught him over and over again how death can motivate people to live more deeply and meaningfully; however, when faced with the death of his own father, he had to face what it truly means to lose a loved one. The Beauty of What Remains inspires and comforts its readers, taking them through Leder’s fundamental experience of loss and grief. Enriched by humor and vulnerability, The Beauty of What Remains profoundly unpacks a simple truth: Even in loss, we gain something.
Books on Overcoming the Fear of Death
It is natural to fear death, but death happens to us all, and fearing to the point of anxiety or stress can negatively impact the life you have now. These books help you address death and its natural place as part of life.
14. The Denial of Death
This 1974 Pulitzer Prize winner remains a stalwart and moving journey into mankind’s steadfast refusal of death and all it entails. Author Ernest Becker died soon after this book was finished, adding new complexities and layers to his work. It synthesizes years of history on the thought of death and how different cultures tackle end-of-life issues while illuminating a similar thread of humanity across it all.
15. No Death, No Fear: Comforting Wisdom for Life
Thich Nhat Hanh, Buddhist and spiritual leader, tackles one of life’s most notorious questions: what is death, and what does it mean for life?
This book of advice, wisdom, and hope is for those who struggle with concepts of life and death, are working through an existential crisis related to their own mortality, or who are perhaps looking for a bit of comfort in the face of tragedy.
When to See a Therapist
It is inevitable to face death, either in the loss of a loved one or when grappling with health issues. That does not make it easier, nor does it mean you need to do it alone. Many people get stuck in the grieving process and need help to move forward in a healthy way. If you’d like to speak to a therapist about the emotions you’re having surrounding death and grief, here’s how to get started.