Two Books about Grief

When one grows old­er, one expe­ri­ences grief in many ways, at many times, for many peo­ple and pets. It nev­er gets eas­i­er. Chil­dren don’t have as much famil­iar­i­ty with severe ill­ness, death, or mourn­ing. They have ques­tions and aren’t sure how to ask. When the adults in their lives are sad, it’s hard for them. This week, I’m rec­om­mend­ing two books that will help adults and chil­dren find paths into dis­cus­sions about this part of life, Sit­ting Shi­va and Walk­ing Grand­ma Home

In Sit­ting Shi­va, we observe the mourn­ing of a Jew­ish house­hold. Steeped in cen­turies of tra­di­tion, this young girl and her father show us their grief for their moth­er and wife. Nei­ther of them wants to invite peo­ple into their home.

illustration from Sitting Shiva
illus­tra­tion © Michelle Theodore, from Sit­ting Shi­va.
Writ­ten by Erin Sil­ver. Pub­lished by Orca Books, 2017.

He cov­ered all the mirrors.

He won’t shave for a month. It helps him think about how he feels instead of how he looks. Already his cheeks are scratchy, like sand.”

A yahrzeit can­dle is lit to observe the pass­ing of a life. It will even­tu­al­ly go out on its own. 

Sit­ting shi­va is a sev­en-day peri­od of mourn­ing. It is tra­di­tion­al for peo­ple to come and sit with the fam­i­ly, bring­ing food and hugs and remembrances. 

There is cry­ing. Tears help. Blan­kets of com­fort help. The tears in this book won’t be the only tears shed.

In her author’s note, Erin Sil­ver con­cludes, “What every faith has in com­mon is the idea of com­mu­ni­ty. When some­one dies, peo­ple bring food, they talk, they gath­er. Peo­ple have a need to care for each oth­er, and the mourn­ing process gives peo­ple that chance to share.”

Although the tra­di­tions in your own fam­i­ly may be dif­fer­ent, it is the com­ing togeth­er that hon­ors the pas­sage of a loved one and begins the healing. 

Sit­ting Shi­va
writ­ten by Erin Sil­ver
illus­trat­ed by Michelle Theodore
Orca Books, 2022
sug­gest­ed for ages 3 to 5
ISBN 978 – 1459827721

Walk­ing Grand­ma Home is a cleans­ing read. As many of you know, once you’ve felt deep grief, it lives on inside you. Once in a while, read­ing a book like this helps you look at the pain and come to terms with it.

The book was writ­ten by Nan­cy Bo Flood, who worked as a child psy­chol­o­gist and coun­selor. On her web­site, she shares a let­ter to her read­ers that describes her own child­hood expe­ri­ence of grief. She was sev­en when her five-year-old sis­ter died in an acci­dent. So many chil­dren expe­ri­ence loss of some kind. This book is ide­al for read­ing togeth­er and look­ing at the myr­i­ad of questions.

In this book, Lee’s grand­ma tells him, “I’m going away soon, going home.” Lee does­n’t under­stand because, of course, Grand­ma is home. 

illustration from Walking Grandma Home
illus­tra­tion © Ellen Shi, from Walk­ing Grand­ma Home.
Writ­ten by Nan­cy Bo Flood. Pub­lished by Zon­derkidz / Harper­Collins, 2023.

Lee’s large fam­i­ly gath­ers. They share their remem­brances. They share food. They com­fort each oth­er. And the adults do their best to answer the chil­dren’s questions.

The author includes an infor­ma­tion page at the end of the book enu­mer­at­ing ways to talk with chil­dren about grief as well as activ­i­ties you can do indi­vid­u­al­ly or togeth­er to hon­or your loved one’s memory.

It’s a love­ly book, prac­ti­cal, but ethe­re­al. Ellen Shi’s illus­tra­tions are graced by a flow­er­ing mead­ow through­out … it’s peace­ful, calm­ing, and hope­ful. Her col­or palette is sooth­ing. The friend­ly, diverse fam­i­ly mem­bers, and the cat, all add to the sense of comfort.

High­ly recommended. 

Walk­ing Grand­ma Home:
a Sto­ry of Grief, Hope, and Heal­ing

writ­ten by Nan­cy Bo Flood
illus­trat­ed by Ellen Shi
Zon­derkidz / Harper­Collins, 2023
sug­gest­ed for ages 3 to 9
ISBN 978 – 0310771241

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David LaRochelle
1 year ago

These both look l like sen­si­tive, beau­ti­ful, impor­tant books.

Laura Purdie Salas
1 year ago

I think books like these are so need­ed. On top of their own grief, kids who expe­ri­ence loss also feel the iso­la­tion of not hav­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties to talk about what they’re feel­ing. Books pro­vide that oppor­tu­ni­ty and that knowl­edge that they’re not alone in their grief. Walk­ing Grand­ma Home is just lovely.I’ll have to look for Sit­ting Shi­va. Thanks for shar­ing these…