Children’s literature is filled with beautiful stories that range from teaching kids about the world around them to morality lessons to plain and simple silliness. There are also an abundance of titles that deal with emotionally complicated and difficult topics, like death and grief.
But the specific topic of pregnancy and infant loss is more rarely found. Often children’s books that talk about death focus on the passing of a grandparent or another older adult. This can be frustrating for families seeking to explain the death of a child.
Here is a list of nine books that we either have personally, or have been suggested by other loss families. Included is a short description of the content and tone for each one. Not every book works for every family, and we find ourselves sometimes changing the words or skipping pages when we read out loud.
This book talks about how all living things eventually die in very simple, straightforward language. It talks about plants, small animals, larger animals, and eventually people. The book explains that most people live a lifetime of sixty or seventy years (it was published in the early 80’s, so maybe round up when you read it out loud), but sometimes people become sick or get hurt and can no longer stay alive. There is a picture on this page of a child, but the text does not mention child loss, baby loss, or pregnancy loss specifically. We like this book because it is written in a matter-of-fact tone. It acknowledges the sadness that can accompany death, but goes back to things being the way they are – all living things eventually die.
This is a simple story about a bird family. The baby bird gets very scared during a storm and is comforted by the mother bird. After the storm passes, the mother explains that before baby bird was born, they were expecting “Little Baby Bird,” but that baby died. The story explains that after storms, sometimes (not all the time) there are rainbows. These rainbows are special, but they don’t erase the memory of what came before. Although the story does not discuss angels, there are dedication pages in the beginning that use the term “Angel Babies.” We like this book because it is written so that a very young child can understand the story and there is attention given that “Little Baby Bird” will not be forgotten.
This story focuses on a family throughout a pregnancy, the baby’s death, pregnancy after loss, and rainbow baby. It is implied that the baby died after birth (there are pictures of the baby on display in the illustrations), but the text is vague enough to apply to either a pregnancy or neonatal loss. Angel imagery is used throughout, including descriptions of the baby who died attempting to comfort the parents and helping them make room in their hearts to love another baby. In our house, we change some of the words when we read this book (i.e. replacing “pray” with “hope”), but in general we appreciate the story. We like that it talks about continuing to remember the baby who died.
My family doesn’t have this book, but we have seen it recommended by many others. It is a clear, simple story that could be read as a pregnancy loss or a loss after birth. In addition to the story (from the perspective of an older sibling), there are boxes with additional text for the parent / caregiver to help discuss the loss with small children. The author, Cathy Blanford, has a Master’s Degree in Early Childhood Development and has over 20 years of experience working with grieving children.
From the same author as “Something Happened,” this book is from the perspective of a child born after a loss. While it does specifically say “sister,” we’ve heard some families simply substitute the word “brother” when reading aloud. It can help when explaining the unusual experience of having a “big” sibling who is not there, who only lived before the “little” sibling was born.
While not about a death in the family, this book addresses the death of a schoolmate. We really appreciate the tenderness that Chester’s mom has in explaining the death and comforting Chester. She suggests they make a memory, and many other animals join them. Chester is the focus and shares stories of his friend with the other animals. We like that we can use this book to help explain why we have our son’s picture all around the house and why we have mementos and special objects.
This book does center around the death of a grandmother, but we felt it important to include. It includes beautiful text about the link between joy and sorrow, between life and death. Death talks directly to the children, there isn’t a buffer of parents or other adults. The story continues after the death showing the children living their lives with loving, happy memories of the loved one they lost. We don’t have this book (yet), but it is on our list to purchase soon!
These books are truly special as they are personalized to your baby’s story. You can choose the name and sex of your baby, and they have versions for pregnancy loss, infant loss, one of twins, multiples loss, and even older child loss and adult loss. As seen on the cover, there is angel imagery used, but there is not specific discussion of an afterlife. The baby narrates the story, assuring loved ones that he/she is all around in places like the wind and the waves and the stars in the sky. This would make a lovely gift for family and friends to remind them that your baby continues to exist in our hearts and in the way we see the world.
Make your own photobook to tell your baby’s story
If it’s your own story, you can make it reflect your own circumstances. The description of your pregnancy and loss can be exactly laid out in the story. Even if you don’t use your own names, it gives you the chance to have the family in the book match yours (not all families are a Mommy, a Daddy, and a baby). My husband and I did this for our older nieces and nephews (aged 2-5 when Oberon died). It tells the story of their cousin, his birth, his visitors, but doesn’t get into great detail about his death. For us, it was more to remember that he existed than about explaining death. You could explain about the pregnancy or infant loss and use the opportunity to describe how the baby is still a part of your family, a part of your life forever. Eventually, we plan to do this for our subsequent children.
It’s good that there are at least some books to help bereaved parents talk to the children in their lives about their baby who died. Unfortunately, there still aren’t a lot of options. Which ones did we miss? Please tell us about the books that helped your families.