One week before our son was born, I ordered a slew of books to help prepare our 2 year old daughter for the event that was sure to rock her world: bringing home a baby! I had asked all of my friends, Googled all of the questions, and read all of the articles before turning to Prime and ordering: I’m a Big Sister, My New Baby, and Big Sister Activity Coloring Book. They arrived two days later and I thought we were set.
Little did I know that just weeks later I’d be doing a frantic internet search to find books for toddlers about death and sibling loss…
One week later when Rory was born and we realized he would soon die, I realized just how life altering his entrance (and abrupt exit) would actually be to our dear girl. Although still a young toddler, I knew Gemma’s world was going to be rocked, and the impact of Rory’s life and death on her life and well being was not something we took lightly.
Preparing a Toddler for the Loss of a Baby Sibling
While Rory was alive and in the NICU, we did everything we could to maintain a sense of stability and routine for Gemma. We did all that we could to ensure at least mom or dad was home for dinner and bedtime every night, and that at least one of us was always home when she woke up in the morning. It was hard with a newborn in the NICU, but we took turns spending 1:1 time with her, and we spoke honestly in an age appropriate way about what was going on with her new baby brother.
We worked with professionals like child life specialists in the NICU and family counselors and palliative care teams to help prepare Gemma for Rory’s return home, and his death, and everyone agreed that children’s books are an excellent tool to help young children understand death and process the emotions that we know come along with grief.
But finding books for toddlers about death that are truly age appropriate proved harder than I expected. There are plenty of lists and roundups and product links for children’s books about death and grief… but most are tailored more so for children ages 5+.
Our Top 3 Books for Toddler About Sibling Loss
Simply put it was really hard to find books for toddlers about death. And even our child life specialists from the hospital came up short when we asked for a list of book recommendations on child loss that we could read to our 2 year old. Don’t mistake what I’m saying – there are in fact a lot of books out there written for children to help explain death and heaven. Fortunately, I came to find out there are even a dozen or so great children’s books about families losing a child through miscarriage, stillbirth, or infant loss
The challenge was just in finding them, and finding the right ones that Gemma would seem to “get”. We were looking for storylines that our toddler could understand about losing a sibling, or the meaning of death, or what it means to feel really sad, or about connecting with people we love everywhere, even if they’re not “here.”
The challenge of finding the right book was so frustrating, it almost made me want to write a damn children’s book about the topic myself!
While I was disappointed with the selection of books for toddlers about death and child loss specifically, I did of course still buy a million to try out… just in case one resonated with our toddler more than others.
These 3 books were and continue to be our household’s favorite:
- Dancing on the Moon by Janice Roper
- My Sibling Still by Megan Lacourrege
- That’s Me Loving You by Amy Rosenthal
The first two talk about the loss of a sibling very directly. Which frankly with a toddler is important! But That’s Me Loving You by Amy Rosenthal is different. It’s not actually not about sibling loss at all! It’s written from the point of view of a mother. And the mom is telling her child that she’s always “with” the child. Through the soft wind and the birds and the butterflies. But when you imagine reading the same exact story from the perspective of someone who has died, it tells an equally beautiful and moving story – and serves as a lesson that those who are no longer here on earth are still very much still surrounding us with their love day in and day out.
25 Children’s Books About Infant Loss, Death, and Grieving
The books above are the ones that worked best for our household. But trust me when I say we read them all. Multiple times. And we still reach for one every now and then! When we realize Gemma’s been talking about her siblings a lot. When we think she might be extra sad. And even when other events have taken place, like my own grandmother dying.
Like I said. We love a few books in particular most for our unique situation. However here are even more that we bought and read at least a couple of times.
Books for Siblings About Miscarriage, Stillbirth, and Infant Loss
- Dancing on the Moon by Janice Roper
- My Sibling Still: for those who’ve lost a sibling to miscarriage, stillbirth, and infant death
- Someone Came Before You by Pat Schwiebert
- My Baby Big Sister: A Book for Children Born Subsequent to a Pregnancy Loss
- We Were Gonna Have a Baby, But We Had an Angel Instead
- No New Baby: For Siblings Who Have a Brother or Sister Die Before Birth
- Something Happened by Cathy Blanford
- Stacy Had a Little Sister
Books About Death in General
- I Miss You: A First Look at Death
- Something Very Sad Happened: A Toddler’s Guide to Understanding Death
- The Goodbye Book
- Ida, Always
- When Someone Very Special Dies: Children Can Learn to Cope with Grief
- A Hug From Heaven
- The Rainbow Bridge: A Visit to Pet Paradise
- I’ll Always Love You by Hans Wilhelm
- Gentle Willow: A Story for Children About Dying
- The Elephant in the Room: A Childrens Book for Grief and Loss
- Someone I Love Died by Christine Harder Tangvald
- Always and Forever by Alan Durant
- Where Do People Go When They Die?
Stories About Hard Emotions Like Sadness
- Everybody Feels Sad by Jane Bingham
- Sad Isn’t Bad: A Good-grief Guidebook for Kids Dealing with Loss
- The Rabbit Listened
- The Boy Who Didn’t Want to Be Sad
I would really love for this list to be something that evolves over time. One that I can continue to update as I come across new books that fit this niche! So if you’re reading and have any additional books for toddlers about death, child loss, sibling loss etc., please please please share it with me. I’ll add it to my post!