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Reading between the lines: how literature can help with loss (Part 1)

10th May 2017   Advice Latest News

One thing is inevitable in life: at some point we will all have to deal with death. While our experiences may differ greatly, we can take solace in the fact that plenty of literature exists to help us talk and think about the loss of a loved one. As Exeter funeral directors, we are all to aware of how literature can help with loss.

literature can help with lossAfter a loss, turning to literature for help and advice can be incredibly cathartic. From general information to in-depth individual accounts, discovering new ways to work through grief and bereavement through reading provides comfort in a time of need. In addition, locating stories that are similar to our own, can make us feel as though we are not alone.

It is also important to note that children and adults deal with grief and loss differently; therefore, literature must distinguish between behaviours, attitudes and understanding of grief depending on age and prior experiences. In the first of a two-part instalment, we have put together a list of our favourite books that help children to grieve and deal with death.

Top children’s books on death and bereavement

Goodnight Mr TomGoodnight Mister Tom, Michelle Magorian

Many of us would have read Goodnight Mister Tom in school, or at home as children – you may have never watched the film adaptation with John Thaw as Tom Oakley.

Tom, whose wife and child died many years ago, takes in Willie – a young boy who is evacuated from London to the countryside. At first, they are an unlikely pair, though as the book progresses they develop a close relationship and end up helping each other grow in many ways.

The novel deals with many different aspects of loss and death, while remaining hopeful and present heartwarming moments of kindness and friendship.


Charlotte's WebCharlotte’s Web, EB White

This classic children’s book deals with death and grieving in a healthy, sensitive way. The story begins with a meeting between Wilbur, a kind yet naive pig, and Charlotte, a motherly, warm spider are follows their relationship as it grows and develops.

Charlotte eases Wilbur into farm life, and works tirelessly to prevent his demise as next year’s Christmas dinner.

Although Charlotte is successful in saving Wilbur, she herself passes away. Wilbur deals with the loss and learns how to live without her by commemorating their friendship and her memory.


A monster CallsA Monster Calls, Patrick Ness

A Monster Calls tells the story of a young, grief-stricken bog, Conor, dealing with his mother’s terminal cancer. While Conor does everything he can to deny, cheat, avert and ignore the impending death, the ‘monster’ keeps on coming.

Conor battles his own feelings of anger, loneliness and guilt, while desperately trying to care for his mother. In the end, he has to learn that death is not something that can be avoided, and that he must find ways of coping by confiding in the ‘monster’.

Although a beautiful story, given the intense emotionality of the novel, we would recommend this as a read for older children.


Sad BookSad Book, Michael Rosen

The heartwarming account of a father who is grieving the loss of his son, this book emphasises that it’s OK to experience intense emotions, and that everyone feels this way at times.

Michael is mourning his son Eddie, who passed away from meningitis aged 19. The story acknowledges that feelings of sadness, anger, disbelief and lashing out at other people is sometimes not avoidable.

Michael Rosen’s Sad Book is perfectly accompanied by Quentin Blake’s quirky, yet familiar illustrations with complement the book wonderfully.


The Secret GardenThe Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett

The Secret Garden is a timeless tale that deals with narratives of death, loss and loneliness. The story follows two bereaved children who find friendship and a restored faith in life in helping each other to deal with these difficult feelings.

While is not immediately clear as to why this book is an obvious choice, the story does deal with coming to terms with death – Mary’s parents have died, Colin’s mothers has passed away after an accident in the ‘secret garden’, leading his father to abandon him and terrified that he will also die.

Eventually, the abandoned garden is brought back to life, which not only brings back loving memories of of Colin’s mother, but also provides healing for the children.

ISCA Funerals is here to help

In our next blog post, we will look at some of literature exploring grieving, coping mechanisms and death that is available to adults.As a personal, friendly, compassionate funeral directors in Exeter, we are dedicated to helping people through this difficult time.

If you would like to find out more, or you are seeking advice and information about [planning a funeral, get in touch with ISCA Funerals today.

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