My grandmother is pragmatic about everything, including death. She’s very comfortable with the cycle of life concept and approaches the subject with a certain matter of factness and acceptance that I’ve always admired. It’s one of the many things I’ve learned from her over the years. So now, as I’m driving to my grandfather’s funeral, know it is her strength that will buttress the family and I have confidence that she’s going to be ok.
But how to handle the subject with children? I tend to believe that children should be included in the grieving process. Even young children know that something is wrong and being kept out just means they start to fill in the blanks themselves — often in inaccurately. I only have anecdotal evidence for this claim.
Numerous books deal with the subject of death, some more heavy handed than others. I suspect that one of the first encounters with death many children have involves household pets; therefore I’ll start with two books by Cynthia Rylant Cat Heaven and Dog Heaven (Blue Sky Press, $16.99). Both help children envision a paradise constructed for cats and dogs respectively. The soft swirling illustrations are evocative, but also vague enough to allow children space for their own imagination. Certainly utilizing a Christian perspective of the afterlife, these two book focus on providing comfort and security for young readers.