For deeper spiritual concerns around death, loss and mourning, here are some recommended books.
Saying Kaddish: How to Comfort the Dying, Bury the Dead and Mourn as a Jew, by Anita Diamant. Diamant show us how to make Judaism’s time-honored rituals into personal and meaningful sources of comfort in difficult times. She provides detailed description of Jewish practices from the sickroom to the funeral to the shiva house and the days, weeks and years that follow. She is one of the most respected writers of guides to Jewish life, having already written on weddings, conversion and babies.
Making Loss Matter, by Rabbi David Wolpe. This book shares the wisdom of ancient stories, great rabbis, philosophers and poets, along with his personal experiences as a rabbi, song, grandson, father and husband, to help the reader find the faith and hope and overcome feelings of helplessness to survive the tragic loss of a loved one and create meaning in difficult times.
A Jewish Book of Comfort, by Alan Kay. This anthology contains essays, fiction, letters, sermons, poems and readings, divided into sections that correspond to the progressive stages of Jewish mourning. The inspirational readings and personal reflections from the author will help the mourner discover that he or she is not alone with the pain and loneliness felt at the time of someone’s death.
The Death of Death, by Neil Gilman. An original and compelling book about the Jewish afterlife, combining historical, theological and liturgical insights to outline the evolution of Jewish thought about bodily resurrection and spiritual immortality. It is a fascinating look at both the meaning of life and the meaning of death.
Books specifically for children about death and loss.
A Candle for Grandpa – A Guide to the Jewish Funeral for Children and Parents, by David Techner and Judith Hirt-Manheimer. An invaluable resource that gives comfort and counsel to young people who are experiencing the sadness that follows a loved one’s death. It explains the funeral and burial practices for children and is accompanied by meaningful explanations for parents.
Lifetimes: The Beautiful Way to Explain Death to Children, by Bryan Mellonie and Robert Ingpen. Lifetimes is a moving book that explains life and death in a sensitive, caring and beautiful way. It tells us about beginnings and ends, and life in between. With large illustrations, it tells us that dying is as much a part of living as being born, helping us to remember and to understand.
The Fall of Freddie the Leaf: Story of Life for All Ages, by Leo Buscaglia. Freddie and other leaves on his tree pass through the seasons and, with the coming of winter, fall to the ground. This warm and sympathetic parable explains the delicate balance between life and death. As Freddie experiences the changing seasons along with his companion leaves, he learns that death is a part of life.
Helping Children Cope with the Loss of a Loved One: A Guide for Grownups, by William C. Kroen, Pamela Espeland. Dr. William Kroen offers sound advice, comfort and compassion to any adult helping a child cope with death. Weaving in anecdotes about real children and their families, he explains how children from infancy through age 18 perceive and react to death, and offers practical, hands-on suggestions for how to respond to children at different ages and stages. Specific strategies are offered to guide and support them through the grieving process. This book won the 1996 Parent’s Choice Award for Excellence.