Dr. Wolfelt recently wrote a foreword for a new resource titled Death, Loss, and Grief in Literature for Youth: A Selective Annotated Bibliography for K-12, compiled by Alice Crosetto and Rajinder Garcha, and published by Scarecrow Press, Inc. If you are looking for resources to help grieving youth, check out this excellent bibliography.


Who among us hasn’t been touched—changed, even—by stories?

The power of story has held sway over humankind for millennia, for it is through narratives that we most deeply understand and empathize with others. Our brains are simply wired for story. Through a well-told tale, we are able to put ourselves in another’s shoes and feel his or her experience. And if that experience mirrors our own real-life story, we often not only see ourselves in the pages, we absorb, as if through some magical literary osmosis, the character’s lessons learned and transformations undergone.

Yes, we are changed by stories, both fiction and nonfiction. As I educate others about grief and mourning, I often talk about the concept of “perturbation.” You see, when people actively mourn, there is movement. In other words, their emotions are in motion. The term “perturbation” refers to the capacity to experience change and movement.

Stories move us. This includes, of course, grieving young people. To integrate grief, children must be touched by what they experience. When they cannot feel a feeling, they are unable to be changed by it, and instead of perturbation, they become “stuck.” And when stuck, children carry their grief rather than release it, sometimes into adulthood. Yet when children actively mourn, they open their hearts to love and the feelings of loss. This openness welcomes a transformation of living and loving.

Reading stories about loss, then, is a way for grieving children to actively mourn, which in turn leads to healing. Carefully selected books, specific to the unique situation and needs of a particular child, can help children with a variety of life difficulties.

In my experience with thousands of bereaved children, written words are less intrusive and demanding than spoken conversation. As with play, art, and music, children approach books with a minimum of defensive posturing. Obviously, I am an advocate of helping bereaved children through the use of literature and, because I believe books can help children heal, have authored several books myself for and about grieving young people that are annotated in chapter 10.

This wonderful bibliography includes hundreds of excellent books to read with or place in the hands of grieving children and teens. A number of questions need to be asked when you are considering a particular book for use with a particular bereaved child. How does the book present the material, language, text, illustrations, and so forth? What kind of message would the child get from the book? How are feelings dealt with in the book? Are the content and language in the book appropriate for the development level of this unique child? How does the book define death? Does this book represent a general humanistic approach to death or a particular religious point of view? This excellent resource will help you find and narrow down the choices for a bereaved child in your care. I suggest you then read the books on the short list yourself to choose the very best fit.

Thank you for companioning bereaved children. If you are reading this book, you are thoughtfully giving your time and attention in order to help a grieving child. I salute you, just as I salute Alice Crosetto and Rajinder Garcha for compiling this essential annotated bibliography.