Skip to main content

Giving Hope: Conversations with Children About Illness, Death and Loss

A Book to Look For - reviewed by Catherine Myers


book cover - Giving Hope: Conversations with Children About Illness, Death, and Loss


Giving Hope: Conversations with Children About Illness, Death, and Loss


By Elena Lister, MD and Michael Schwartzman, PhD with Lindsey Tate


What can parents do to help children when they experience illness, death and loss? Although you might think you don’t need this book now, reading it can open your eyes to the importance of talking about death as the fact of life it is. As the authors point out, children notice death all around us: a dead fly on the windowsill, brown stalks where flowers once bloomed. We live in a culture that generally does a poor job of acknowledging loss and sadness.


With gentle encouragement, plenty of stories and clear principles, Drs. Elena Lister and Michael Schwartzman offer us expert guidance on helping children—and ourselves—through difficult times.


“Your attunement to your child, this flow of emotional currents between you, lies at the heart of your bond with her and will help you enormously as you navigate talking with her about something upsetting.”


The authors also encourage parents to take time to understand their own emotional experiences, and urge us to seek professional help if we are struggling. Compelling stories illuminate their guidance, showing how children and parents can “handle hard things and get through to where hope resides.”


Reading this book helped me feel more confident and prepared for talking with my grandchildren when inevitable loss comes along next. I wish I’d had it when my children were growing up. In addition to explaining essential principles of talking with children about loss, the authors address specific situations including the death of a sibling, parent, or other close family member, a death in the community, death by suicide, terminal illness, and news of death in the media.


Every parent and child will encounter a loss or death, sooner or later. Drs. Lister and Schwartzman have decades of experience in helping families through hard times, and they generously share their professional expertise as well as their personal experiences.


Giving Hope is a warm, engaging read in spite of its difficult topic. Read it; keep it on your bookshelf as an essential resource. You’ll be better prepared for life’s most challenging times, and you’ll able to turn to it again, like a reliable friend, for great advice and comfort. 


book cover - Giving Hope: Conversations with Children About Illness, Death, and Loss