It's OK to Be Sad: Activities to Help Children Aged 4 to 9 to Manage Loss, Grief or Bereavement


Margaret Collins & Philippa Drakeford

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    Lucky Duck

    Lucky Duck is more than a publishing house and training agency. George Robinson and Barbara Maines founded the company in the 1980s when they worked together as a head and as a psychologist, developing innovative strategies to support challenging students.

    They have an international reputation for their work on bullying, self-esteem, emotional literacy and many other subjects of interest to the world of education.

    George and Barbara have set up a regular news-spot on the website at

    and information about their training programmes can be found at

    More details about Lucky Duck can be found at

    Visit the website for all our latest publications in our specialist topics:

    • Emotional Literacy
    • Bullying
    • Circle Time
    • Asperger's Syndrome
    • Self-esteem
    • Positive Behaviour Management
    • Anger Management
    • Eating Disorders.

    A note on the use of gender

    Rather than repeat throughout the book the modern but cumbersome ‘s/he’, we have decided to use both genders equally throughout the range of activities. In no way are we suggesting a stereotype for either gender in any activity. We believe that you can adapt if the example you are given does not correspond to the gender of the child in front of you!

    A note on the use of the words ‘family’ and ‘parents’

    Many children do not live in conventional two parent families. Some are looked after by the local authority and might have confusing and painful experiences. We often use the term ‘carer’ to identify the adults who look after such a child or young person. Sometimes ‘people you live with’ might be more appropriate than ‘family’. These phrases can make the text rather repetitive. Please use the words most suitable for the young people you work with.

  • Picture Storybooks

    All these stories have a great deal to offer children as good stories in themselves and you can use them as a way in for discussion about loss, grief and bereavement. Those marked with ∗ have been used as the story for an activity.

    Alborough, J. (1994) Where's My Teddy? Walker

    Eddy has lost his Teddy, Freddy, so off he goes into the dark and horrible wood to find him. At the same time a gigantic bear has lost his Teddy …

    Baum, L. (1986) Are We Nearly There? Bodley Head

    Simon and his dad are on their way home after a day out together. Dad leaves Simon with Mum and Simon waves Dad goodbye.

    Burningham, J. (1988) Granpa. Picture Puffin

    When Granpa dies a little girl is left with wonderful memories of a very special friendship.

    Dupasquier, P. (2002) Dear Daddy. Anderson Press

    Sophie writes to her father who is away at sea. What she says in her letters is illustrated and above these pictures are others showing what Daddy is doing. Eventually Daddy comes home and on the last page they are reunited.

    ∗ Durant, A. (2003) Always and Forever. Doubleday

    When Fox dies, his friends think they will never get over their sadness, but when Squirrel calls, she reminds them of all the funny things Fox did and they realise that Fox is still in their hearts and memories and will be with them forever.

    Fox, M. (1984) Wilfred Gordon McDonald Partridge. Picture Puffins

    Miss Nancy has lost her memory and Wilfred Gordon McDonald Partridge tries to help her find it. A book about memories.

    ∗ Gould, G. (1987) Grandpa's Slide Show. Puffin

    Grandpa always showed a slide show whenever Douglas visited. Then Grandpa died and things were different and Douglas and his family felt very sad. The next time they visited Grandma they had the slide show again and shared memories of Grandpa.

    Hathorn, L. (1995) Grandma's Shoes. Viking

    A book about a family healing from the death of a loved one. Recovering from such grief can take a long time.

    Hoffman, M. & Binch, C. (1995) Grace and Family. Frances Lincoln

    Grace lives with Ma, Nana and a cat called Paw-Paw. Then Papa asks her to visit him in the Gambia and she meets a whole new family.

    ∗ Hughes, S. (1977) Dogger. Picture Lions

    When Dave loses his best toy, the only one he takes to bed with him, he searches everywhere, only to find it the next day on a stall at the school fair. Before he can buy it, someone else does, and how he gets it back shows how much his sister loves him.

    Limb, S. & Munoz, C. (1995) Come Back Grandma. Red Fox

    Bessie is very upset at the death of her beloved Grandma. It takes a long time; until she is grown up and has a daughter just like Grandma.

    McAfee, A. (1984) Visitors Who Came to Stay, Hamish Hamilton

    How it feels when a parent meets someone new to love and wants to make one whole new family from two separate ones.

    ∗ Robinson, C. & Broadley, S. (1994) Leaving Mrs Ellis. Bodley Head

    A story about Leo who will be moving on to a new class and the loss he feels in leaving behind a loving teacher.

    Selway, M. (1993) Don't Forget to Write. Red Fox

    Rosie is going to stay with Grandad and Aunty Mabel and doesn't want to go. She writes letters to her family which start off with her wanting to come home immediately and end up with her wanting to stay a little longer.

    Simonds, P. (1989) Fred. Penguin

    Lazy old Fred was just an ordinary cat, until he died and had the funeral of the century. A light hearted story of the death and funeral of Fred, the superstar cat.

    Varley, S. (1992) Badger's Parting Gifts. Julia McRae

    When Badger dies, all his animal friends find it hard not to be sad, until they all realise they have a special memory of Badger. He had given each of them a parting gift that will help them to remember him for ever.

    Waddell, M. (1990) Grandma's Bill. Simon & Schuster

    Bill didn't know he had a Grandpa until he saw a photo when he visited Grandma. Grandma explained that he too had been called Bill and brought out the photo album and shared all her memories with young Bill. Bill and Grandma look together at the pictures of the past and the present, sharing the reassuring sense of continuity.

    Waddell, M. (1991) Once There Were Giants. Walker

    A lovely story about the circle of life – baby growing up, moving on, leaving home and a new baby.

    Weninger, B. & Marks, A. (1995) Goodbye Daddy! North-South

    A story about separation and divorce. Tommy is upset because Daddy lives in another house now and has to go to his home after a day out. Teddy tells him a story which helps …

    ∗ Wilhelm, H. (1985) I'll Always Love You. Hodder & Stoughton

    A story of the close relationship between a boy and his dog and how he comes to terms with its death. Effie the dog grew quickly, grew old, became ill and died. The boy's grief is tempered with the knowledge that he had repeatedly told his dog, ‘I'll always love you.’


    Bornman, J., Collins, M. & Maines, B. (2004) Just the Same on the Inside. London: Paul Chapman Books.
    Collins, M. (2001) Circle Time for the Very Young. Bristol: Lucky Duck Publishing Ltd.
    Collins, M. (2001) Because We're Worth It. Bristol: Lucky Duck Publishing Ltd.
    Collins, M. (2002) Circling Round Citizenship. Bristol: Lucky Duck Publishing Ltd.
    Collins, M. (2002) Because I'm Special. Bristol: Lucky Duck Publishing Ltd.
    Collins, M. (2003) Enhancing Circle Time for the Very Young. Bristol: Lucky Duck Publishing Ltd.
    Collins, M. (2004) Circling Safely. Bristol: Lucky Duck Publishing Ltd.
    DfEE (2001) Promoting Children's Mental Health within Early Years and School Settings.
    Collins, M. (2004) But is it Bullying?London: Paul Chapman Publishing.
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