I Had a Friend Named Peter: Talking to Children about the Death of a Friend

By Janice Cohn, D.S.W. 

Illustrated by Gail Owens

Publisher: Morrow Junior Books


When a child dies, parents and teachers are faced with a dilemma.  Should the child’s friends and classmates be told what has happened?  How much should they be told?  Does altering the truth protect children or harm them?

In this sensitive, reassuringly illustrated story, Betsy learns of the sudden death of her friend Peter, and her parents help her cope with the news.  Betsy wonders: Will I die, too?  Did I somehow cause the death?  Will the funeral be scary?  Will Peter be cold and lonely after he’s buried?  Later, Betsy is able to create a special tribute to Peter and is comforted by the knowledge that Peter will never be forgotten.

An introduction by Dr. Cohn discusses guidelines from experts that answer the questions parents and teachers may have about talking to children about death, including how death should be explained to a very young child, whether a child should be encouraged to go to the funeral of a friend, and what kinds of reactions children may exhibit.

Betsy’s story can be shared by parents and children to help them cope with a difficult time—and to show children that, as Betsy learned, people may die but memories last forever.

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