Children’s films which can help youngsters understand loss

28 September 2018

Dealing with death is never easy for adults, but for children, loss can be inexplicable and, in many cases, life-altering.

Children's films to help understand loss

Here, we take a look at three exceptional children’s films that deal with death and loss and can help to provide young people with a better understanding of what it means to lose someone.

Coco (2017)

In 2017, the storytelling geniuses at Disney Pixar created the tale of 12-year-old Miguel, who is accidentally transported to the land of the dead and united with his lost ancestors. The plot looks at the impassibility between the land of the living and the land of the dead and how, when the protagonist is in one realm, he is unable to make contact with those from the other side. The movie is unusual in that its central theme is loss and death, which few adult pictures have looked at, let alone children’s films. It came out to rave reviews and communicates the permanence of loss to children in a meaningful way.

The Lion King (1994)

One of Disney’s most enduringly affecting tales sees the King of the Jungle, Mufasa, killed to save his son and heir to the throne, Simba. Simba is then exiled by his wicked uncle, Scar, who selfishly takes the throne for himself. The death of Mufasa is one of the most moving deaths in cinema history and can help children to understand the loss of a parent and authority figure. Crucially, the death of Mufasa comes early in the film and therefore Simba has the entire film to come to terms with the loss and develop as a character.

Up (2009)

The first fifteen minutes of Pixar’s ‘Up’ is one of the most moving sequences in cinematic history at the start of what is an otherwise enjoyable adventure story. Up begins with the tale of a young girl, full of life and adventure, who dreams of becoming an explorer. She marries her childhood friend and the couple spend their lives saving up to visit Paradise Falls in South America. Unfortunately, life keeps getting in the way and they find themselves unable to go. At the end of the opening montage, the lady dies, having had a wonderful life with her now aged husband, but without ever getting to Paradise Falls. The story goes on to chart the determination of her widowed husband to fulfil his late wife’s dream. The film is incredibly moving for children and adults alike, and helps to show the difficulty people can have in dealing with loss. It also does a good job of demonstrating the affects that grief can have on a person.

Please visit the Cruse Bereavement Care website for more resources dedicated to explaining the concept of death to children and young people.