Sesame Street: Talking About Grief Before It Was Cool

Books, Movies, and Music / Books, Movies, and Music : Litsa Williams

Sesame Street was talking about grief before it was cool.  Okay, so talking about death and grief still may not be cool (wait, do people even say "cool" anymore?  Am I showing my age?).  Let's just say this: Sesame Street was tackling this topic long before the internet was full of tools and activities for supporting grieving kids.  As early as 1983 they were helping kids understand death and grief.  30 years later they are still at it, better than ever.


The first time Sesame Street really tackled death was when Mr. Hooper died in an episode that aired on Thanksgiving Day in 1983.  When Will Lee, the actor who played Mr. Hooper, died of a heart attack there were many ways that Sesame Street could have handled it.  Rather than shying away from the topic of death and grief, Sesame Street used this as an opportunity to do what they do best – teach.  In the "Farewell, Mr. Hooper" episode, Sesame Street used Big Bird to help kids understand death and grief.


In 2010, Sesame Street and Sesame Workshop received grants through a number of defense organizations and Walmart to put together resources for children on grief and loss. Launched with a great TV special, they put together an incredible combination of resources for grieving kids and adults supporting those kids.  Many of these resources are available for free viewing and download.  Check out a preview of the video here of the special done with Katie Couric, Elmo, and the families of several children who have experienced losses:

After Hurricane Katrina, Sesame Street tackled this topic through a series of episodes about a hurricane on Sesame Street.

Little Children, Big Challenges: Incarceration

In this clip, Alex talks with Abby Cadabby, Rosita, and Sofia about his dad's incarceration.

If you know a child impacted by the incarceration of a parent or family member, Sesame Street has a dedicated tool kit that can be found here.

Mr. Hooper from Sesame Street

To this day, Mr. Hooper's picture still hangs above Big Bird's nest and can be seen in the hurricane episodes.  Thanks, Sesame Street, for facing this tough topic head-on.  And thanks for reminding kids (and all of us) that those we love and lose remain part of us, even 30 years later.

Love learning about Sesame Street and grief?  Subscribe to get more interesting grief info right to your inbox.

Know of other kids' shows that have tackled the topic of grief? Please share with us in a comment!

For more resources to help children cope with grief, check out the following articles:

We wrote a book!

After writing online articles for What’s Your Grief
for over a decade, we finally wrote a tangible,
real-life book!

After writing online articles for What’s Your Grief for over a decade, we finally wrote a tangible, real-life book!

What’s Your Grief? Lists to Help you Through Any Loss is for people experiencing any type of loss. This book discusses some of the most common grief experiences and breaks down psychological concepts to help you understand your thoughts and emotions. It also shares useful coping tools, and helps the reader reflect on their unique relationship with grief and loss.

You can find What’s Your Grief? Lists to Help you Through Any Loss wherever you buy books:

Let’s be grief friends.

We post a new article to What’s Your Grief about once a week. Subscribe to stay up to date on all our posts.

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2 Comments on "Sesame Street: Talking About Grief Before It Was Cool"

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  1. Karla Helbert  May 17, 2013 at 2:29 pm Reply

    Thanks for this–I love Sesame Street for how they handle grief and loss. I have several packets with the Katie Couric/Elmo special you mention along with a booklet on how to help kids in grief. They were available to non-profits for a while and I was able to get them for my MISS Foundation families.

    • Eleanor  May 18, 2013 at 11:11 pm Reply

      Karla, the packets/booklets are awesome, right?? I personally struggle sometimes to find good resources to provide to grieving families so when there is one as well done and comprehensive as theirs, I am all over it. Way to go Sesame Street.

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