Sesame Street: talking about grief before it was cool

Mr. HooperSesame 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:

Or check out the whole video by going to the PBS website HERE!:

Go to the When Families Grief website to view video clips and download an array of tools and resources, including grief journal pages, a memory chain activity, and care cards.  You can check out their entire free, downloadable parent/caregiver guide here.  They also have a great storybook for kids that you can print for free here.  And in case that wasn’t all amazng enough, every bit of what they offer is available in English and Spanish.  Seriously, Sesame Street, you guys are the best.

Other Tough Times

Over the years Sesame Street has kept up this trend of tackling tough topics head on, to help kids in times where they may feel unsafe, unsure, scared or confused.  After 9/11 Sesame Street helped kids with fires and emergencies in an episode on a fire at Hooper’s Store.

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


Love Never Dies

In 2004, 21 years after Mr. Hooper’s death on the show, Grover takes Elmo on a walk (cab ride) down memory lane.  At the very start of this journey Elmo learned about Mr. Hooper and how Hooper’s Store got his name.


To this day Mr. Hooper’s picture still hangs above Big Bird’s nest and can be seen in the hurricaneMr. Hooper 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.

Related Posts:

  1. Talking to Children About Death: The danger of euphemism
  2. Speaking Up About Grief, Vol 5
  3. Happy Blog-i-versary to What’s Your Grief!!
  4. Speaking Up About Grief, Vol 6

Complete Article HERE!

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