The last few months have brought a lot of tragedy to our church body. It’s hard enough to handle the loss or illness of loved ones as adults, imagine the children. For the past month, I have had questions about death and heaven many times over. I have heard from parents that quiet moments at home, like bedtime, bring about more questions and often accompanied fears.  And it isn’t just the children that have actually had a loss in the family, their friends are hurting and fearful too. Of course the children speak the small big word that is in most of our minds - Why!? I am honest with them, we don’t always know why. But then I remind them that is what faith is all about; even when bad things happen, God is watching over us and if we follow him, we will see our loved ones in heaven someday.  I recently read a children’s ministry leaders article on helping children cope with death. Here are some key points for all of us.  (from: cogop.org/children/helping-kids-deal-with-death/ )

What NOT to say

“Grandma is sleeping.” The Child may become afraid to go to sleep.

“God loved your Dad so much that he took him to be in heaven with him.” Children should not see God as a people snatcher or the villain .

“God wanted your mother because she was so good”. This can be an invitation for the child to quit being good.

“Don’t cry. Be a big boy/girl.”   The Child needs to know God gives us time to cry and remember those we love. He hurts with us.

“It’s all a part of God’s plan.”   What plan? Is it part of God’s plan to have a mother killed by a drunk driver?

“It was God’s will.” A child may become confused when he hears this. If God is a loving being who watches over us, why would he deliberately hurt us?

How to HELP

Children of all ages mourn and yearn for loved ones who die. Grief is best managed when out in the open. Children cope better with the loss in a safe, caring, warm environment that promotes and encourages expression of emotions.

When children face loss they need someone to grieve with them, they need to know that grieving is okay and they need to know they are not alone. Sharing a verse of hope (Hebrews 13:5b, I Peter 5:7) can be appropriate, but don’t make children feel guilty for grieving.

Children who have lost a loved one often feel powerless and helpless. Talking with someone who cares is important to his or her recovery. Acknowledge and validate feelings of worry, anger, physical distress, and pain as normal in the time of loss.

Remember when…?” is a great conversation starter to get children to talk. Share stories about the loved one the child may not be aware of, “ I remember when….”

Robin Reef