When Kids Grieve
Losing a loved one is so hard. Death is very sad, and it makes God sad too. He wants to help you and your children through such difficult times. When grieving, people experience a wide range of emotions. Kids may grieve differently than you, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t hurting. You may think you have to be strong to hold your family together. But don’t think that means you shouldn’t cry or show your sadness. Kids need to learn healthy ways to grieve. They need to see that it’s okay to cry and be sad. The danger comes, when grieving gives way to despair or loss of control, and that can lead kids to develop even greater anxiety.
When you properly grieve together, you can also comfort one another. A great way to comfort one another is by looking to God who is the great comforter. In 1 Peter 5:7, God says to cast all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Remind one another, “God loves and cares for you.” Pray together, telling God how you feel and asking Him to help. You can show it’s okay to be honest with God about feelings as you pray about your emotions. Your willingness to show your own struggle with grief will help kids work through theirs. Grief can be scary, but God is there to help. Give children the time and space they need to grieve.
It may be encouraging for kids to know Jesus grieved when He was on earth. When Jesus received terrible news that His cousin, John the Baptist, was executed, the Bible says, “He withdrew from there in a boat to a desolate place by himself.” Jesus wanted time alone to grieve. He and John had a special bond. Maybe your child needs some time alone as well. Show you are sensitive to his needs by asking, “Do you want me to stay, or do you want time alone?”
The Bible also tells us Jesus wept as He grieved for His good friend, Lazarus. Even though Jesus knew God’s plan to bring Lazarus back from the dead, He still cried. Crying doesn’t mean you aren’t trusting God. It’s a natural part of being sad. It’s okay, even good, to weep and work though emotions when a loved one dies. God created emotions, and Jesus—in his perfection—showed deep emotion and grief. Kids need to know this, to help them know it’s okay to cry.
Kids may have questions about death and what happens after people die. Take time to listen to their questions and gently give honest answers. Don’t let them think their questions are causing you more grief, or they may stop asking. Point them to God, who knows all the answers. A great tool is the booklet, Do You Wonder Why, which you can order from CEFPress.com and I’ll give you that address again. When God first made the world, it was perfect. However, when sin came into the world, it brought death and destruction. Take kids to Romans 5:12 and explain how when the first man and woman sinned, sin spread to all humanity. Death is the result of sin. Make sure to clarify that death is a result of the sinful condition of the world and not a specific sin of the person who died or anyone else’s sin. Some children will let grief lead to guilt, so it’s important to help them talk about their feelings so you can guide them well.
After talking about how death points to the great problem of sin in our world, take time to share about Jesus’ death and resurrection. While sin shows us the why behind death, the resurrection shows us the hope beyond death. Read 1 Corinthians 15:54-57 with kids and ask what they think it means that, through Jesus, death no longer has its sting. (slight pause) It’s because Jesus gives victory over sin and death. When you believe in Jesus, even though your earthly body dies, the real you goes on to live with God forever, and Heaven is a wonderful place! You receive a new body and a new home where there is
no sin or death. Knowing this can be a great comfort to children. It can also be a good opportunity to talk with them about what they believe and invite them to believe the Gospel if they haven’t already.
The booklet especially for kids, titled, “Do You Wonder Why?” dives into deep questions about why bad things happen, and points kids to the hope they can find in God. You can purchase the “Do You Wonder Why?” booklet at cefpress.com.
Grief is sneaky. The grief of missing a loved one can sneak up and surprise a person at odd times or long after the initial grief seems to be over, so continue to be sensitive. Perhaps ask if something reminded the child of their loved one so they can talk it out. Help them take pleasure in good memories. If the person was known to you as well, tell the child you are so thankful you can share memories with them. This frees them to share and helps them realize they can have a part in comforting others as well.
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