None of us are strangers to loss. Loss and death are givens in this life, yet even as adults we often struggle with how to grieve in a way that brings healing. While it can be difficult to navigate the grief process, it is impossible to avoid. Therefore, helping our children learn early how to grieve in a healthy way will serve them for the rest of their lives.
Teach that loss and death are a part of life.
Keeping age and maturity in mind, children can understand that while it’s not easy to accept, death is a natural process. Growing up on a farm made this a bit simpler for me.
If we are not afraid of death and not unwilling to talk about it, then children will likely feel free to ask questions and be better able to work through it. At the same time, recognize that the subject can be scary, so take your cues from them and don’t push them into topics or situations (such as funerals) too tough for them to grapple emotionally.
For those of you who share my faith, teaching your children early that death is not final, but simply a transition from a temporary life on earth to life everlasting, is a wonderful way to help them cope.
Let them know that grieving is a unique process and there is no “right” way to grieve or “right” time stop.
Spend time answering your children’s questions and reassuring them that there’s no rush to get to the other side. Let them know it’s okay to be sad some days and happy others and that what they feel will not last forever. Someday the pain will not be so sharp and joy will return.
Talk about the good times.
Remind your children that just because a loved one is no longer here doesn’t mean they are erased from our memories. Take time to share funny stories and good memories with them. At the same time, let your children know that someday they will think of the loved one less and that’s okay too.
Model how to grieve.
It’s okay for them to see you cry. It’s okay for them to know how deep your hurt is. This will validate their own feelings and reassure them that their pain is normal. There is no escaping pain in this world, but as your children watch your sadness diminish and joy return, they will have reason to hope.
My family has seen its share of loss these last few years. We have all handled it differently, but we have grown closer to the Lord and to one another through it all, and hopefully we have learned to better love others who are suffering.
We may not be able to protect our children from loss, but we can equip them to handle it in a way makes them feel safe, loved, and full of hope. They will learn one heartache at a time that “You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy” (John 16:20 NIV).
Here are some beautiful scriptures I hope you look up. I’ve taped them to the refrigerator door often to give us comfort and strength:
I Corinthians 15:52-57
2 Corinthians 13-4