Talking to Children After the Death of a Loved One

Originally published Wednesday, 14 May 2014.

Emotions surrounding death weather sudden or expected are difficult for adults to process let alone little hearts who are not accustomed to the pain of loss.

Our pain may manifest itself in anger, withdrawal, or a lack of focus. Theirs may or may not look similar. Underneath whatever behavior is on display are little hurting hearts that miss their grandparents, aunts, uncles, parents, friends, or siblings.

How do we talk to these hearts at their greatest point of need? How do we address their fears and feelings? I would offer, with much prayer, affection, and an open posture towards talking about the deceased.

Recently we had a family member pass away very unexpectedly. While our youngest doesn't truly understand death at this point, or maybe this loss wasn't close enough to impact him very much, our oldest is having difficulty letting go.

I have found it helpful for her to express her emotions by asking God to, "Please tell Mrs. Carol that I love her and I miss her and thank you for the presents you gave me." She has also drawn her many cards and played with the toys that were gifts from Mrs. Carol.

This summer we helped the kids to memorize the 23rd Psalm. In this passage David states: "Event though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff they comfort me." As we state this passage often I sense that our children will one day draw strength and comfort from these words. This perhaps is a good time for us to expand on what these verses are saying.

In the midst of death, Jesus, the Good Shepherd, is with us. He comforts us and extends His mercies toward us. The 23rd Psalm may be a source of comfort for your children as they walk through the days in the valley.

Finally, reading stories about death provides a window in which we express, "This is a good time to talk about how you are feeling." These are the books that we found helpful to our children in dealing with loss:

We will not always have the most eloquent words to say to little hurting hearts; that is not the point. Out of our overflow of grief and sympathy  it is most important that we are open to communicating and comforting. Being the arms that hug, the lap to sit on, and the prayer of prayers that seek comfort and wisdom, this is our gift and our strength in talking to children after they loose someone they love.

Praying the God of all comfort will comfort your heart and your child's at your point of deepest sorrow.