Three random conversations over a span of four hours; all remarkably similar in context. Conversations that brought me face-to-face with the subject of children and death. Death leaves a deep imprint. Such an imprint on children will be dealt with either effectively or ineffectively. You can make the difference!
First, a grandchild, now in her teens asks “What happens when you die? Does everyone go to heaven? Does it happen right away?” Death and heaven were on her mind.
Then a man in his 40’s shares how he still deeply misses a friend. Even though it has been over a decade since his passing, thoughts and questions rise to the surface. In the conversation a striking remark, “he never fully recovered from the loss of his father.”
Finally, a young man in early adulthood tells of a rocky place in his own life. As a teen his parents divorced and his grandmother died, both in the same year. Tears flowed as he mentioned his grandmother, whom he had been “very close to”. His lifestyle changed dramatically as a result. It was a turning point toward destructive choices.
As a toddler, my two baby sisters passed away: one soon after birth, the second a few short months later. My mother, a true nurturer, was thrown into an emotional tailspin, unable to deal with the impact of such a great double loss.
Though I have no memories of tiny siblings, there are many of a sad father and an angry mother. Both struggling for breath in the midst of heart wrenching personal pain.
Even now, it is difficult to put pen to paper reflecting on my family deeply imprinted by tragic loss. More difficult still, it is to lay bare the wounded soul within me of the impact of those years.
Sitting next to a woman in midlife, through tears she whispers, “I finally have the words.” Her life as a small child had been filled with loss. Now as an adult, she “finally had words”…words that would open wide the gates to inner and lasting healing...words released from an inner cavern of pain.
It is an expression painfully familiar. Barely a week goes by in fact when I don’t hear them uttered in one form or another as I walk beside women of all ages into places of increased strength and purpose.
Children and death! Not an easy topic! For many children there are unbirthed, silenced or stolen words surrounding death of many shapes:
divorce – the undying death –
death of innocence or sense of stability
of personal worth and value
… loss in various ugly forms.
With a grieving heart I pray seeking God for answers. How do we help children walk through “the valley of the shadow of death” – especially when it has been someone close to them?” In the midst of trauma, young children can easily be ignored, while the needs of others take priority. Certainly, it is not intentional! The life-long repercussions of by-passing the young should be cause to take another look!
What if we helped children find their voice in the centre of their situation and circumstance. Or if we did not wait for decades to listen for that fragile wavering voice? What if we stopped and silently listened, intentionally creating a gateway of expression?
The language of a child is different from the language of an adult. (1 Cor 13:11) There is a tender intuition in a child to protect others – an intense sensitivity to the painful currents around them. Children, even very young children, carry the emotional load of pain internally and personally.
Especially relevant for today are these words spoken long ago! It is our privilege to set before children of all ages the realities of the life of Christ. In this way, a solid foundation is established for even the smallest of children. A foundation that is secure in the most difficult of moments. Even as dark winds of pain come, the brightness of His goodness breaks through!
Hope in Christ
Jesus’ invitation to children still rings out, “Let them come!”
Such is the intention a little children’s book, “Olivia & Me”. It doesn’t contain answers to the hard questions; however, it does open wide the gate for conversation about life, death and hope we have in Christ Jesus.
Death never was, or is, God’s intention. Never! Quite the opposite is true; Jesus Christ is the
Giver of Life
Source of Life
Sustainer of Life
Bread of Life
Children and Death! Lord Teach us to Pray!
Lord help us be sensitive and present
for all those grieving.
Give us listening ears and an open heart to
hear beyond words and see beyond natural limits
to the secret places of wounded hearts.
We need your love and compassion at all times.
Fill us with your wisdom and gentleness,
your grace and mercy to lavishly give
until the broken are whole again.