Navigating life’s losses (3)
“A time to gain, and a time to lose.” Ecc 3:6 NKJV
How can we help our children navigate life’s losses? (1) Don’t underestimate their capacity for grief. Children are often the “forgotten” grievers. Their pain is real and intense; recognize and validate it. (2) Don’t avoid talking about the loss when they’re present. Excluding them from adults in mourning denies them the opportunity for support, and increased understanding about their loss. Include them in the family’s collective grief experience. (3) Encourage them to share their feelings about the loss. Teach them that being “real” is more important than being “strong,” and confirm that their feelings matter. Very young children have limited understanding about the meaning, permanence, and irreversibility of death. They can only talk about it briefly and concretely. Older children understand its meaning and should be encouraged to talk about it. (4) Make allowance for each child’s personality. Our personality determines our grieving style. Introverted children may need their own space; extroverted ones may need to be verbal and sociable. Dependent children need strong adults around them; independent ones can handle a lot on their own. (5) Communicate realistically with them. Adults often use language that confuses children. “Your dad has gone home…fallen asleep…passed away…gone to his rest,” etc. Speaking of death as the end of this physical life is biblical, clarifies the significance of the loss, and allows children to ask questions that matter to them. Your children can handle loss, and they can understand that everlasting life is God’s great solution and one day we will join our loved ones in heaven (See Jn 14:2-3).