Navigating life’s losses (4)
“A time to gain, and a time to lose.” Ecc 3:6 NKJV
What else do our children need from us when they’re grieving? (1) Our honesty. They need to know we’re hurting too. When they see you crying, but you tell them, “I’m all right,” they’re confused. They think either you’re not hurting, and tears don’t mean anything, or you’re not being real with them. They need to know the genuine you, so they can be real with you and trust you with their hurts. (2) Our awareness of their feelings without overprotecting them. For them, as for you, “There is a time to weep…mourn…lose” (vv. 4, 6 NKJV). God has made all these experiences “appropriate in its time” (v.11 NAS). Don’t inhibit or invalidate their sadness, anger, and depression. It’s part of their God-given humanness, and will help them become balanced, compassionate adults. (3) Sensitive listening. Kids learn and grow through loss when they have an open and understanding listener. Listen, then reflect their feelings. “Sounds like you’re angry. Want to talk about it?” Don’t analyze, ask! Listen with your eyes and ears. “Your words say you’re all right, but your eyes suggest you’re sad.” (4) Permission to express negative emotions. Anger and resentment aimed at doctors, the system, family members, you, even God is normal! Don’t say, “You shouldn’t say such things.” Instead say, “Sounds like a real, honest expression of pain and disappointment. Want to talk more about it?” Expression detoxifies negative emotion. (5) Inclusion in our grief rituals. Include them in family gatherings, funeral planning, and services, and they will find comfort in the validation, closure, and healing these times bring!