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Talking with Children About Death

Mrs. Kay's death has had a numbing effect on many of us. Death of a loved one is not easy to process, especially when it is so quick and unexpected. As we process our own grief and the emotions that come with that, we will also be helping others to do the same.

The feelings of grief are real and natural. I expect that many of the kids in your small groups, or maybe even your own kids, will feel this very deeply. So, I thought I would offer up a few things to consider, that I got from a fellow Kid's Pastor, when talking to your kids about death.

  1. Be Honest: Try not to use phrases that will cause the child to doubt if you are telling the truth. Most can see through made-up stories of what happened.

  2. Use Appropriate Language: Don't give details of the events but do explain what it means to die (depending on the age this may not be necessary). Help them understand thatdeathis something the Bible teaches, and that it's a natural part of life.

  3. Allow them to ask questions: Talking aboutdeathis sure to bring up questions. Don't be afraid of questions you don't know the answers to. Just be ready to say I don't know. If a child feels safe to bring up questions, it will go a long way in helping them grieve.

  4. Allow your child to be emotional: Saying things like "toughen up" or "be strong" cheapens the life of the one they're mourning.

  5. Be aware of your own need to grieve: When parents/guardians are honest about their own pain, they become more approachable, understanding, and compassionate. Then they can invite their child to grieve with them.

  6. Grieve Together: Grieve as a family. Hold each other, listen to each other, and allow people to be emotional without "fixing," stuffing emotions, or judging.

  7. Don't force an emotional response: Some kids turn inward to keep from feeling and/or expressing their emotions. People grieve in different ways. Don't automatically expect your child to have the same reactions as you do. Sometimes it may take days/weeks for adeathto "hit" a child. Be patient and available when it does.

  8. Expect regression: In the wake of loss, many children regress and engage in behaviors from their early childhood, particularly ones that are associated with comfort. These are normal coping mechanisms.

  9. Pray together: Remind the child that we have a God who loves us and wants to help us through the pain and loss. They need to be reminded that they are not alone. God hasn't forgotten them or failed them.

  10. Remember that grieving is a process, not an event: Grief is unpredictable, messy, and uncomfortable for both parents and kids, but it's absolutely necessary if we are to grow stronger and wiser from our loss. So, stay engaged no matter how long it takes.

There may need to be a time during your small group time that you pause to talk about Mrs. Kay's death. If so, remember these things. I will be available to help if you need it.

Thank you for doing what you do. It's hard, especially during times like this, but know that your investment in the lives of the children at GCF will not return void. I am grateful for you all. So was Kay.

See you in church.


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