We all go through seasons of grief, it’s part of the world we live in. Long or short, these seasons happen when we experience the death of a loved one, a relationship ending, the loss of a job, moving away from friends and family, the loss of something we had hoped for in the future.
Grief affects us all differently. We might be noticeably sad, withdrawn and angry. We might be mostly fine until a trigger - a memory, smell or anniversary - sends us into mourning. We might feel guilt or remorse. Some of us need help to process it through counselling, others might dive deep into work or other practical matters, and still others of us may be able to continue to function mostly as they normally would. We all respond differently.
When we’re going through these seasons of grief, what can we teach our kids?
It’s okay to be sad.
The loss is real. Sometimes that means we’ll cry, or just be real quiet. Sometimes that means that we might be angry. Sometimes that means we’ll talk lots about it and other times not. It looks different for each of us. It’s okay to get help. And sometimes it’ll take a while for the sadness to go away.
There are good reasons to grieve.
If you can, let your kids know what it is you’re sad about. Acknowledge it. Help them see that we’re processing the grief by being able to say what it is. ‘I’m sad because…’ You’ll teach them to identify their own grief when they experience it. It also reassures them that they’re not the cause of your sadness.
Grief is hard, but we still have to say sorry
When we are grieving, sometimes we react out of character to small things - we might be angry at a situation that we wouldn’t normally for instance. This is a chance for us to say sorry to our kids when we overstep the mark. And to explain, that sometimes when we feel sad, we overreact to something. It doesn’t mean that it’s right, but it does mean we need to say sorry for it. When we do this, we’re modelling what it is to own up to something we’ve done, whether intentional or not, that’s hurt someone else and apologise for it.
How to remember the things we’ve lost.
A person’s life, a place, whatever it is we’re grieving, we can teach our kids to remember the good things and thank God for them. Telling stories and remembering together can be helpful and healing for some of us, especially when it comes to anniversaries, birthdays, and Christmas as they come up.
The reason sad things happen in life.
Death, sickness and suffering are the effects of sin. There are causes for grief that happen to us that are simply the general result of our fallen world. Jesus promises he is always with us through these things, but not always that he’ll take them away. Sometimes, if it’s God’s plan, he might take away our grief, perhaps by healing someone from a terminal illness. But we trust God whatever happens. It’s important to remind ourselves that Jesus knows our grief - he wept when his friend Lazarus died (John 11:35). Jesus can sympathise with us because he was fully man, and now he sits at God’s right hand so that we can always turn to him in times of need as we pray (Hebrews 4:14-16). One day, Jesus promises there will be no more pain, death, tears or suffering (Revelation 21:4).
We have hope in Jesus.
It’s hard to lose a loved one whether they believe in Jesus or not, but it’s especially hard if they don’t. It’s important to remind our kids that when we love and trust Jesus, he promises us eternal life (John 3:16). He defeated death and came back to life (1 Corinthians 15:20). He is in heaven now and he promises that we will also be raised to life with him forever (1 Cor. 15:49-55). He’s preparing a place for us and will come back to get us (John 14:1-4). For those we love who trust in Jesus, we will see them again and we look forward to that day.
How to persevere in faith.
Grief is hard and painful and messy. But we can show our kids that we still love, trust, and obey Jesus even through our grief. In the past, I’ve looked to passages like 1 Peter 1:3-9 and Rev. 21:4, which paint big pictures that give me hope and something to look forward to amongst the grief. Whatever it is for you, why not share those passages with your kids too?
My prayer for you is that God will sustain you and keep you close in your seasons of grief, enabling you to keep your eyes fixed on Jesus and the hope that is to come, even as you grieve. And may your children learn to turn to Jesus who hears all their prayers and keep trusting in him through your example. Amen.
Amy Brown loves Jesus, kids, friends and good coffee, and life is great whenever all those things combine! She currently lives in Newtown finishing off her studies at Moore Theological College, while also teaching young people about Jesus at St Swithun’s Anglican Church in Pymble.