Talking about sorrow and death is something that we, as parents, do not do well. In my experience, many pastors are not much better. I have come to understand the goodness in God’s providence. As Spurgeon would say, ” I have learned to kiss the wave that threw me upon the Rock of Ages.” This is something I have grown to understand and grown in my ability. Tragedies like what happened in Nashville last week will never be understood. But what never changes is the goodness of God.
There are a few resources I have found over the years that help kids understand and process grief. One is a pamphlet I came across by Fred Rogers, and the other is The Moon is Always Round by Johnathan Gibson. We had scheduled a conversation with Dr. Gibson around six weeks ago because we need help and language to talk to our kids about deep sorrow. In God’s providence, our conversation happened the same week tragedy struck Nashville. From all of us at Cross Formed Kidmin, Our prayer is that this conversation breaths hope, points you to Jesus, and encourages your weary heart.
In addition to what Dr. Gibson had to say, here are a few things I have said on this topic when given the opportunity.
How to talk to your kids about death?
- Tell your kids the truth. – In the podcast I referenced earlier, Dr. Gibson does not lie to his son. He doesn’t give him false hope. He tells him the truth and points his son to God’s goodness. “What shape is the moon….always?”
- Don’t speak for God; point them to God – God is always good, but what he does will not always make sense to you and me. There are mysteries that we will never fully understand. Don’t tell your kids what God should have done. Point them to the Word and teach them to trust God more than their eyes can see.
- Do not minimize difficulty or simplify God’s glory or majesty. It is easy and tempting to give our kids pat answers to difficult questions or too difficult problems. Point them to the majesty of God. Remind them of what Mr. and Mrs. Beaver told the Pevenacy kids in The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe that God is not safe, but he is good. In trying to understand why people die and how people die, it’s important to remind ourselves that God isn’t safe, sin is real, but God is always good.
- Point them to the comforts of God and the assurances of scripture. – Another well-meaning but pernicious lie people tell kids after the death of a loved one is “God didn’t do this.” This may make them feel good for the time being but will inevitably produce insecurity, anxiety, and fear. If the devil’s ability to take life is more real than the power of God to preserve it, we are all in lots of trouble. In Deuteronomy 32:39, it says, “Now see that I, even I, am He, And there is no God besides Me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; Nor is there any who can deliver from My hand.” This should not cause anxiety but give us great comfort because nothing can take us from God hand.
How do we live lives marked by joy in our present moment and filled with hope for the future? We realize that this life is but a foretaste of the glory to come.
“Jesus’s death and resurrection have purchased freedom to enjoy what you have even when you know you’re going to lose it. Enjoy your vacation even though it’ll be over in a flash. Enjoy parenting your preschoolers even though they’ll be grown in the blink of an eye. Enjoy your friendships. Enjoy your marriage. Enjoy your productivity at work. Enjoy whatever health you have left in your body. Of course these things won’t last. Yes, it will hurt when they’re gone. But they don’t have to last to be wonderful. They are delicious, God-given, God-glorifying appetizers for the hearty and satisfying meal that’s still to come. They are true and worthy foretastes of the banquet spread for all peoples. And Jesus saves the best wine for last.”Matt McCullough