Death. Every year roughly 2.3 million people die in the United States; 16,000 are children. When children are touched by the loss of significant loved ones in their lives-parents, grandparents, teachers, even friends-it can be hard for us as leaders to help them through the grieving process.
During my time as a children’s director, the topic of death would come up now and then. It always ended up being a time for grieving, growing, and sometimes even celebrating. We were able to grow closer together as a church family during these sad times, and I hope you can find those silver linings as well.
While there are no easy fixes when it comes to talking to kids about death, there are a few things to keep in mind. Here are five helpful insights to dealing with death.
Parental Supervision: A simple step, but one not to miss. Make sure to talk with the parents before starting a discussion about a recent death of a loved one. Parents can provide helpful information about how the child is coping and whether or not he or she really understands the situation. When you talk to the parents, make sure to tend to their needs as well, perhaps offering counseling if that is a service your church provides.
Use Simple Terms: Younger kids may struggle with the finality of death. Use simple terms when talking about death. Experts at kidshealth.org suggest avoiding “telling kids that the loved one ‘went away’ or ‘went to sleep’ or even that your family ‘lost’ the person. Because young kids think so literally, such phrases might inadvertently make them afraid to go to sleep or fearful whenever someone goes away.”
Emotions are OK: Older kids who can understand the situation better may be struggling with a variety of different emotions. Remember that different people grieve in different ways. Let them know that it’s OK to be sad. Remind the child of John 11:35, where Jesus wept at the death of Lazarus. Death is a sad side-effect of sin, and even Jesus cried about it.
Personal Experience: If this is the first time a child is dealing with death, it may be helpful if you tell how you handled a similar situation. Being a role model by being open and honest about your feelings during the experience can help kids better understand that grieving is a normal process.
Look in the Book: The best thing you can do is to remind you kids of God’s great love. Here are some great Bible verses to help you communicate that: 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 and Matthew 5:4…God comforts us Psalm 23:4…God is with us John 3:16 and 1 Corinthians 15:55…Death isn’t the end Isaiah 25:8…It will get better ***
Benjamin Franklin once said that nothing is certain but death and taxes. At some point, a discussion of death will come up. Be prepared to help your kids, as well as their parents. And let us know what you do to help kids understand death. Leave your comments in the box below.