We grieve many things in this life. Death being chief among them. In a constantly changing world we must learn to grieve well. My second mom recently died. I am still grieving that loss. But I don’t grieve as one who has no hope. I know that my mom is in Heaven with Jesus and that someday I will see her again. As an adult, knowing that she is no longer in pain and is in a perfect place brings me much peace and helps ease the burden of my loss. In contrast, my first mom died when I was eleven. That loss took years to grieve. Losing this mom brought back a lot of the feelings of loss that I felt then. As teachers and parents, we need to prepare young children for the losses of this life: friendships, broken toys, houses that we move from, teachers that change yearly but especially the loss that comes through death.
What are you teaching your children to help them with their daily small losses? What are you teaching about the really big losses that are coming, maybe not too far in their future? We must teach our children to grieve well. It is not something we do naturally. We tend to bury grief, especially children who have no understanding of how to deal with it. Eventually it emerges in anger at others. If buried long enough it can result in poor health or emotional disorders.
In the New Testament we read in Romans 12:15, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” How uncomfortable are you with weeping and sharing one another’s grief. Jesus was not reluctant to care for the needs of His friends and weep when they did. “When Jesus saw her (Mary) weeping, and the people who had come with her weeping, he was intensely moved in spirit and greatly distressed. He asked, “Where have you laid him?” They replied, “Lord, come and see.” Jesus wept. Thus the people who had come to mourn said, “Look how much he loved him!” (John 11:33-36) We should not be reluctant either.
Adults too many times try to cheer up their children when they are sad and give them quick replacements for their losses. This is not teaching them how to grieve their losses, accept them and move on in an emotionally healthy way. In John 13:34-35 Jesus said to His disciples, “I give a new commandment –to love one another. Just as I have loved you so you also are to love one another…” Weeping together is good testimony of our love.
Validate their feelings. Ask them why they think they are having those feelings. Share with them when you’ve had similar feelings. Remind them that feelings are from God to help us make wise and good decisions. Talk about how letting go helps us to trust God has for what is next. The feeling of loss is an amazing teacher. In the place of loss we come to understand how incredible it is that God has promised in Hebrews 13:5 “…I will never leave you and I will never abandon you.”
Normalizing our feelings means that we sit with our children and hear their hearts reassuring them that all the feelings as good and normal. Nothing’s as wonderful as the presence of a person you trust sitting right there with you when fear, anger, or sadness is raging in your soul . . . unless it is the feeling of curling up safely in their arms and resting as it rages on.
Normalizing feelings demands truthfully facing them. God gives us truth in the context of time. Relationships are made up of two key ingredients, trust and love. Both come to fullness in the incubator of time. Neither trust nor love can be expressed without giving of yourself and your time. Jesus set the bar high… are we following His example? “Take time to hear their hearts and share their feelings. He does that for us; we can do it for them. “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses…”Hebrews 4:15