How do I help my grieving child?

“People are always telling me that change is a good thing. But, all they're really saying is that something you didn't want to happen at all has happened.” Kathleen Kelly from the movie,  You've Got Mail

Grief is a bizarre thing. It always comes unexpectedly, whether you are waiting for it or not. Something out of your control, extremely unfair happens that affects your life and in the end, something very precious is lost. Loss equals grief.

Maybe it is something you hoped and prayed would happen and it didn’t. Or, maybe it is something you prayed wouldn’t happen, but it did.

Have you ever done that? (You can fill in the blank here for yourself.) I had hoped …  to make the team, to be popular, to have a best friend, to have a date, to make an A or student council, to win the contest, get into that college, or this sorority or that fraternity. As we grow older, our desires might change to things like, I had hoped to be married, to make more money, to be liked at work, to have a child, to work in my field, to be healed, to be accepted, to be loved, not be rejected, abandoned, turned down, alone or in pain.  

Have you ever begged and pleaded with God because you felt you knew what you needed better than He did? Have you been praising Him one day and mad at Him the next?

You are not alone. In fact, David did this in the Psalms. In Psalm 142:4-7 David pleads with God to help him. He praises God one moment and the next he questions why God is being silent and not answering him.

Look and see, there is no one at my right hand;
    no one is concerned for me.
I have no refuge;
    no one cares for my life.

I cry to you, Lord;
    I say, “You are my refuge,
    my portion in the land of the living.”

Listen to my cry,
    for I am in desperate need;
rescue me from those who pursue me,
    for they are too strong for me.
Set me free from my prison,
    that I may praise your name.

Then the righteous will gather about me
    because of your goodness to me.

Again in Psalm 13:1-4, David cries out to God,

How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
    How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
    and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
    How long will my enemy triumph over me?

Look on me and answer, Lord my God.
    Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,
and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
    and my foes will rejoice when I fall.


Oh, how grateful I am for David! We all have times when we feel like David.

Author C.S. Lewis puts it this way, “Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

We think we are alone in our pain or trial. We all have times when we are weak and struggling with pain that others don’t see. We beg and plead with God, “Please don’t take this from me!” We ask God to bring us this or take away that. We get angry. We question our worth, and we ask why.

We tell God,  “I have waited so long for it Lord! I have worked so hard!” We reason with Him. We tell Him, "I was faithful," pointing out our worth and belief.

 We tell Him what others have done, “They promised me!"  "I believed them." "I believed him." "I believed her.” “I deserved it, They didn't."

All of this usually ends up with us asking Him, “Lord, how could You let this happen?” Have you ever done that?

 When the thing you desire so much is right there in your grasp and then it is gone, like a seashell skipping back to sea with the ocean wave. You chase after it, only to it swallowed up and engulfed by the sea.  

Loved ones try to comfort with words like, “It isn’t God’s will.” “Something better is coming.”  “I don’t understand it, only God does.” “Something else is in the works.” “Someone else will accept or love this or that.” “God has a plan.” “All things work together for good.” “He is protecting you from X,Y, Z.” “Maybe you should try this … or that.” And even, “He won’t give you more than you can handle.”

However, the truth of the matter is, we are given more than we can handle. When our heart’s are set on one thing and we feel certain it is what we are supposed to do, or be or have; and that one thing disappears, or never comes to fruition, it can leave us feeling like we are swept out to sea with no life vest. At that moment, it feels like more than we can handle and it is. However, if we can lean into God, reach out to Him, He will see us through it.

We may see sharks circling us, or boats too far away to rescue us. We may see nothing at all but the emptiness of an ocean and the quiet stillness of the waves lapping against our faces. But, our life vest is right there if we reach out to it. The line is there in the water if we just have the faith to grab hold. This world is full of disappointment and things that are unfair. If you haven’t had to deal with it yet, just wait … your time is coming.

We live in a fallen and unfair world. Our children live in violent and unfair times. But, there is a life boat waiting to pull you out of the water. You don’t have to drift through the ocean alone. You do however, have to grab the lifeline.

How can we minister to our children when they are grieving?

1.      Listen and empathize with them. Remember that grief is NO respector of age.

2.      Pray with them and read comforting Bible verses to them.

3.      Redirect their attention to something else in their life that is positive (a friendship, or a hobby).

4.      Set up dates with your child to spend time doing something that is meaningful to them.

5.      Take them to a counselor if they cannot seem to work through the problem.

6.      Nothing lasts forever. Remind them that this too shall pass. Recall times in the past where something unpleasant has happened and they worked through it.

God is not in the business of granting wishes. “Oh how many times we wish He was, until we see the big picture.” No matter how hard or fervently we pray, we may never see Him answer our prayers the way we want. But, we can always trust that He is always good, always just, always loving, always trustworthy and He always knows what our best is. 

Sherry Shepherd is an experienced, adaptable professional specialized in writing for faith-based organizations. She has worked as an editor and writer for newspaper, movie guides, publishing houses, churches and several non-profits. Her scope of work includes corporate and fundraising materials, advertising, web, brochures, booklets, books, blogs and biblical training materials. However, her heart is drawn to any type of creative writing, where she can motivate while conveying a biblical message and telling a story. Sherry is the mother of three grown children, who have been the source of some of her greatest joy, laughter and material!