Helping Your Children Grieve with Truth

Tears already fill my eyes as I try to write words here.

Yesterday I sat on my front steps of the porch and watched big tears roll down my oldest boy’s cheeks. I listened intently to the sadness in his voice as he expressed confusion and bitterness in losing his meme- my mom.

“Everything has been different since Meme died. Life has seemed so hard since that day. Nothing has gone right, Mom.”

I quickly picked up on his doubts in God’s goodness, His love, and His faithfulness. But I also saw God’s grace in allowing Evan to talk with me about his feelings. God presented me with an awesome opportunity to glimpse inside my boy’s soul and then speak truth into his searching heart. Just another whisper of grace into my life from above.

So how does a 12 year old boy sort out all the emotions and questions that stem from losing a grandparent he absolutely adored? And how do I help him process her suicidal death?

God’s truth is the answer! Knowing and rehearsing God’s truth time and time again brings a peace that passes understanding and a complete trust in God’s sovereignty, faithfulness, goodness, and grace. Throughout the past few years, God has consistently led my heart to His truth and held my heart close to His love.

Watching my own children grieve (or not) has been one of the absolute hardest parts of losing my mom. At the time of Mom’s death, Evan was 9, Lauryn-7, Lynsey-3, and the twins- 11 months. Because of our own shock from her tragic death, we chose not to tell our children of her suicide. They knew she had been sick but really didn’t understand her depression, anxiety, and physical struggles. Jason and I could barely process the news so we definitely didn’t feel like our children could handle knowing all the details immediately.

Life changed immediately for all of us. My dad packed up all of his belongings, resigned his church, and moved into our small rental home with us. Dad lived with us for 2 months. During that time, we all watched him experience a very deep grief and there were lots of tears and desperate prayers for God’s help in processing such a tragedy. My children were exposed to a very real, raw grief that wasn’t pretty at all. It’s impossible to shield our children from all hurt and tragic realities of life.

After Dad’s departure and return to GA, the grief enveloped my soul quickly. I entered into a deep hole of anxiety, sadness, depression, and anger for several months. My mind was tormented with questions surrounding her death and my heart longed to know the “why”?

Honestly, I don’t remember much of what went on in our home during those months following Mom’s death. I was living in my own fog of grief and depression. I was trying to just survive and find hope for each new day. And I was begging God for grace and strength to care for my family.

But just as the grief was affecting me, grief took hold of my children as well. I watched grades slip in school, nightmares come more frequently, attitudes shift, physical problems appear, and tears flow freely at bedtime.

Evan rarely would talk of mom. He distanced himself from any mention of her name. He stuffed all of his emotions deep within. He put up a wall around his heart to protect himself from more pain. He didn’t want to see my dad very much. . . it only reminded him more that Meme was gone and never coming back.

Lauryn began to grieve deeply. . . for many months. Whereas she had been such a loving, happy-go-lucky, energetic young girl, she changed into a very sad, withdrawn, tearful, easily agitated, and anxious child. She began experiencing physical symptoms that stemmed from the anxiety within her own heart. Anger at God took root in her young heart and she began pushing away those closest to her. Oh, how it hurt my mommy heart to see her this way!

I spent numerous nights in my girl’s bed just holding her close, shedding tears with her, and praying over her for God’s comfort and peace in our lives together. Lauryn is a very deep thinker and has always asked deep theological questions about God and His purposes.

Looking back now, I never cease to be amazed at God’s timing in all things. Including His goodness to reaffirm His truths in my own heart. It never failed that when she would ask me a question about Mom’s death or God’s purposes, I was always able to point her to God’s truth that He had recently reaffirmed within my own heart through His Word.

Without a doubt, the greatest advice given to me when Mom died was this—“Talk to yourself more than you listen to yourself.” Simply put, I have had to speak His truth into my heart and soul over and over again when the voices within my mind have screamed lies and my feelings were non-existent or overwhelming.

Truth must always win over feelings! Feelings can’t be trusted.  The truth of God’s Word can always be trusted! We must counsel our hearts with truth over and over again!

It is God’s truth that has healed my broken heart, given me joy and hope in the midst of such sorrow and pain, and led me to trust His sovereignty, goodness, and grace with a deeper conviction than I could have ever imagined.

And it is God’s truth that is healing the broken heart of my girl. I am seeing a new joy emerge in her life these days, a new confidence in her Savior. . . that He loves her and is good, and a strong desire to please Him and tell others. We are learning together to rehearse His truth over our feelings, to speak truth into the hearts of others, and search His Word for truth when questions and doubts come our way.

Grief is a journey and takes much time. And we each grieve differently. For my oldest boy, the grief has been buried for a few years and seems to be recently emerging. It is His grace that Evan is beginning to “let go” and seek God in His grief.

A few months ago, Jason and I shared more details from my mom’s death with our oldest two children. It seemed appropriate, now that I am blogging, to be honest with them and give them more of the story.

Talk about a hard conversation. . . that one put a pit in my stomach that still wants to linger! I spent hours in prayer leading up to that difficult discussion with the kids. I have dreaded that conversation since February 2013.

But God always meets us with grace and shows up in the difficult situations. True to His character, He met us in that yogurt shop and filled my mouth with His words as I shared truth with my children. Yes, it was so very hard. But yes, God’s grace flowed freely.

Since that hard conversation a few months ago, I have sensed somewhat of a peace within the heart of my girl. I think that just knowing what really happened with mom has taken away some of the questions and curiosity of her death. Lauryn often reads my written words and takes to heart the truths that God continues to teach her mom through deep loss. One reason I blog is for my children to have a record of God’s grace at work in my own life.

As for Evan, I think the hard reality of Mom’s suicidal death has only deepened the doubts of God’s love, stirred up an anger within, and created more questions in his heart. I, too, have experienced the doubts, I’ve worked through the anger, and I’ve had so many questions of my own. God has been so patient to work in my heart.  I am confident that He will graciously work in my boy’s heart.  Philippians 1:6 is a truth that I claim often.

Healing will come in the lives of my children.  A deeper and confident faith will emerge. A compassion for others will be deep-rooted. And a steadfast trust in the truths of God will carry them on through the other storms of their lives.

This I know– God is always faithful to His children!  He will do His work within the heart of my boy- He cares for His own.

So I will continue to do these things to help my children grieve with truth:

  1. Speak God’s truth into their lives.
  2. Point them to God’s Word for answers.
  3. Pray with them and for them on a daily basis.
  4. Hug them often.
  5. Cry with them and dry their tears.
  6. Remind them of God’s love for His creation and creatures.
  7. Give much grace. Be sensitive to their grief.
  8. Take time to talk with them about grief. (Even when it’s most inconvenient for me.)
  9. Share the truths God is using to heal my own broken heart.
  10. Help them recognize God’s whispers of grace in their own daily lives.
  11. Lead their hearts to the Gospel and the hope we have in Jesus Christ.
  12. Direct their hearts to our glorious future with Christ in Heaven!

I surely don’t have all the answers right now for helping my children grieve. There is no one-size-fits-all formula for grief. But I do have God’s Word and the hope and truths found in it!

Will you pray for me as I seek to talk truth to my own soul? Will you pray for my children to know God’s truth and let those truths sink deep within their hearts? Will you pray God gives continued healing to our family?

Honestly, some days I find it extremely difficult to believe His truth. . . the emotions and feelings want to drown out what I know to be true. The grief almost takes my breath away and knocks me down.

But God is ever so faithful.

Each day, He whispers His grace into my life. And I’m watching Him whisper His grace into the lives of my children as well.

John 1:14 “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

 

 

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