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Saturday, June 11, 2011

A Child's Grief

It's been a sad week. A lady in my church was killed by her husband. He is now in jail. She was a devoted grandma who sometimes brought her 6th grade granddaughter to church. Being the children's minister at my church, I wanted to reach out to this child in her grief, but wasn't quite sure what was appropriate given the circumstances and the fact that I didnt' know her mother well.

I called her mom to say I was praying for them and that I was hoping to touch base with her daughter. When the girl came to the phone, here's how our conversation went.

Me: I wanted to tell you how sorry I was to hear about your grandma and to see how you're doing.
Her: I'm doing OK. I'm just playing the Wii.
Me: I hope I didn't mess up your win. *smile*
Her: You didn't.
Me: If you ever need anyone to talk to or anything I'm here for you. You know I love you, right?
Her: Yeah. I already wrote you a letter. We mailed it today.
Me: Great. I'll watch for it to come. I'll let you get back to your game, but let me know if you need anything, OK?
Her: OK.

It was short and sweet. Nothing terribly special or profound. But it told her I cared and that she wasn't alone in this difficult time.

Her letter arrived today. It expressed her disappointment at not being able to go to church camp (her grandma died the day it was to  begin) and her fear that she might have to miss VBS also. She said she and her mom broke into tears when they heard the news about her grandma. But she wisely said, "My mom and I just need to stick together in this."

There's nothing I can do other than show her I care. Children grieve differently than adults, but they definitely grieve. Allowing them to do it in whatever way they need to is the best thing we can do for them. If they want to continue their regular activities, let them. If they need to pull back for a while, that's OK. Listen to them and respect their feelings, just as we hope people will respect ours in times of grief.

Have you ever had to comfort a grieving child? What did you do? What do you wish you'd done differently? Maybe you were once a grieving child yourself. What memories do you have of that time? What helped and what didn't? Let's talk about children and grief. Maybe our collective insights will help us be more effective in helping the children we love.

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