Red Crown

Raising Daughters Of The King

Princesses that bring Honor to their Royal Father

Giving practical tips and encouragement to mommies of girls

Dealing With Loss

This is not a fun topic. Maybe that’s why I need to write about it. It’s a hard aspect of life, but it is an inevitable aspect as well. As children go through the loss of pets and then distant relatives, they begin to learn at a normal pace how to go through grief with hope and peace. Tears are helpful in the process. A few years ago, we were asked to participate in a research project to see how churches help children grieve. The preliminary results were that the church is not equipped to adequately help. It is a huge area of need, and it is vital that children that are grieving losses have wise help so that the grief does not mold their identities in unhealthy ways. There are family counselors and grief counselors that work with children, but most of the time the job falls on the shoulders of the parents. A parent needs to be aware of the need and not neglect this important aspect of growth and maturity.

Unfortunately, many times when children have experienced serious losses, so have the parents. They struggle to work through their own grief and often have trouble helping anyone, even their own children, work through their sorrow. However, sometimes the weight of the sorrow and the pain of loss is so great that the child cannot bear it alone. Just being physically close to the parent, may be all she needs. If the loss was an accident, the child may fear that she will lose family members also. Of course, there may also be survivor guilt and concern that the departure occurred after hash words like so many adults go through. But for this little person who is just beginning to understand his daily feelings, adding the complexity and intenseness of death can be more than overwhelming and more than they can handle even with help.

Some years ago, one of our daughters lost two precious, very loved, best friends during her middle school years in one car wreck. We walked through this tragic situation as God guided us. Some of our ideas came from counselors, some from books, some we stumbled upon as we prayed and followed God’s path of love over His child. Maybe some of these suggestions, along with godly counselors, will help your children or even you.

Know that all children grieve in their own way and at their own speed. Sometimes the quieter, more private children tend to grieve more slowly. This difference in pace can sometimes cause best friends to grow apart since they will find themselves at different phases at the same time.

Some children need company and need to talk about their loss while others need to be away from friends and in the quietness of home. For a shy child, it can be overwhelming to be the center of attention at such a difficult time; where an extravert child may need to talk much about every aspect of the loss. This, too, can cause friends to grow apart. Animals, on the other hand, always remain close and love unconditionally.

One thing we did was to take white helium balloons to the accident site (or this can be done at a cemetery or other special location). The children wrote their good-byes and other things they wished they had said to their friends on the balloons. Then at the right moment, the child released the balloons. We did this on the birthday of the best friend.

A scrapbook can be made to help the child feel confident that they will not forget the friend they’ve lost.

Another incredibly helpful thing we did is to make a bracelet of the birthstones of the friends. This gave our child something to have on her person at all times so that when insecurity or grief sprang up, she could reach out and touch it. This tangible item gave much comfort. Be aware that the loss or breakage of the bracelet can be devastating if a replacement is not easily available.

Once the rawness of the loss had healed slightly with time, we could then help our daughter reach outward to continue healing. We developed a project in which we wrote letters to our soldiers and packed boxes to send to them. Both the sender and the receiver were blessed through this project and friendships were made. This 8th grade child felt the need to write of her experience and share her reason for hope. Journaling may be beneficial for children eventually as well.

Another way of reaching out that helped our child was the expression of her heart and life through medium other than words. Our precious daughter has the gift of song. Even though she was extremely shy, we encouraged her to learn a song that told her story. Sharing it was very challenging but in sharing, came more growth and healing. Her first testimony song was He Will Carry Me by Mark Schultz. After a while, her testimony changed and so did her song. This time it was In the Shadow of the Cross by Joel Engle. Music is a key for all of us whether we are “in tune” or not, but for those that are gifted in other arts, those too may be keys to expression and thus to healing for that individual.

We also commemorated the anniversary of the loss so that we could encourage our children and help remember their friends. Very sweet new friends joined in the caring and helped carry the pain on those sad days. Eventually, we began to see less sorrow expressed. Still hard questions remain, ten years later, but our child was allowed and encouraged to grieve in a healthy way. This tragic accident did contribute to our child’s formation, but it was filtered through the loving hands of our Savior and as much comfort from parents as humanly possible. There were days when we were very concerned that our daughters smile had been lost permanently, but I can still remember the moment on vacation, while swimming in the ocean and with God’s creation, dolphins, we heard her joy-filled laugh once again, and we knew that eventually she would be herself again — changed but more like Jesus than before the hardship.