Last week I wrote of the death on our little farm. Folks have asked how I helped the children people grieve. Here is my response.
“That is it isn't it? The rub, the hard bit is communicating this paradox of life and death with those we love. My eldest daughter, 14 years old, was with me when all this was going on. We talked about it. This isn't our first death on our little farm, but it was significant in that we didn't remove the loss. Her way of grief was so bodily. She wanted to dig the hole and she wanted to bury him, in the rain- no less. Later, she told me she gave him back to God and the creation he came from. “
I am no therapist and most days I’m barely as wise as our basset hound who regularly eats horse poop, but here are few things I’m learning.
- Talk about what’s happening. I don’t mean lecture. I mean enter into a conversation about what is happening. An easy opener could be “What do you think is happening here?” Stay away from any philosophical or theological answers. Be simple, be honest, be present.
- Ask questions. What do you think is going on? How do you feel about what is going on? What does your heart say?
- If you are sad, be sad. Pray aloud. If you are anxious, be anxious. Pray aloud. We parents try to hide these emotions, but we’re fooling no one. The children know and probably feel the same. Together go to the Spirit whose great gift is comfort.
- Make a space for grief. Children are so very bodily. (Adults are too; we’ve just grown old and forgotten.) They will need to grieve with their bodies. They may need to kiss the departed. When our cat died our youngest daughter held his dead little body wrapped in a towel and rocked him for over an hour. They may need to lie on the floor and cry. They may need to create a picture of the one gone, or paint a memorial stone. They may want to do this alone or they may want you with them. Ask, they will tell you.
Let's learn together, how have you helped children to grieve?