“Children who are old enough to love are old enough to grieve.” Jeanine Bozeman
As I write this, I’m at CentriKid Camp listening to comforting and worshipful music played during Adult Gathering worship time. I’ve just finished talking with camp director Jessica about this blog I’ve been asked to write. It weighs heavy on my heart. I don’t want to write it. I don’t want it to be necessary for someone to write it. I don’t want it to be an issue that’s vital to today’s children’s ministry. But it is.
During our conversation about death and children, Jessica says, “Just talk to the kids here this week. There are so many of them hurting and dealing with this right now.” We talked about how our hearts hurt for these children. Far too young to have to deal with these “grown-up” issues.
Because I sometimes feel inadequate when a child comes asking hard questions …I seek counsel from those who know. I found a great article at lifeway.com on “Children and Grief” by Jeanine Bozeman and want to share some of her wisdom with you. Dr. Bozeman is a retired professor of social work and chairperson of the Christian Education Ministries at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary in New Orleans, LA. I think you’ll find some great tips in her article to help a child deal with grief.
- Children 2 to 7 years of age may believe they caused the death. Other emotional responses may be regression, lack of feeling, explosive emotions, fear, acting out behavior, guilt, and sadness. Children at this age need constant reassurance and repeated explanations in order to make sense of the situation.
- By 7 to 8 years of age, children know that death is irreversible, inevitable, and universal.
- Talk to the child as soon as possible after the death.
- Give the child a simple, honest explanation using clear, concise words.
- Find familiar surroundings to have the talk with the child.
- Be sure the child understands the meanings of the words used.
- Give adequate but not detailed information about the death.
- Address the child’s fears and anxieties.
- Reassure the child that he is not to blame for the death and that someone will care for him.
- Listen carefully to the child, validating feelings, assisting with overwhelming feelings, and involving and including him.
- Continue the child’s routine.
- Model appropriate grief behaviors.
- Provide opportunities to remember the loved one who has died.
Dr. Bozeman goes on to say: "In accepting loss, children have to understand, grieve, remember, and find a way to go on with life. Sensitive adults can assist children by providing a safe place to express feelings, being willing to listen attentively and caringly to children’s stories of loss, and utilizing methods to help children express their thoughts and feelings."
Dr. Bozeman suggest the following resources in dealing with children and grief:
- Life and Loss: A Guide to Help Grieving Parents, Linda Goldman
- Children and Grief: When a Parent Dies, William J. Worden
- Helping Bereaved Children, Nancy Boyd Webb
- Interventions with Bereaved Children, Susan C. Smith and Sister Margaret Pennells
- The Seasons of Grief: Helping Children Grow Through Loss, Donna A. Gaffney
My prayer is that you’ll never need this information…but reality says you will. Blessings upon you as you help soothe hurting hearts. Much love!