Grief - Part II

How do we help kids process grief?

In the Nooma video, “Matthew,” which addresses grief and loss, Rob Bell says,
“I do know that you and I have choices about the kinds of people we are; the kinds of people we’re becoming.  We have a choice whether or not we’re going to become bitter.”
We have a choice.  This is what we see in Job.  Job’s family is dead, and he responds, “The Lord gave and Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”  A chapter later his wife tells him to “curse God and die,” and Job responds, “Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?”  Job mourns.  He wails.  He tears his robe.  He weeps.  He grieves, openly.  Job is angry.  Yet Job joins those in Scripture who choose not to become bitter with God.

We look at the Psalms.  Psalm 13 asks the question, “Where are you Lord?”  Wow!  I remember being shocked reading that for the first time and realizing I was allowed to express my anger at God and not be immediately removed from the earth.  Even the Psalmist, who feels the enemy all around, feels death on his doorstep as the enemy approaches, says,
“But I trust in your unfailing love.
            My heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing the LORD’s praise,
            for he has been good to me.”
Really?!  My enemy is all around.  Where are you God?  How long will you forget me?  How long will you hide from me?  But I choose to trust in you and worship you, for you have been good to me.

And finally, there’s Jesus.  John 11:35 says, simply and profoundly, “Jesus wept.”  God weeps.  Jesus responds to the news that his friend Lazarus has died; he empathizes with his friend, and Lazarus’ sister, Mary; he openly weeps.  He weeps even though he knows he is going to bring Lazarus back to life.  He weeps with his friends over the death of their brother and friend.  It is appropriate to weep.  It ok to cry.  It is normal to have emotions.  But we have a choice.  Will we become bitter?  Will we “curse God and die?”

Last night was powerful.  I could go on, but I’ve already written enough.  If you stayed with me this long, thank you.  I hope for those reading this you can make yourself available to our youth, and more importantly, you can LISTEN.  Withhold judgment.  Bite your tongue.  Listen.  Respond with compassion.  Respond with love.  Let your presence speak more than 1000 words. 

To any adult reading this:  Our kids are hurting, and they need loving, safe adults who are willing to be “dumped” on and keep coming back for more.  If this is you, if you are willing to step into this area of need, be willing to do a few things:

1) Sit in silence - Listen.  Some say the worst thing Job’s friends did was open their mouths.  They came.  They sat with Job for 7 days and 7 nights.  No one said a word to him.  And then they started talking.  Why?  They felt as thought they needed to set Job straight; to help him move beyond his grief; to help him process his grief.  They talked.  They should have kept quiet.

2) Admit you don’t have the answers.  It speaks volumes to kids when adults can be honest and admit that we too have more questions than answers when it comes to difficult issues like death and dying.   As much as we want to, we cannot fix the situation.  Instead of being paranoid or freaking out about this fact, take comfort, for kids are looking for a quick fix.  They will appreciate your honesty and listening ear more than they will appreciate your attempts to “fix” the situation.

3) Pray, and expect God to answer.  God’s Word promises peace that passes understanding to those who pray (Phil 4:6-7), and comfort for those who mourn (Matt 5:4).  Be ready to be crushed a little yourself, and be ready to feel God’s healing, comforting touch.  Pray boldly.  Pray specifically.  Pray for

4) Help them Hope.  In the end, kids need to know that God is present, God has not left.  Help them hope.  Help them identify the times in their life where they were certain of God’s presence and knew his love.  Help them remember these times.  Help them hold on to these memories – the memories that give them hope.  Remind them of God’s future as described in Revelation 21 – that future where there will be no more tears and no more mourning.  Talk about your hope.  Tell them why you have hope in spite of the craziness of the world.  You do have hope, right?!

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