Image may contain: 4 people, including Mike Bates, people smiling

After The Accident, I was sitting in a Bible Study and a mom made a comment about how she felt it was time to talk to her child about hard social topics like, abortion, homosexuality, racism etc. I get it. Those things are tough things to bring up, when we have been trying to filter what our kids see and hear at a younger age. It makes sense to me, but when I heard it, I also felt anger and sadness in my heart, because I wished that it was that easy. The hard topics were social issues. My conversations with my kids was about death. Why did my brother die so soon? Why did this happen? I’m struggling with fear? I want to talk to you, but I don’t want to make you sad? Why is this hard? Will this hurt go away? These are questions I don’t have answers too. I can’t put a band-aid on their wound and kiss their boo boo and it’ll go away and they can run away happy. Grief like this doesn’t work that way.

So what do I say to my kids? I don’t know. There’s no manual for this stuff, and the manuals that I have seen have about 12 steps. I don’t do steps.

There have been times that I have totally missed a sign that my kid was feeling sad, because I was consumed with being busy to keep my mind off stuff. There have been a lot of times, where I have had to sit with my kid and just feel with them for however long it took.

Two of my kids won’t talk about Boston with other people. They won’t be that vulnerable and we’ve had to learn how they were going to respond to things. Our daughter, last year was in a literature class and they were reading Dangerous Journey an adaptation of Pilgrim’s Progress  by John Bunyan. During their discussion questions, one week was to describe something that they were afraid of and how they have overcome their fears. The teacher used an example of a being afraid of spiders and what she has done to try to not be afraid of spiders. My daughter looked at the question, and said, “Nope. I’m not doing that one. See ya!” Literally, left the room to go do something else. I ended up emailing the teacher and telling her our story, which I was trying to avoid last year, and telling her that for our kids this is tough question. My kids are afraid of someone else in their family being taken away. It is a constant fear that all of us struggle with. Our worst nightmare has happened. A reality for us is that it can happen again.

This year my son was reading Pilgrim’s Progress and his discussion question was if a Christian should fear death. He responded the same way. “I’m not doing this.” None of us fear death. In fact, I think that there have been more times, where we have yearned for it, simply because we would be Home. We would be free from our emotional pain. He would wipe away our tears. (Revelation 21:4) (I don’t want to sound morbid, but there are days life is really hard and emotionally exhausting.) Our son didn’t want to visit that he knew what death was first hand. The chances of a classmate losing a sibling is slim and he didn’t want to be vulnerable in his answer. He also didn’t want to read answers of classmates, simply because a lot of times circumstances affect our theology. Theology becomes deeper in life experiences. Theology can become rich when we are looking for answers through The Word, and that is what we have done.

We have searched. We have groaned. And no topic has been off limits.

Our oldest daughter, our most quiet, was in her room a couple of weeks ago and as I walked by she was crying on her bed. I went back and sat down on the bed with her and asked her what was wrong, she looked up at me and said, “I miss Boston.” We both cried together. We sat together. Hugged and cried. After a few minutes we got up and went about our business.

Their grief is going to come out in different ways. Moments during playing. Reading a book. Listening to someone talk. Doing homework. Playing a game together. Even if they are with friends, their friends may not know it, but they may have moments of grief that they brush away in order to enjoy themselves in a moment.

Honestly, it makes no sense. Any of it.

We got to the Psalms a lot. It seems to be the balm for all of us.

…call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me. (Psalm 50:15)

Teaching our kids to call upon the Lord. Whatever that looks like. That can even an angry outburst to him, or a cry for help or a yearn for an answer to why. We need to know that we have a God who listens and is near to us in the midst of our broken hearts.

When the righteous cry for help, the LORD hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. (Psalm 34:17-18)

We don’t need to give them advice on how to grieve, but who to go to when we are hopeless. We’ve told our kids, “We’re in this together. None of us are doing well. We’ve got each other’s backs. We all need Jesus. We need to flee to Him in our moments of despair.” Which seem to be often. No matter how frequent, we can flee to our Perfect Comforter.

…who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. (I Corinthians 1:4)

Our hope, is that through THIS life, our family will walk in suffering well. Our kids too. That we, in turn, will love on others well in the midst of their pain, whatever it may be.

When Kids Learn the Hardest Things