By Rosalynne Martin
It was dark, raining heavily, and I had the windshield wipers on the fastest speed possible. Traffic was bumper to bumper leaving church that night because we had a notable guest pastor preaching. It was too difficult to switch lanes, so I decided to take an alternate route home.
The commute was about 15 minutes home and as I drove down this road, we passed the cemetery where my father is buried. Just a few months ago, my father went to be with Jesus. As we passed by, I said to my son, “I sure do miss Pop Pop” and before I knew it, my 7 year old son let out the biggest cry as a flood of tears fell from his eyes. We cried together for the next few minutes. After our tears and silence, I was able to comfort him with words of reassurance that we would see “Pop Pop” again one day in heaven, because we have accepted Jesus in our hearts and will spend eternity in heaven too. This precious moment I had with my young son was heart aching, however, I considered it a “Joy in the midst of grief” moment because as believers we have hope knowing this is not “the end”.
A few weeks ago, I asked a fellow mom, Ashley Anthony, to share with me how she helped her children through the loss of family members.
Rosalynne: Ashley, tell me about the grief your family has experienced.
Ashley: Our family has lost three dear people to us in the past two years. In 2016, my husband’s mother passed away and four months later, my mother passed away. Both died from Stage 4 cancer. As you can imagine, this shook our whole lives. Our moms were gone; my children would now grow up without any grandmothers. Then, this summer after fostering a precious baby who we loved and were praying about adopting, he grew ill and passed away also.
Rosalynne: Wow, Ashley that is indeed tough. What has been your source of peace?
Ashley: The only thing that carried us through 2016 was Jesus. As my husband and I dealt with our own feelings, we were also helping our children cope. We talked a lot about heaven, eternal security in Christ, and healing from this world. We knew our mothers had trusted in Jesus and that they were fully alive in heaven with Him. These conversations were deep and rich, we knew our human brains couldn’t possibly explain the depth of what had happened, but we knew God’s Word could. Although I didn’t know it at the time, my mother had claimed this verse early in her battle with cancer, “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10). This verse came up so much after her passing. My children were able to see God’s Word active and alive. We were able to share how much we loved our Mimi and Gran, how they suffered in sickness here on earth, but they were renewed now in heaven. Through their deaths, we were able to share with our children the gospel truth of knowing our mothers were with Jesus because they had surrendered their lives to Him and they were with Him because of the debt He had paid for them on the cross. These conversations not only healed our child’s grieving hearts, but ours as well.
Rosalynne: Tell me about the loss of Kylen-your precious foster baby.
Ashley: This past summer Kylen got really sick and passed away- it was unimaginable. Losing a grandparent was very difficult for our children, but losing a baby was an unnatural thing that wreaked our hearts and minds. My children were not strangers to this pain or grief, but it seemed to hit them in a more real way. We saw more tears, heard more fears, heard lots of questions of why, and saw anger for the first time. Only three months have passed, but there has been a lot of healing. Much of it again comes from God’s Word, and lots of prayer. We explained to our kids that it was okay to be sad, it was ok to cry, and it was even ok to ask God why? His Word says, “God will wipe away every tear.” Revelation 21:4, “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.” Psalm 34:18, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28.
Rosalynne: Thank you for sharing your grief experience with Kylen. I was heartbroken when I heard about him passing away. As a mom, in what ways can we walk with our children through grief?
Ashley: Point everything back to God’s Word: Dig deep and find verses to help answer their hard questions.
Encourage yourself and your child with scripture daily: Write specific verses down and memorize verses with them.
Pray with your child: Cry out to the Lord together, tell Him all your hurts and fears and let your child see YOU are laying all your grief in His hands.
Let your child see you cry and mourn: Your child needs to see its ok to cry and to share those feeling with others.
Talk openly about the memories of your loved one: We love to share favorite things about those we’ve loved, it helps your child see the memories are not lost.
Ask your child how they are feeling: It may take some creative questions or even some one on one time, but it’s good to get your child to talk about their feelings.
Make a memory box: Make a memory box and place special items from their loved ones into them.
Rosalynne: Thank you Ashley for sharing your godly insight on how you’ve helped your children grieve through the loss of their grandmothers and precious foster brother Kylen.
A few months ago, a dark ride home in the rain with my son sparked a time of weeping, but also a time of anticipation of heaven. Comforting a child during the loss of a grandparent or close family member is never an easy task. As moms, we can turn to God’s Word for strength and comfort. One of my favorite promises in His Word is from John 16:22 “So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.” We will experience rough times now, but we can cling to the joy that God gives because one day we will be reunited with Him and our loved ones!
You may have friends or family members who have children who have experienced loss or going through grief. Would you share this with them as an encouragement?