Thomas McKenzie
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Telling a Child about a Death

I recently received an e-mail from a parent.  A relative had died, and they were asking how to share this with their child.  I responded with an e-mail.  I know that people deal with this all the time, so I thought it might be helpful to turn it into a blog post.  After I shared my condolences, here is what I wrote.


I think two things are important as you talk to your daughter.  These are two things that I think are always important when we deal with the death of someone close to us.  First, it is important that she be allowed to have her feelings.  I think it is appropriate that you show her your feelings too, though not in an overwhelmed moment when she might feel the need to comfort you.  I would show her that I am sad and upset about it, and that she can feel however she wants.  She can be sad, angry, worried, or not even have an emotional response at all.  And she may not respond, or she may have a delayed response.  She may just be sad that other people are sad.  And all that is O.K.


St. Paul tells us "Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest, who have no hope." (1 Thessalonians 4:13)  That is the second crucial piece.  We grieve, we feel our feelings, but we have hope.  So this is a great opportunity to tell her about the hope you have in Christ.  That your loved one  has a dwelling place prepared for him in paradise, and that someday we will see him again, and that all of this comes through the cross and resurrection of Jesus.  So while this is sad, some day all sad things will come untrue.  This is not meant to take away grief, but to put it into the context of everlasting life. 

She is not going to get all of that intellectually.  But, as she sees you all talk about it and live it out, she will grasp it in her heart and spirit.