Grieving For & With Your Children
"Mommy, can I sleep in your bed tonight?"
"Daddy, please don't go!"
"I don't even know why I'm crying?!!"
These sentiments are just a few of the examples I hear discussed amongst parents raising young children. When it comes to dealing with a child's sadness, or even more significantly our own sadness, we are often woefully, ill-suited to deal with these important issues. In this short blog post, I look to touch on the issue of sadness, how it is a healthy, God-derived emotion, and some practical steps in dealing with our own sadness in front of our children as well as walking with them through their own sadness.
Sadness is an emotion that is very evident throughout the entirety of the Bible. In Genesis, God expresses sorrow for the affects of sin and resultant wickedness of mankind over the whole earth. Ruth and her sister-in-law Orpah weep over the loss of their husbands and for the pain that their mother-in-law, Naomi is experiencing. King David mourns the sickness and ultimate death of the child born to him through his affair with Bathseba. Jesus is seen weeping over the death of his friend Lazarus and later is so overcome with emotion at the Mount of Olives prior to being arrested, that his sweat is like blood.
Because of these, and countless other Biblical examples, we see that sadness is a part of the human experience, and that God himself is aware that sadness is a necessary emotion when reflecting on the fact that the world is a broken place. Sadness comes from God.
When interacting with our children then, we can confidently affirm that their sadness should be identified and accepted. Recently, a friend of mine lost both of their parents due to different illnesses. Resultantly, my friend's son (a 3rd grader) has been acting a bit different than he normally does. He has been quiet, then overly aggressive, then overly sensitive or needy... These are all examples of him expressing his sadness in a various ways.
Children often are unable to verbalize the emotion that they are feeling so behaviors begin to clue parents in to what is going on. When a child acts out, one of the best things a parent can do is to simply show that child dignity by moving towads them and seeking to listen to them, rather than immediately trying to "fix" the child's behavior. Seek to understand the child, and move towards them in love, just as your Heavenly Father moves towards you in love.
So what happens when we as parents are feeling sad? We have to "keep it together" for the family right? Well... the reality is, when sadness enters our hearts, it only resides for a season. It is not forever. So why not address the emotion that currently exists in your life and most likely exists throughout the entire house? Appropriately speak to your child about what you are feeling, why you are feeling that way, and how you are going to deal with that sadness in a healthy manner. By doing this, you are opening up the lines of communication between yourself and your child, and you are modeling for them how to handle emotions (whatever the emotion) in an appropriate way.
One of my favorite verses in all of the Bible is Psalm 34:18 which states, "The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit." God is a God of emotion, and he is close to those who are experiencing the emotion of sadness. So let your children experience different emotions and let them see you experience different emotions. For their good. For your good. And for His (God's) glory!