Grieving is hard, partly because – and let’s face it – grieving is socially awkward. It’s awkward for us and for those around us. So this makes it all the more uncomfortable.
Maybe that’s one reason interacting with children is such a blessing. They can be very creative about expressing things and are free from that grown-up uncomfortableness.
Some of the best cards and comments I received were from children. Here are a couple highlights.
The kids at church made cards now and then. One of them was a hand-made card with three pictures, pictures of me … “Sad Eric”, “Mad Eric”, and “Glad Eric”. Inside the card the message explained how this young girl was glad that Kathy was in heaven now. And she was glad that I was glad about that. But on the back of the card was an additional note that said, “I was sad too when Kathy died.” Grief is a lot to process – for kids too.
During a time when Kathy was in hospital, a young girl made some “customized” jewelry with beads and blocks. It really said something when Kathy wore the jewelry one day soon after.
Another one of my favorites was when a young girl brought her get well card to the hospital. She simply took her little toy pony and taped it to a piece of pink construction paper (Kathy loved horses). wow.
The day Kathy died happened to be the same day of a weekly kid’s event my niece was part of at her church. One of the leaders routinely checked in about Aunt Kathy and that day asked, “How is your Aunt Kathy?” “Oh, she’s better now,” answered my niece. Surprised and following up for more details, my niece explained Kathy was in heaven now with Jesus. Months later I was visiting my niece and giving her a big hug and carrying her for a bit while walking around the kitchen. She pointed to a picture of me and Kathy and said, pointing to me, “I know who that is”. Then she pointed to Kathy and said, “Let’s see, who is that?” – she turned and explained, “sometimes I pretend I don’t know her so it is not so sad.” Her brother, in the next room building a castle with some blocks, jumped in to say “I wrote a poem to cancer.” He told me he asked cancer why it had to come and hurt people and why it took aunt Kathy away.
One of my favorite little guys those days was the son of friends at church. At that time our church liked singing the song “He is Exalted” by Twila Paris. One morning as I was leading everyone to sing that song, this little guy was right there in the front, singing as loud and best he could, “He is exhausted, the King is exhausted on high …” Hilarious. This same young friend came up to me at the memorial service, a bit dazed by the huge crowd and unfamiliar place. “Do you know why we’re here?” I asked as he gave me a big hug. “Do you know where Kathy is? … She is in Heaven with Jesus.” I explained that everyone was there to celebrate that her trouble is over and she won’t be sick any more. He stayed with me for a while and helped me greet people as they came in.
Just like children, we need to talk about our grief and the tragic events of life.
Just like children, we sometimes find ways to say “ouch.”
Just like children, we need to find ways to cope – healthy ways. Sometimes we have to get creative because big and difficult things are not easy to express.
Just like children, we will need to express our hearts. This means we will have to become a little more comfortable with the awkwardness of it all.