Monday, May 4, 2015

Sharing grief with kids

On Sunday morning McKenna's Sunday school teacher was tragically killed in a car accident. Beth was a friend and partner in children's ministry. She came to church every single Sunday morning to love kids and teach them about Jesus. My face hurt yesterday from crying so hard. This is a tremendous loss for her family and for our students at Otterbein Church. Beth was only 32 years old but she spent years serving in our church.

In the 2012-2013 school year she taught our Kindergarten -  2nd grade class. In the 2013-2014 school year Beth served as a small group leader for 4th grade girls. Beth was currently teaching our kindergarten, 1st and second graders every Sunday morning. Beth also taught during VBS last year and she was Esther at our Hero’s Unmasked event in the fall. She knew how to have fun!!  Beth loved kids and she loved Jesus. She participated in a mission trip to Haiti and was very active in many areas of our church. My heart is broken to lose such an amazing friend and partner in ministry.

Beth’s best friend was her sister Lori. Beth and Lori led the 4th grade girls group together last year and they both served together in our Main Street class this year. Lori is currently one of our kindergarten small group leaders. Please pray for Lori and the rest of their family in the weeks and months to come.

Yesterday afternoon I sat down with McKenna and explained to her what happened to Miss. Beth. It took a while for McKenna to process what I was telling her. At first she asked a lot of questions about exactly what happened. She didn't cry, she was just curious. Three hours later she got out of the shower and crawled up in my lap and said, "I just can't stop thinking about it." And then she said, "I feel like I need to cry, but I hate crying." The sadness of losing Miss Beth had begun to sink in. On the way to school this morning McKenna said, "I feel sad. Do you think Miss Lori is sad today?" I cried and said, "Yes. She's very sad." And McKenna and I prayed. We will probably pray a lot over the next few weeks because that is what you do! It made my heart so happy when McKenna told me that she prayed for Miss Lori all by herself at bedtime last night.

If your child attends Sunday School at Otterbein during the 9:20 service it is my hope that you will talk to your child this week about Miss Beth’s death. This will be very sad news for your child and it is best if they hear this news from their mom or dad. Kids need a lot of time to process the information when they hear sad or tragic news. This might be the first time your child has known someone young who has died. When you decide to talk to your child, here are a few pointers:

  1. Choose a time when you are alone with your child. If they feel sad they might not want to cry in front of a sibling. They need to have the opportunity to express their feelings.

  2. DON’T talk about someone dying right before bedtime. Talk about it in the morning or afternoon so that they can think and process and come back to you with questions as the day goes on.

  3. Kids are very concrete. Don’t expect an emotional reaction. They might not have one. They might simply have lots of questions.

  4. Kids are typically worried about themselves (that’s normal and it’s okay). They want to know how this is going to affect them. They might ask: “Who is going to teach my class now?” or they might be worried about you dying. You can tell the kids that Miss Judy is going to teach their class for a while.

  5. Be HONEST and give FACTS. Explain that Miss Beth was in a bad car accident. We don’t know why, but her car went off the road and hit a hill and then it hit a tree. (If you look up this accident up online you will also find that the car burst into flames. I would NOT give children this information. They do not need to be fearful of their car catching on fire). Miss Beth was the only person in the car. The police men and firemen tried to help Miss Beth but when they got there she had already died.

  6. Be ready for questions. My daughter McKenna (age 7) asked 2 very hard questions: “Was Miss Beth scared?” and “Did it hurt Miss Beth when she died?”  I was honest and told her that Miss Beth was probably scared for a minute and it probably hurt for a minute BUT Miss Beth is in Heaven with Jesus right now and in Heaven there is no sadness or pain. Miss Beth is not hurt anymore and she’s not sad at all!

  7. Keep pointing the conversation back to Jesus. We don’t need to feel sad about Miss Beth because she is having a great time in Heaven with Jesus! We can feel sad for her family.

  8. Talk about Heaven. (Randy Alcorn’s book “Heaven” is a great source of information about what the Bible teaches about Heaven. It’s a rather long book but I’ve found it to be a fantastic resource over the years).

    1. It’s a real place with time and space and concrete objects.

    2. The Bible tells us that it will be “familiar” not some strange otherworldly experience.

    3. You will see people that you know and you will look like a person with a body.

    4. People do not turn into angels. God created man and he created angels and they are two different things.

    5. The Bible describes Heaven as “HOME” so you will be as comfortable and happy in Heaven as you are at your home.

    6. People in Heaven can see some things that are happening on the Earth.

    7. There are lots of things to do in Heaven.

  9. Pray. Your child will feel better if they feel like they can do something to help Miss Lori and her family. Pray with your child. Ask God to comfort Miss Lori and her family and thank God for giving us such a special teacher.

I will be teaching the Main Street class (K-2nd) this coming Sunday, May 10th  at 9:20am and I will also be teaching The Avenue class (3rd-5th) on Sunday morning at 10:00am. We are going to have a lesson about Heaven and about the HOPE we have in Jesus that we will see Miss Beth again one day in Heaven. I am planning on being very honest on Sunday but we are going to keep it very upbeat. We are going to talk about what Miss Beth is doing in Heaven….worshiping Jesus! And then we are going to sing some of Miss Beth’s favorite songs and we are going to worship Jesus! I’m going to show the kids some crazy picture of Miss Beth dressed up like Moses and we are going to remember happy times that we had with her. Our lesson will mainly focus on what Heaven is like. Most kids think that Heaven is scary because they don’t know what it will be like and they are scared to think about going to a place without their mom or dad. I’ve told my own kids lots of times that I know for sure that I will be in Heaven. It’s their job to make sure that they get to join me one day. I can’t bring them to Heaven with me. They have to choose to be a follower of Jesus (Romans 10:9&10). If you have questions about how to talk to your child about Heaven, death or asking Jesus into their hearts ….please call me or send me an email. My greatest desire is for Jesus Christ to be honored and glorified through Miss Beth’s death. My greatest joy in life is helping kids learn to trust Jesus and this is a tragic but timely opportunity to point your child to Jesus.

Blessings,

Judy Chatterton

Judy.chatterton@otterbeinchurch.org


1 comment:

Laurie Babcock said...

What a great post Judy! Such great advice for parents. Do you mind if I share this?