How to Talk to Your Children About Death

how to talk to your children about death

by Heather Gilion

“Mom, I don’t want you to die!”

I heard this sweet little voice break the silence before the sun even had a chance for it’s coffee. “Zachy, come here sweety.” Not the words you expect to hear first thing in the morning. I cradled my four-year-old in my arms, “Mom, please don’t die.” My stomach immediately turned over and over as I held my breath. Stroking his hair with one hand and pulling him in tight with the other, I said, “I know death is scary. I want to stay with you as long as I possibly can.” I could feel him hold me tighter. I held him tighter. “I love that God has made me your mommy. I ask Him all the time to let me be your mommy all your days. I don’t know what tomorrow holds, but we can trust Him completely. I know it’s all hard to understand, but I want you to know, no matter what happens, God loves you and I love you very, very much.”

Noah, barely six at the time, overheard our conversation and chimed in, “Zach, don’t worry. If anything happens to mom and dad we will go to a nursing home.” I chuckled. Pulling Noah into the embrace, I had boys in each arm. “Well, I think you mean a foster home. Is that what you mean?” Both of my boys were familiar with the ministry of Boys and Girls Town since we’d visited there before and had been mentoring a boy that we met through the organization. “Oh yeah,” Noah said. “We would go to a foster home and have a new family.”

Zach lit up, “Oh, well, that sounds fun! Okay, I wonder who would be my new mommy and daddy?”

And just like that, the conversation went from dread of losing me to having new brothers and sisters and “wouldn’t that be fun!” Then something triggered a complete change in subject and they were on to Star Wars, (thank you, Lord!) and I sat there silent, listening to four and six-year-old brother banter. I began talking to God silently over this fear that had reared its ugly head that morning.

I get pretty mad about death, if I’m honest. I hate it. I want to punch it in the face. I want to go to bed and wake up and find that it’s not a thing anymore. There will be a day that it’s not a thing anymore. It’ll be a distant memory. It’ll be like, “Oh yeah, people used to die. Man, I can’t even fathom that.” I want it to feel like we’re talking about when people used to listen to music on their 8-tracks. “What are those? I think I’ve heard about them before, but I’m not sure.”

How do we talk to our kids about death and dying? All of us have been affected by death. I’ve definitely felt the pain of loss. I’ve buried my father, a husband, a brother-in-law, grandparents, and friends. So I’m not naïve to the fact that life can change in an instant! But when you have innocent eyes staring into your soul, begging you not to die, everything in you wants to say, “You don’t have to worry about that, buddy. Momma’s not going anywhere… EVER.” But that’s not the truth and it’s not healthy to set our children up for disappointment and a false hope. Only God knows the days and the hours I am to live on this earth. I’ve heard parents reassure their children simply to dodge their own fears on the subject, and to keep their children from any anxiety. But I believe I have a parental obligation and God-loving responsibility to prepare my children with the truth about death, even when I don’t like the truth. Although the conversations we have with our children surrounding death don’t make us jump for joy, we turn to the Word and anchor our hope in a God that conquered death once and for all!

When your child asks about death:

  1. Be truthful. Your children want to hear the truth. They want answers. Sometimes you won’t have all the answers, and you can be honest about that. But oh how confusing it is for them if you promise that everyone they cherish most will never die, and when someone does they aren’t equipped for this new reality. Death is hard even if you feel prepared, so setting your children up with the truth will be good for their hearts over the long haul. (Deut. 6:7-9)

  2. You don’t need to linger on the topic, but use those moments as teaching opportunities to point to the HOPE and LIFE we have in Christ here and now and the HOPE and LIFE we have in Christ after For a believer in Jesus, we have an amazing home that awaits us. Heaven is definitely a perk when it comes to the subject of death. Although Heaven is real, not everyone will go to Heaven. Heaven is only for those who have put their faith in Jesus. I wish every single person on the face of the planet would understand how awesome God truly is; that they would call Him LORD and follow hard after Him, for He is the only way to Heaven. Heaven is not for the “good” or the “well-liked.” It is for the sinners who have put their trust in God and been saved by grace through Jesus. So for those of us that call Jesus our Lord, we can cling to the hope that when we breathe our last on this side of eternity, our next will be in the presence of God. (John 14:6, Col. 1:3-4, Heb 11:1-2)

  3. God says “Don’t fear” 365 times in the Bible, one time for each and every day of the year, right? Even in death we don’t have to fear. Pointing our children and our own hearts to the truth that we can trust God no matter what is equipping them for what lies ahead. When those we love die before we were ready to say goodbye, we have a choice to anchor ourselves in the God who has conquered death and trust that He can use even death to bring about beautiful things. (Psalm 118:6, Deut. 31:6, Matt. 10:28)

 

To be honest, I hated to even write on this topic because in my messed up mind, I thought, “Oh great, Lord, if I write about this that means I’m going to die isn’t it? You are going to have me write this thing and put it out there for others to read and then I’m going to die in some freakish accident. And then this blog post will circulate like wild fire and my picture will be on the nightly news with that sappy, soft music playing as a smiling picture of me slowly pans across the screen.” Obviously, I’ve already played it out in my mind in weird, detailed fashion, but after I call myself back down from the crazy-brain ledge, I deeply breathe in God’s love for me and my children. The kind of crazy love that says, “Mom, I love them more than you. Can you trust Me?” The Bible says we are but a mist, here one day, gone the next, but we can trust God with our mist.

So what keeps this momma from finding herself in the fetal position, overwhelmed by “what ifs?”

Easter.

Jesus walked straight into death’s face. Was He scared? The Bible tells us He sweat drops of blood the night before. But it also says, “His face was set.” He knew what He had to do and He followed the voice of His Father right to His death. The Son of God allowed Himself to be murdered so our sin would be paid for. So death could never more be held over our heads. He died so that when He rose again on the third day, He could speak straight to death’s ugly face, “O Death, where is your victory? O Death, where is your sting?” (1 Cor. 15:55) He defeated it.

His Word is clear. We live in a broken world and we will endure hard, want-to-hide-under-the-covers-all-day kind of stuff, BUT God is who He says He is and He calls Himself Emmanuel, God with us. So even when you find yourself walking “through the valley of the shadow of death,” you need not fear, for your God is with you. (Psalm 23:4). I love how one father explained death to his child as they drove home from a funeral. A semi truck was passing by and the shadow of the truck covered their car. He explained that if the truck were to collide into them they would die. But when Jesus went to the cross He took the truck in our place. He took on the truck for us, and now when we breathe our last breath, we don’t experience the crushing truck, we experience the shadow of the truck. On Good Friday, He took on “our truck”—death—so we didn’t have to. Now we experience only the “shadow of death.”

Emmanuel. Jesus. That’s His name, don’t wear it out. Well, actually, NO! DO wear it out! Wear it right out. Cling to it. Cherish it. Call it out. Say it out loud. Beckon upon it. Never let the truth of His nearness leave your thoughts. He speaks into our fears of the unknown. You can trust Him even when you don’t have all the answers. And if you’ve never said it out loud, you can call on His name today.

For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Phil. 1:21)

 

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To learn more about Heather and Holly’s ministry, you can watch their 3 minute video: go here

To check out their book, Dancing On My Ashes: go here

If you are interested in learning more about God: go here

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Fear? Goodness, no! {part 2: LOVE}

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by Heather Spring

If you missed {part 1: POWER}, obviously it’s not too late to catch up. Close your eyes and tap your shoes together three times and say, “There’s no place like part 1. There’s no place like part 1.” That should get you there… or press here.

You all remember the song that I taught you that my dad taught me?

Let’s sing together:

“For God has not given us the spirit of FEAR (scary face here!), but of

POWER, AND LOVE, AND A SOUND SOUND MIND!”

2 Timothy 1:7

I’m going to attempt to tackle the second gift He’s given… LOVE!

You’ve heard that there are three different love types: Eros love (known as the physical, sensual love between a husband and wife—bow chicka bow wow, as I like to call it), Phileo love (based on friendship between two people), and Agape love (unconditional, sacrificial love).

In 2 Timothy 1:7, the “love” that’s been “given” to us is agape love… the highest and ultimate form of love!

I have to chuckle when I hear Agape love referred to as brotherly love. Listen, I am raising two brothers and you’ve got to know, I’ve got story after story on this one. I’ve seen them peg one another in the head with matchbox cars only to have the injured scold me for scolding the offender. Between all the wedgies and sword-fights-gone-too-far, I see a protective, steadfast, ever-growing love they display for one another.

But agape love is so much more than that.

Agape arrived on this earth and walked around in sandals. You could touch Agape, smell Agape, and listen to Agape. Agape was so unique and refreshing, that droves of people would follow Him around taking in this otherness. And after living perfectly, and always loving just right, Agape laid down His life. “Oh, Agape, how much you truly love us!”

“But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

And guess what? He has given those that believe in Him this same LOVE… Agape planted within our very hearts. Consider it a wedding gift! What extravagance! It’s one thing for Him to be that incredible and just downright “other,” but WE are given this same spirit of love? Unfortunately, it’s a gift we squander away or are satisfied to “love” when it benefits us. We love with me at the center.  That’s not agape love.

You see, real agape love is a love that’s a without-strings-attached-or-hidden-agenda kind of love. It is selfless and it is a choice. It is “the noblest kind of devotion, the love of the will (intentional, a conscious choice) and not motivated by superficial appearance, emotional attraction, or sentimental relationship.”

It is a decisive love.

As a teen, I remember my dad telling me that every day he chose to love my mom. I was floored! I was horrified! It made me angry! To be honest, I felt sorry for my mom. I thought, “You have to CHOOSE to LOVE her? What kind of marriage is that? Well, I don’t want one of those!”

Oh… but I’ve since then eaten those words (with a little salt and ketchup) because that’s the kind of marriage that works, that thrives, that lasts, that grows, that satisfies, and that mirrors Jesus. I’m not saying that marriage doesn’t consist of Eros (a little Marvin Gaye on repeat) and Phileo (“I’m giddy that you love music as much as I do!” Insert wild clapping!). I’m just saying most days we’ve got to both land on this agape, decisive and sacrificial love, or we’ll be left frustrated and selfishly pining for something or someone else to fill our love reservoir.

But this CHOICE is not just for the husband and wife. It is for EVERY SINGLE RELATIONSHIP THAT WE HAVE. No one is excluded here. Agape is even for your worst enemy… ouch, that stings a bit! It is not in us to naturally agape love another. We’re selfish by nature. But God says, “I have given you power, (Agape) LOVE, and a sound mind.” If you CHOOSE to live out this agape love, you will be:

Agape-ing when you don’t “feel” like it.
Agape-ing when it costs you everything and promises nothing.
Agape-ing those that annoy you.
Agape-ing those that you are tempted to look down on.
Agape-ing people that have wounded you.
Agape-ing people, that if you were to be honest, you just don’t like.
(Oh, now I need to stop and pray for a bit… convicted!)

So, this Scripture says, “He hasn’t given us the spirit of fear… but of love.”

“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18)

Let me tell you how fear comes in and steals you from loving in this God-like manner.

When you struggle with comparing yourself to others, you won’t be able to really love them. You won’t. (Any Bookface-ers or Interestingpinners struggling in this area?) If comparison has got your number, you’ll be too busy feeding thoughts of jealousy and self-doubt to agape others. You will struggle with confidence when you are full of jealousy, envy, and suspicion. You will struggle with freedom in Christ when you continue playing the victim card. And all of this stems from fear! When you are fearful, you live out of self-preservation mode, everything in you fighting for what satisfies you, what makes you “happy” and “whole.” When you are fear-driven, you’ll be defensive and will come against whoever seemingly threatens your happiness… even God. So it’s easier to look at others as competition instead of seeing the Jesus in them. And you can’t love when you view others as competition.

Even within the church walls, we can find ourselves competing with one another, tearing one another down because we are feeling threatened by others’ giftings, roles, or “blessings.” Jealousy robs us from joining together as one body to fulfill the plans of God.  Can we stop, for one second, and see the unique qualities of God Himself in the eyes, hands, feet, laughter, and presence of the ones on our right and left? They are not our competition, rather, they are God-made masterpieces that we are called to love… agape style. Ladies, we can be the worst at falling into this trap! Sister in Christ, may I make a plea to you: we are on the same team! Start encouraging, sharpening, and speaking truth into one another, fostering unity! (Ok, stepping off my soapbox now.)

You want power, freedom, and peace?

1. Pray against the spirit of fear that so easily comes to rob you, and love decisively, CHOOSING to use the very gift of love that has been embedded in your heart. You don’t have to be insecure. You don’t have to be jealous. You don’t have to compare. You don’t have to live off the fumes of half-hearted-me-centered-love; you’ve got the gas! Now rev up that engine and agape the way Christ has fueled your sweet, little heart to do so.

2. Don’t let your eyes leave the cross. I’m serious. Pop a squat and don’t get up. Do you get this love that was demonstrated on the cross… for you… for others? May we see every relationship from our past, our present, and our future, through the cross, and then we’ll be asking:  How can we not love?

“We love because he first loved us.” 1 John 4:19

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Get ready for {part 3: A SOUND MIND}! I’ll post this conclusion to our series THURSDAY (5/16)! Maybe all this has been just for me. If so, I’m good with that. But I do hope and pray it’s been an encouragement to you as well. Feel free to share this with anyone that may be encouraged by this post! By the way, I’m pumped about the giveaway… EEK! I love surprises!

Fear? Goodness, no! {part 1: POWER}

blog-power

by Heather Spring

There’s a new book that’s been an instant favorite around this joint:

Pete the Cat: Rocking in My School Shoes

It’s main theme is having confidence throughout the day, come what may. A repetitive line in it goes like this: “Does Pete worry? Goodness, no!”

I’ve been thinking about what life would feel like FREE from worry, fear, anxiety, and insecurity. God’s doing a new thing in me. I want it said of me: “Does Heather worry? Goodness, no!” Do I believe that can be a reality? Yes, yes, I do. More and more every day. But… I do know what it feels like to be in the grip of fear, only to end up a coward. I’ve also drank the waste-your-days-in-worry-kool-aid, unfortunately I awoke faced with unchanged circumstances that tempted me to fill up my glass with more of the same. My fears have kept me from really loving people, trusting others, and ultimately trusting God.

Do you know how many times the Bible says: “Fear Not”?

It is said that there are 366 “Fear not’s” in the Bible—one for every day of the year, including Leap Year! God doesn’t want us to go a single day without hearing His word of comfort: “Fear not!”

I think there are a few reasons God has to repeat Himself when it comes to the subject of fear:

1. We are a fearful, anxious people (a.k.a. a bunch of scaredy cats). If you are sitting there all proud, murmuring to yourself, “I’m not anxious. I’m not scared of anything!” Then you’re worse off than the rest of us, for you are even too scared to admit your “scaredness” to yourself. There… I said it, you’re welcome. We all have heard horrific stories of what others have gone through that have left us speechless. The fact is, we fear losing what we love. We love people. We have dreams we’re fond of. We desire comfort and a life of ease, and there are numerous, possible scenarios that threaten these things we call precious.

2. We are not home. It’s like we know our address but somehow we can’t escape the reality that we’ve been left bunking with our crazy uncle who’s hell-bent on not following the rules and indifferent to the fact his snuggly, cuddly blanky is filthy and the pacifier he’s joyfully sucking on is actually a grenade. He blissfully drifts off to la-la-land to escape this hopeless chaos. Our “now” is messed up, I don’t have to tell you that. This world is broken and it isn’t our home.

3. There are just some things that we have to be told over and over and over again. Like “don’t chew with your mouth open,” or “wash your hands after you use the restroom,” or “please, don’t pass gas at the dinner table.” (I live with boys, enough said.) “Don’t fear” falls into God’s category of musts in repetitive instruction.

Here are a few examples of this repetition of care and love for us:

Are you fearful about your future?
“Fear not, for I am with you and will bless you” (Gen. 26:24)

Moms & dads, are you fearful about providing for your family?
“So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.” (Gen. 50:21)

College students, teens, men, and women:
Are you fearful of what can happen if you go against the crowd?
“Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord,” (Exodus 14:13)

Are you anxious about what He’s called you to?
“Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.” (Deut. 31:6)

Christ followers, we have one voice saying: “Don’t fear, be SECURE & CONFIDENT in the One that lives IN you!” And then we have this other voice that is saying quite the opposite, don’t we?  “The accuser of the brethren” wants to cause you to doubt, waver, question, and live trapped in insecurity. He delights when you are uncertain of who you are and what you are capable of!

As a little girl, my dad taught me 2 Timothy 1:7 in song form. I bet you want to hear it don’t you?

Here it is…

Let me paraphrase this verse in 2 Timothy: “This spirit of fear that you have, yeah, that’s not of Him… but let me tell you WHAT IS FROM HIM: Three ah-mazing gifts…

POWER, LOVE, AND A SOUND MIND.

I’m going to break this verse down in three separate blog posts.
In {part 1}, I want to spend time on this first gift that we’ve been given that combats fear: POWER. And {part 2} I’ll expand on LOVE. And finally {part 3}: A SOUND MIND + a chance to enter a giveaway. Whoop whoop!

So the first gift: POWER

The Greek translation is “Dunamis” (doo’-nahm-is): strength power, ability
It comes from the word Dynamite! I LOVE THIS!

I truly believe, we don’t need more of Him—we need less of us! When you invite Christ in, He’s not just a little in, He’s ALL IN! And this ALL includes a power that can only be associated with dynamite! Boom!

 “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you…”(Acts 1:8)

We have received this POWER, supernatural, out of this world, power—the same power that raised Christ from the dead—and He LIVES IN US! (Romans 8:11). How in is He? He’s ALL IN? And how secure can we be? Completely Secure! Why? Because we can muster up this power? Goodness, no! Because, we’ve got HIS power pulsing through our veins, making us courageous, fueling our fire, engaging a supernatural strength that has everything to do with His IN-ness! (I’m typing so fast I’m making up words now!)

“His divine POWER has given us everything we need for a godly life…” (2 Peter 1:3)

What do we have to fear? Who can come against us?

Nobody.

No one.

Not a single soul.

Nothing in this world or out of this world!

Does that not make you feel a little bit stronger? A little more confident? Does it make you want to do courageous things for the glory of God? It should!

And here we are missing out, living locked up and shaken up—fearful in our todays and doubting He’ll be with us in our tomorrows.

All the while, He most adamantly says, “I’M ALL IN! Why are you insecure? Why are you fearful? MY SPIRIT LIVES IN YOU!”

So when I’m lacking the power and living in fear, plagued by insecurities, worrying my life away, living out of self-preservation – it is my choice!

Do you need to fear? Goodness, no!

I’d love to hear your thoughts…

**{part 2: LOVE} will be posted on Monday (5/13).
{part 3: A SOUND MIND} will be posted on Thursday (5/16).
So, if you haven’t subscribed this would be a great time to do so! You’ll receive the new posts in your little virtual mailbox. Ok? There’s my plug. You totally don’t want to miss out on the giveaway! Plus, there’s so much more in this Scripture to discuss!