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 3: A SOUND MIND} & GIVEAWAY

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So here we go! The conclusion to our discussion based on 2 Timothy 1:7. If this is your first time to our blog and you’re scratching your head, “Conclusion? I just got here!” Feel free to backtrack to {part 1: POWER}, and then hit {part 2: LOVE}. But if you are the rebellious type and you don’t like me telling you what to do, that’s totally fine. No problem, friend, read on. I promise, I won’t try and make you feel like you’ve stumbled into a conversation mid-way through.

2 Timothy 1:7, sing it with me:

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In this post I’m tackling the third gift… A SOUND MIND.

Do any of you feel like you have anything BUT a Sound Mind?? (Ladies, maybe just once a month? No? Then I shall study your ways.)

Do you ever feel like you are out of control? You put the “Cra” in Crazy? I’ve heard some mom’s refer to it as “baby brain”—forgetful, irrational, crying about nothing, and yelling about everything! Sure, let’s blame it on the innocent. (I couldn’t blame crazy brain on them before they entered this world, maybe I should suck-it-up and not do it now.) All joking aside, there is some truth to it. You add together aging, along with a few bundles of joy, countless sleepless nights, years of aspartame, and you’re bound to feel like your brain isn’t quite firing on all cylinders. They say with more grays comes wisdom, but I see it as growing wise to the fact that you’re losing it! Did I just use shampoo or was that the conditioner… darn it, maybe I should just start all over?!

My Mom:  “If I tell you the same story over and over, will you just stop me?” She’s been telling us that recently over and over. Just kidding, Momma! You’re all good!

{*Sidenote: The mind is a powerful gift God has given us, and I might be having fun poking at the reality of what aging naturally does to us, but I’m in no way speaking about mental illness, etc. Just want to make that clear.}

So, what does He mean by “sound mind” anyway?

A sound mind means a disciplined and self-controlled mind. In other words, God did not have it purposed that defeat should be the norm of your Christian walk. We should be disciplined Christians rather than slaves to our emotions. Now, living with a sound mind will not happen in our strength or by believing we’ve got the right mojo to make it happen, rather, we have been gifted with this mind. Now choosing to live using this gift… that’s up to us.

Our mind must be engaged, fixed and focused, and at all times seeking to align ourselves to the gospel of Jesus Christ. John MacArthur said that we’ve been given a sound mind to “focus and apply every part of our lives according to His will.”

Wired by the Creator God, Himself, we at times drip, trickle, slop, and spill out with emotions; but emotional living is not how we are to live. We sometimes make decisions out of fear and anxiety when we’re operating in self-preservation mode or when we “feel” good or bad—that’s not the voice that should control our next step.

We all experience fluctuating feelings, but if you haven’t focused and applied your life, circumstances, dreams and fears to what is said in His Word revealed by His Spirit, then you are not going to make sound, disciplined decision. “You’re not using your noggin’!” as my Dad would affectionately say, while (lightly) knuckling my head.

Are you weak, tired, drained, empty, lost or disengaged? How are you responding based on how you feel? This is an opportunity to take Him at His Word whether you “feel” like it or not—to make a CHOICE (like I talked about in {part 2}) to live in

HIS POWER,
HIS LOVE,
AND HIS SOUND MIND.

Q: So if having a sound mind means that we are to be disciplined, controlled, and sound in our decisions, how does fear steal our discipline? How does anxiety and insecurity rob our minds?

A: Anxiety leads you to make rash decisions. Fear makes you explain away what He’s called you to, due to fear of actually having to do it, fear of the unknown, fear of what others might say, or fear of failure. Fear leads us to unbelief and distrust in His Words and His commands. Instead, we set our path based on how we feel.

For those of you that like to talk to yourself, here’s a great passage just for you!
(High-five, peeps, we’re NOT crazy, after all!)

 “Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him for the help of His presence.” (Psalm 42:5)

Sometimes we just need to give ourselves a little stern talking to by addressing our very souls! And that’s why I love this verse so much! It’s saying, Insert your name here, why are you down? Why are you distraught? Why are you fearful… worried… anxious?” This is where the pep talk comes into play: “Stop it! HOPE IN GOD!”

We need to hear truth whether it’s from one another or from ourselves—CONSTANTLY!

May today we converse with our ever-present God, asking Him to continue to teach us how to live aligning our minds to His Will and asking for peace to reign when we feel crazy, anxious, or tempted to make our own happy. May we choose to live based on TRUTH rather than feelings.

Sooo… speaking of putting Truth in our ears, hearts, and minds, it’s time to explain our GIVEAWAYS! I chose these specifically because you’ll be able to use them as pep talks for your soul! Here’s what’s up for the taking.

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TWO GIFTS for TWO WINNERS:

#1:  The Great Exchange is a band that I think is fantastic! I would love to give 175away their CD, “We Are The Branches”. I do happen to know the lead singer, Tyler Greene, he’s our worship leader at Lifepoint Church. Not trying to brag or anything, but after you hear him and hear his heart, you’ll see why I sound like I’m bragging. We are a blessed community! The lyrics on this album are full of the Word and the Word never disappoints or returns void. Check out these dudes: http://www.thegreatexchangeband.com/

#2:  Jesus Calling, by Sarah Young, is a devotional jesus callingthat Holly and I received from a gal in a church we spoke at in Illinois last year (you know who you are). What a treasure this book has been to me in my personal time with the Lord! If you haven’t heard of it, it’s written as if Jesus was speaking to you. He is a personal God, and this is such a sweet reminder of that intimacy that He longs to have with us. Again, Word-based. There’s a theme here, isn’t there? I’d love to give one away!

AND THAT’S NOT ALL! Along with #1 and #2 the winners will receive a bag of coffee from my favorite roastery: Heroes Coffee! Woah, now I’ve got your attention! “Wake Up. Do Good. Repeat.” That’s their coffeebaghome-heroes-seperato copyslogan! Heroes Coffee Company is a gourmet wholesale roaster in Springfield, Missouri. I didn’t like coffee until I had their coffee! Plus, the owners happen to be friends and neighbors of mine! (If you’re a weirdo and don’t like coffee—been there—it’ll still be a sweet gift to a coffee-lover you know!) Why coffee? Just helps to be awake when we are living out this POWER, LOVE, AND SOUND MIND!

THIS IS HOW YOU ENTER: 

1. Subscribe to our blog, would you? We’re a big fan of God’s Word and we believe in sharing the gospel, and this is one way we do it. We strive to share a little something every three weeks or so. We’ll try not to annoy you.

2. Share this blog post. I know this particular post is the conclusion, but I believe the Lord will use it however He so chooses. Pray as you share…

3. After you’ve shared it, leave a comment below that you’ve shared it and which prize that you would like to win:
#1 The Great Exchange CD along with Heroes Coffee or
#2 Jesus Calling, by Sarah Young, along with Heroes Coffee!
(It’ll be fair and square… picked by a random drawing.)

I’ll announce the winners of GIFT #1 & GIFT #2 on Thursday 5/23! You’ve got a week: Ready, set, GO!

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!

Hiding

by Heather Spring

After Zachariah wakes from his afternoon nap there are a series of events that follow.

The very first thing: “I hungry, Mom!” SNACK TIME!

The next: “Let’s play cars!” CAR TIME!

The other day, after bringing him his snack I left the room to change over some laundry. A few minutes later I called out to him, “Are you done, Zach? You ready to go play with your cars?”

There was no response. So I walked into the living room and saw him hunched down behind the arm of the couch. “Wacky Zachy Dean, come on, let’s go play with your cars upstairs!” Silence. “You know you want to!” I said playfully. His response, “I’m hiding, Mom.”

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“Hiding? Why? You want me to find you?”

“No.”

“Buddy, I want to play with you.” It brought back memories of when we were potty training. Both my boys would always “hide” in hopes to evade the dreaded number two. So, I thought, just in case, I’d ask, “Do you need to go poopie?”

“Nope. I’m just hiding.”

I let it go a few minutes more before I began my next tactic… the lure. “Zach,” I called out to him at the top of the stairs, “I’m upstairs looking at your cars. Do you want to join me? Come see some of the cars I’ve got lined up here.”  Surely, that will seal the deal.

“I’m hiding.”

Hmmm… If that didn’t get him running over himself to get upstairs, there was obviously something HE was hiding.

I decided to investigate a little more thoroughly. “Hiding, huh? Well, I think I can find you.” I could see the top of his brown-hair poking out from around the arm of the couch. As I knelt down next to him, “You weren’t hiding very well…” And then as I took in my next breath, my investigation was complete. I could “smell” why he was hiding. “Zachy?” I patted him on the bottom, “You poopied in your pants!?” My fully-potty-trained-3-year-old had momentarily forgotten the sequence of events that are supposed to happen when one needs to “go.”

Rushing him to the bathroom, he continued to deny the evidence.

Zach had made a mistake… you could say, he went “toot” far. And his fear of Mom’s wrath led him into hiding and denial. (I’m that scary, people!)

Reminds me of a conversation I’ve read many many times.

They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. Then the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?” He said, “I heard the sound of You in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself.” (Genesis 3: 8-10)

Adam and Eve had a lot in common with my Zachariah. Because of fear they went into hiding. Playing with matchbox cars wasn’t on the top of their list, but strolling and conversing with their Creator God was. And just like Zach, these two had a nugget in their drawers—they had eaten from the only tree in the Garden that was off-limits.

God: “Where are you two?”

A & E: “We’re hiding.”

God: “Well, that’s silly. It’s a beautiful day for a stroll, don’t you think? Let’s walk and talk.”

A & E: “We’re hiding.”

Adam and Eve’s shame over the sin they had committed kept them in hiding. They weren’t very good at hiding either. He could probably see their little heads ducking behind the trees as they tried to stand as still as they could. Our hiding keeps us from dealing head on with the issue we’ve made between us. No matter what has caused us to go into hiding, nothing is too “bad” that we need to stay tucked behind trees or a couch.

So here’s the gist of my lesson learned… are you ready? Don’t let the poop get in between you and God.

God wants to show us that if we present ourselves to Him, our mess and all, that our relationship can be immediately restored as we confess and as He reminds us of His tree. He says, “If you are looking to hide, I have a great spot. You can hide behind my tree… the cross.” If we have put our faith in Him we are IN Him… we are covered by what happened on His tree. So if you’re going to hide, hide there and only there, for the cross of Christ frees us to enjoy that same relationship that Adam and Eve began in the Garden.

So… come out, come out, wherever you are! May we not miss moments with Him due to our shame, guilt, pride, and sin. He’s bigger than all that stuff.

Zach learned that although I wasn’t happy that it happened, (and, yes, he gets that I don’t want him filling his britches anytime he wants), ultimately, I love him and nothing he does is worth breaking our relationship. Nothing. There’s moments to be had together, adventures to share, cars to be driven. I am called to train him up into a successful human being. Part of that training requires moments where discipline is a healthy part of our relationship. But even then love is at the heart of my no’s, do’s, don’t do’s, tearful talks, and consequences. I long for him to understand, even in those moments, that he doesn’t have to let mistakes rob us of sweet time together. He should never let the poop come between us.

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