Yesterday Max (6) came home from school and showed us his Family Book that he created during his free time. Every page was a different phase of our family, from just Maria and I, to Maria, I and Nora, and another page adding himself. Then there was the last page: the four of us with a baby who had a sad face.
The loss of Sophie, over 15 months ago, still has an overwhelming sadness and garners thoughts of "what if" or "what could be" in our home. I do think Maria and I feel that way more than our kids, yet we experience moments like this where Max decides to draw a family book during his free time at school when he normally would play with toys and other boys. Or at the mall this past weekend, Nora sees a baby pushed in a stroller and asks sadly if that's how big Sophie would be today.
What we've realized in this season is that these are God-given opportunities to form and shape our kids' faith in Jesus. Their precious thoughts and feelings are important to validate, talk through and create a space for them to grow in their understanding of who Jesus is and what His life, death and resurrection means to their lives today, no matter how good or bad, happy or sad. So, when you have to lead your child through their own season of sadness and heartbreak for whatever reason (death, loss, disappointment, defeat, break-up, the list can go on) here are some helpful concepts that have created the space for Nora and Max's child-like faith to flourish:
1) Pain is mighty Powerful.
Pain is an unfortunate reality in our lives, it will never not be a part of our world until Jesus returns. Pain can have a very powerful negative or positive impact on our lives. Though pain is powerful, it does not have to over-power us. We can use that power to help form our hearts, shape our reactions and change our perspective to something that is more like Jesus' heart, reactions and perspective. When they feel pain (sadness, frustration, disappointment), they can utilize that powerful feeling or emotion to create something new in them that makes them more like Christ.
2) Empathy is most Excellent.
Empathy is the trait that allows us to understand on a deeper level the pain and difficulties other people face. When we are in pain, we can easily play the "my pain is harder than your pain" game and minimize the hardships someone else is enduring. Instead, we look to Jesus, who experienced the greatest pain and used it so that He could fully understand what we go through and how He can best help us in our pain. So, we fight off bitterness, jealousy and lacking compassion when we choose to allow our pain to help us care and love those who are also in pain, no matter what pain they are facing.
3) Grief will come and Go.
If pain is a reality, then the feelings of grief, feeling overwhelmed and sad, will also be a reality. Maybe they won't always be so heavy all the time, but when grief comes, it's ok to feel it, even if it's over the same painful thing that you experienced a long time ago. Allow yourself to feel it, declare those feelings to God and remind yourself that He knows and cares about exactly what you're feeling. And do it again and again and again, no matter how many times grief rises to the surface.
I'm thankful for these principles we've seen in our lives. And they can apply for the heavy loss of a family member all the way to losing in a board game; from getting hurt when falling off a bike to losing a random rock that was picked up from the end of our driveway. The more we create these opportunities, the greater their little faith in Jesus grows and grows...and who else better understands pain, empathy and grief than our suffering Savior and friend.