by Dr. Mimi Larson
Grief is never an easy topic to discuss. While dealing with a loss can be difficult for everyone involved, children are unique and can react differently than youth and adults.
In the upcoming book, Bridging Theory and Practice in Children’s Spirituality: New Directions for Education, Ministry, and Discipleship (due out in Spring 2020), Shelly Melia has a chapter entitled, “The Role of Faith or Spirituality in a Child’s Response to Grief and Loss,” in which she writes about children’s reactions to loss. Melia states: “For children, making meaning of the loss becomes a lifelong journey. The reason for this is based on the understanding that children grieve in bits and pieces.” She later challenges the faith community to “create or provide experiences for children who are facing grief or loss that will serve to bolster their faith or spirituality.”
When I come alongside someone grieving, often times I feel uncertain on how to help. Are there words I should or maybe should not say? Is there a “right” way to point children to God in the midst of grief? As part of my work with Faith Formation Ministries, I have written several articles including How to Help a Grieving Child which offers suggestions on how to care for a child who has suffered a loss and is grieving and includes a list of resources for ministry leaders. Simple Tools to Engage a Grieving Child provides a list of books that can be used with children on the topic of death, loss, and grief.
As Melia writes, children who are hurting experience God “through the comforting rituals and relationships with people who chose to be the hands and feet of Christ.” It is my prayer that we can be the hands and feet of Jesus to hurting children in our midst.
If you are interested in reading more about this or other topics in children’s spirituality, you can preorder Bridging Theory and Practice in Children’s Spirituality: New Directions for Education, Ministry, and Discipleship here.
Dr. Mimi Larson is a Visiting Assistant Professor of Christian Formation and Ministry at Wheaton College and adjunct Assistant Professor of Educational Studies at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. Mimi also serves as the Children’s Ministry Catalyzer for Faith Formation Ministries, a ministry for the Christian Reformed Church in North America.