If you’re a parent, you get it.
You know a pure, unconditional love that didn’t exist in your life before children. The moment you gaze down at those two pink lines, your parental instincts kick in. You feel a heavy weight of responsibility on your shoulders; an urge to protect and cherish. You start researching the best cribs, strollers, bottles, baby monitors, even pediatricians- all in an effort to provide the very best for your child.
Once they make their arrival, the pressure intensifies. The decisions you have to make in the interest of your child are endless... bottle or breast, on-demand or strict schedule, cry-it-out or no-cry method, crib or co-sleeping, pacifier or self soothe, vaccines or no vaccines? You “baby-proof” your home with all kinds of contraptions just to keep your child safe. You become the parent who asks strangers not to touch your baby and insist on disinfecting the dropped pacifier before giving it back.
As your child grows, the control you have over him/her starts to slip away. They are bombarded with information at school, playing sports, hanging out with friends, etc. Topics start to arise that you’d rather not discuss. Topics that you would rather shield them from for as long as possible rather than face. Topics like death.
The morning of May 22, 2018, my husband and I had a choice to make with our two sons (specifically our oldest who was 4 at the time) as death swiftly and unexpectedly entered our family. At 38 weeks, 5 days pregnant, we delivered their sister, Harper Jane, in a deafening silent hospital room. Our hearts ached with the weight of our loss and the death of a life that should have been. In that moment, we had to decide how to best protect our sons. Do we let them meet their sister? Do we want them to see and hold death? Do we want to face the pain of telling them that we had lost her? We didn’t have any answers ourselves. How could we look our boys in the eyes and tell them why their sister was gone...crushing their innocence?
But together we decided. To this day it is one of the hardest things we have ever had to do- explain to our boys that their sister was dead. All you want to do as a parent is love, protect, and shield your child. You just want to be able to fix everything for them...to make it ok... but there was no making this ok. The blanket of protection we had tried so hard to cover our children with was instantly torn away as we explained the truth. The look on my oldest’s face will forever haunt me. We explained that their sister was with Jesus. We explained that her body was here in our arms, but that she wasn’t breathing.
We explained that her soul was with Jesus in heaven. We explained that there had been a knot in her umbilical cord- the cause of her death. We told them how sorry and sad we were, but that sister wouldn’t be coming home with us. The morning of her funeral, we told them where we would be going. That they would see many sad faces that day...people who were sad that sister didn’t get to stay, too. We told them that they would see their sister in a small box and that the box would be buried in the dirt. We told them what a cemetery was. We let them pick out a pink hot wheels car to put in sister’s “box.” We let them wave goodbye to their sister and kiss her head one last time. We walked away in the pouring rain holding them tighter than ever before.
I tell you these things not to gain pity, but for a purpose. I want you to know what happened when we chose to let our children in. We let them into our grief, our devastation, our reality. We told them the truth about what happened to their sister. We told them about heaven. We let them see us cry. Even today, we take them to the cemetery, we talk to them about Harper, we remember her together and, when the tears come, we let them see.
So I want to encourage you to not be afraid to face the hard things, even with your young, innocent children. Don’t feel like you have to hide your tears in an effort to “be strong” for them. They need to see that life is hard and suffering will come, but not without hope. Use these situations to share the love of Christ with your child and point them to truth. You aren’t doing them any favors by avoiding the hard. You may be hesitant, not knowing where to begin, but approach each situation with honesty. Pray about the specific topic you are facing and have the courage to ask close friends/family for advice. I think you will be amazed at how much your child grows, both spiritually and in maturity.
They need to see that life is hard and suffering will come, but not without hope.
Below I will list some specific points to touch on when it comes to death. Though there are many hard topics, this is the one I have the most experience with since losing Harper.
1: Heaven is a real, physical place.
"Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am" ( John 14:1-3).
2: Heaven is awesome.
"He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” - Revelation 21:4
3: Heaven is not a default destination.
“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” - Matthew 7:13-14
4: Heaven will have family/friends who believe in Jesus.
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” -John 3:16
5: Heaven will have Jesus.
Jesus said, “My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.” -John 14:2-4
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