How can I help my grieving children?

Dear Gigi,
Last year was particularly difficult for our family. My youngest (now 1) went in for immediate heart surgery following his birth, and then had six additional surgeries.  We spent 3 months at the children’s hospital, and he continues to have a lot of medical issues.  Upon our return home from the hospital, both of our grandmas (our children’s great-grandmothers) died, one week apart.  Our two girls (4 and 3) were very close to both of their grandmas.  They talk about them often (we all do), they miss them, and with many questions about heaven, struggle to find comfort.  Do you have any advice or books about death and heaven for kids? I’d love to know how to bring both girls peace and comfort. I know they struggle even more because we are always in and out of the hospital with my youngest.

As you already know, grief is a process.  There is no playbook for grief (everybody responds differently), and no timetable (it takes as long as it takes). Grief is complicated, but even more so for your family, living through such uncertainties with your son. The thing that I have learned through the years and pass on to others is the importance of feeling every feeling.  When we try to rise above or block out our grief, we bury those feelings, but they’re not really gone, they’ve just been pushed deeper.  They will come back later, and will be confusing and perhaps even unidentifiable when they reemerge. It’s best to feel them all as they happen, being present in and praying through each one. I pray that you and your husband have been able to grieve these losses.

For children, hands-on activities are helpful in connecting with grief and journeying through it. Creating a memory box to store mementos, drawings of happy memories, photos, etc. might help keep the grandmas close and help calm fears of forgetting them.  Releasing balloons with a message attached tangibly demonstrates that heaven is a real place (whether the balloons arrive there or not!) and their grandmothers are enjoying new life there. You could also plant a tree or build a bench in their memory.

Here is a list of recommended books to help children deal with grief and loss.  I see one there, Never Say Goodbye, which is specifically about losing a grandmother.

Allow your girls to take as long as they need (and give that gift to yourselves as well), and comfort them with the truth of Scripture as they are able to hear it and understand it.  It’s okay to be sad, and it’s okay to miss them, but we have hope!  Their grandmas would want them to know they well and healthy and strong and anxiously waiting for the time you can be together again. 

I am praying for you all.


God loved the people of this world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who has faith in him will have eternal life and never really die.
— John 3:16 (CEV)

%d bloggers like this: