Thursday, November 19, 2009

Teaching Kids About Heaven

"But God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave: for He shall receive me."
 Psalm 49:15

"He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from off all faces." Isaiah 25:8

UPDATED POST (Originally published 2009)

What do you tell your little one about death?
When someone your family loves so dearly "graduates" to be with Jesus in Heaven?
When someone suffers?

Today early this morning John's sweet Granny Ruth passed away and graduated to be with her Savior and friend Jesus Christ. She is healed. We are thankful for her life. Thankful she believed and raised believers (John's mother, Carol) who then in turn raised believers (John and Amy). What a beautiful life she lived. Thank you Lord for taking her home. To her real home. We know we aren't meant to stay here.

The other day I was at a pray and play group with my daughter. There were 3 other moms with me all with toddlers and babies. All believers. All beautiful women I admire and love. Every month we meet and pray scripture over our kids. I encourage you if to find some fellow believer moms and do this for your children. It is a precious time that Leelah looks forward to too- "Mommy are we going to our prayer group today?" I always get emotional and teary thinking about it. I even find myself future thinking about it and future-remembering how we always end the time with the song "You are my Savior" sung to the tune of "You are my sunshine." Such a precious time.

While at this group, it came to me to lift up prayer requests for Leelah. Since we knew my husband's beloved Granny was ill, I decided to ask for prayer in teaching Leelah about death and graduation. That God would teach us through this time and show Leelah the correct response He wants us to have. That it would be a time of grieving, but that we are rejoicing for her healing and for the beginning of her eternal life of renewed health.

What do you teach kids about Heaven? When I asked the other moms what their thoughts were about dealing with death, taking kids to funerals, etc, I learned that this is sort of an untapped subject at least in our stage of life. None of them really had dealt with the death of a loved one and teaching their kids about it firsthand it seemed. The Lord showed me that maybe we are experiencing it first amongst a lot of friends to help. Leelah's grandfather (Gigi) and my father passed away from Cancer a year and a half ago. Please let me share what the good Lord and Shepherd has taught us to teach our sweet baby (3 yr old). Please share with me your ways too!

Get them focused on where the loved one is now. Give them an image of Heaven to hold onto:
- as soon as my father passed we made sure to talk up Heaven. We told Leelah how it was the best place you could ever be. She was 22 months at the time. So we asked her what do you think Gigi is doing in Heaven with his best friend Jesus right now? Her answer: "Playing balls". So we let her have that image to hold on to and reinforce it.

Let your children see you cry and know this is how you process grief:
- I would cry at the oddest times and still do. I just say only if she asks, "Mommy is sad and misses Gigi. But I am happy because he is in Heaven with Jesus." I then bring up the image she has to talk to her about and that helps me too! Jesus cried about Lazarus' death, so we can too.

Start little traditions or memory cues:
- At HEB we have to get a balloon. We have to. God help us if they are out. At the end of shopping, Leelah gets to give Gigi her balloon (I think a lot of people do this- thank you for the idea!). The other day I was missing my dad and John told me, just think once we get to Heaven we'll see your daddy standing there with a whole bunch of balloons. Now I have an image I think about that makes me happy. Thank you John.

We call graves- "memory spots"
- This is where we go to remember Gigi. We know they are not here though, but that they are in Heaven. This really helped put a good spin on a grave which could be confusing for little ones.

Have a photo book
- take all the pics of your loved one and make a photo book. Take it out every now and then and laugh about good time with them. Keep it sweet.

The first year- the memorial day
- Have things planned. Don't let this day sneak up on you. Plant a rose bush or a tree in memory of them. Give to a charity in their name to teach your kids about giving. Go do something they loved to do in honor of them. Pray for God to assist you and carry you on this day.

Stop, Drop and Pray
- If you are just stuck or your child brings up the loved one - just stop and say "Let's pray about it" And just lift up your thoughts out loud to God. That prayer can look like this:
 Lord, we miss Gigi today. We are really sad. Please take our sadness and let us rely on you. We love you Lord. We know you are taking good care of Gigi. Thank you for taking care of him. 
You think, well I've got a 2 yr old they don't know what I'm saying. Who cares. Say it anyway. They will learn that when times are tough, we stop and pray. Even at Target. At all times you are witnessing.

Good Books:
- I plan on purchasing today "God Gave Us Heaven" by Lisa Bergren. She wrote "God Gave Us You" and Leelah loves it. I think it will help explain things on a kid's level.

Funerals:
- I personally don't know the answer. We took Leelah to my dad's memorial service in Oklahoma and since she talked the whole time, my sweet cousins pushed her stroller around. For this upcoming funeral we have asked John's mom who is closest to this whole situation what she wants? Then I ask John what he wants? Pray about the decision. I do think open caskets might not be suitable or helpful for little little ones to see.

Make sure your thinking is up to par
- What are your thoughts on? I know that reading the "One Year Book of Hope" devotional by Nancy Guthrie has been instrumental in helping me cope and grieve with the Lord. As well as loving friends and family. Things that friends and family told me that I have clung to:
"It's not okay" IT's okay to know this. We're on Earth. Not in Heaven. And really, we weren't meant to be here. So sometimes it's not going to be okay.
"The miracle has already happened." So many times people pray for miracles. Lord, please heal them with a miracle. But if that sick person is a believer then that IS the miracle. The miracle has happened- they were saved. Pray for salvation in a sick person's life. That they would accept the Lord as their Savior.

I know this is deep and doesn't encompass this huge issue by any means. I am merely a mom in Katy who has felt the Spirit move in my life to let you know that God has overcome death in Jesus. To have that Kingdom-Heaven vision to get through the day.

4 comments:

jenna said...

Amen! Thank you for this.

Lesly said...

Gillian,
Thank you for using your hurt to share with us ways to help our children understand. I have tears in my eyes about your daddy and the balloons. I'm praying for Johna and for sweet Leelah girl to understand.

The Miller Big Top Circus said...

Gillian-
Thanks for your sweet words today. I am sorry for your loss. It is so hard to know what to say to kids, much less to husbands, friends and family during a time of loss. I appreciate your wisdom. Praying for you guys to recover from the swine flu, too!

onthefarmintx said...

Thank you for this. I stumbled upon your blog while searching for some insights on teaching young children about the death of believers. My children just lost their grandfather tonight and I simply did not know where to start with explaining things to them. Sadly, but not surprisingly, there are a lot of articles out there dealing with teaching youngsters about death, but not many at all that talk about Christian death. Praise God that it's a whole different ballgame for us!!!! Thank you so much for taking the time to post this. You've helped us to have a better idea of what to tell our little ones when they wake up.