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A death in the family

Recently there was a death in the family of one of my in-laws. Unexpected and sudden, it affected all of us deeply.

My family, including my children, had trouble absorbing this. Not only were we all grieving for a caring person we’d enjoyed seeing at family gatherings, but we were grieving for our family’s family who didn’t have a chance to say goodbye.

We realized anew that we hadn’t had occasion to talk much about death with our children. We don’t have any pets, due to allergies. So we haven’t talked about death since the children were very little.

At that point, they were asking physical questions like where we go when we die, whether we can still play/eat/sleep and whether someone who died could look down from heaven and watch you.

Our children demanded to know why the person died, saying that it wasn’t fair. Click To Tweet

Now our children are older. They demanded to know why the person died, saying that it wasn’t fair. They were angry. How could this happen? How could God let this happen? Why couldn’t Jesus bring him back? He wasn’t very old.

What about all those people you hear about on the news who die and then doctors or machines (defibrillators) bring them back? Why couldn’t this happen for him? Could anyone die? What if you die, Mom and Dad? What if I die? What if we don’t go to heaven?

Rather than dodge their questions, we talked with both of our sons, offering simple, honest, concrete answers. We talked about how a special part of us–when we die–is taken into God’s care. We talked about our salvation being assured.

We also talked about what’s okay to say and what’s not okay to say or ask when someone’s loved one dies. And we went to the funeral, where we hugged our family, sang hymns, prayed together and remembered a good man.

Elizabeth Hunter is editor of Gather magazine. Download Women of the ELCA’s free resource, Living Hope: Funeral, Hymns and Scripture.”

Comments (2)
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Wendy Wennerberg says:
Feb 18, 2017

This was very timely for our family. Where can I find more information and support on this topic?

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Terri Lackey says:
Feb 18, 2017

You can check our resources page and see if anything helps.(http://www.womenoftheelca.org/resources-pages-5.php) We list a resource at the bottom of the blog as well.

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