As many of you know we have recently had a death in the LifePoint Family. Elizabeth Landazuri passed away Sunday night. Her death has impacted many because her life served many. She was integral in so many ministries at LifePoint, one of which was leading the children’s ministry teams. Your kids might have fond memories of Mrs. Elizabeth.

While Elizabeth is someone from the LifePoint family, we also realize that you might have coped with a death in YOUR family. We understand that these conversations are difficult to begin with our children. Below are some effective ways to have a conversation with your child(ren) before this Sunday.

#1 – Create Emotional Space

Planning ahead creates space for the conversation and allows time to react. Make sure it’s not when you’re about to leave out the door or drop them off at school. Carving out time in your schedule — to make sure there is room for grief — is a difficult thing sometimes, but being purposeful in your time NOW will help them in their FUTURE.

“The child’s feelings and concerns should take precedence over almost everything else,” advises child therapist Claudia Jarratt in her book, Helping Children Cope With Separation and Loss. “As soon as the child tries to share feelings, stop what you are doing immediately (or as soon as you can) and focus on the child.”

Encourage your child(ren) to put emotions into words. Talk about your feelings as well — it helps them feel comfortable with their own. Avoid communicating “don’t cry” but encourage them with words like, “I know you are feeling sad; I’m sad too. We all loved her very much.” Sometimes crying until all the tears are gone refreshes your emotions. Also, don’t feel alarmed if there are no tears or emotions. Allowing them to be alone or simply be held by you might contribute to their healing process. Note that John 11:35 talks about Jesus’ sadness as he wept over the death of his friend, Lazarus.

#2 – Know Their Limitations

It’s hard to know if a child will understand the concept of death. It is not necessary to explain death in detail and avoid volunteering too much information. In this case, less is more. Through their questions, they will reveal what they need. As parents, sometimes we over-explain. Let it happen naturally. They might come back the next day or in a month and ask the next level questions. Sometimes repeated questions are to make sure the story hasn’t changed. Don’t fret if you can’t answer all their questions. Understanding the “big picture” and “complexity” of God is hard for adults too. Instead, lead by being available to their emotions.

Below are some general age-appropriate thinking…

  • Children under 2 – have very little understanding of death.
  • Ages 2 through 6 – children display magical thinking. For them death is reversible. They’ll ask when the dead person is coming home again.
  • Ages 6 through 9 – children comprehend the finality of death but will often regress to magical thinking.
  • Ages 9 and above – acquire a more mature understanding of death and realize it’s irreversible.

Please note that these guidelines are not written in stone, and YOU ultimately know your child best.

“The pain felt upon the departure of loved ones from this life will generally mirror the joy we felt while they remained with us.” — Sam Storms

#3 – Share The Hope

Many times we can share and celebrate the fact that the person has accepted Christ in their life. While none of us truly knows if a person is saved, we can see the evidence in their life, which allow us opportunities to discuss how they impacted us. If there is evidence of a relationship, share how we will see this person again (in Heaven) and that God promises that we too can go to Heaven. Avoid the “scare tactic” to motivate your child to accept Christ. We never want fear to be the vehicle of salvation.

Try to avoid using metaphors or euphemisms. A child who is told, “Grandpa is sleeping” might become afraid to fall asleep. Or a child who hears, “We lost mom today” can create emotional energy in the hope that someday mom will be found.

Speak of God’s love and hope. Helen Fitzgerald, a counselor and author of The Grieving Child, notes the confusion surrounding the phrase, “It’s all part of God’s plan.” “What plan?” Fitzgerald asks. “Is it part of God’s plan to have a mother killed by a plane dropping on top of her car? (something that actually happened) — Most parents want to teach children that God is a loving God, not a God that allows airplanes to fall on cars.”

Below are some scriptures that you can discuss…

Jesus talking to the thief on the cross, whose faith in who Jesus was, saved him: “Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” -Luke 23: 43 NIV

Death cannot separate us from God’s Love:”For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. -Romans 8:38-39

Paul communicates the future hope that we have:

“And now, dear brothers and sisters, we want you to know what will happen to the believers who have died so you will not grieve like people who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and was raised to life again, we also believe that when Jesus returns, God will bring back with him the believers who have died. We tell you this directly from the Lord: We who are still living when the Lord returns will not meet him ahead of those who have died. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, the believers who have died will rise from their graves. Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Then we will be with the Lord forever. So encourage each other with these words.” -1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 NLT

Future Hope:

“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” -Revelation 21:4

THIS SUNDAY… We will not be halting the regular teaching time to announce Elizabeth’s death. However, we WILL be on the forefront of comforting kids and answering any questions. We ask that parents be ready (if needed) to help console their children as well.

Moving forward, please keep the Landazuri family in your prayers — Carlos (husband), Sebastian (teen), Amber (teen), and David (child).