Children are afraid. They are wrapped in fears that they cannot process and have no life experience to understand what they are feeling. As parents and grandparents we get tangled in our lives and responsibilities that we become numb to news and shrug off what should be shocking news as just one of those life events that we can't control. We'll never understand "the why" so we stopped asking a long time ago. We might be a little jaded.
But children are asking whether or not they're verbalizing their concerns. They might not be asking the questions aloud, but they're wondering how to cram all the random pieces of information into boxes which make sense to them. Will it happen to me? How does this news affect me? Will my schedule change? Will my life change? Depending on their age, their questions might seem selfish but their innocence reflects human nature at it's core.
In my case, I was fortunate one of my children came to me and said they wanted to talk. Her timing was unexpected. I peeked into her room to make sure she was ready for school. She was dressed and sitting on her bed. Her knees were tucked up to her chin and her arms wrapped around her legs like she was giving them a hug. Her blue eyes were the only flicker of movement and my face fell when I saw her lashes blink and her head turn. She rested her cheek on the side of her knee and elbow and without looking at me, asked if she could talk to me about something.
That *something* could be anything. I wasn't sure what I was facing, but I slid in beside her on the bed and said, "Of course. Anything."
She said, "I'm worried about Theo.* (name changed for privacy) It's so sad to me. His dad is gone."
I nodded again and reached to give her a tissue. Then I grabbed one for myself.
She was talking about a school classmate. She and Theo* were in the same grade in elementary school. They didn't play together and they don't see each other now because they go to different middle schools, but in 4th and 5th grade, the classes were small and everyone knew each other. In my daughter's world, this bad news was close enough to shake her.
Yesterday, our family learned that Theo's* Dad died. We don't know any of the details, but it was sudden and unexpected. His death wasn't "explainable." There wasn't a car wreck, a fire, or long term sickness. He was a young family man. A husband. A father. A friend. It seems so random with absolutely no explanation. And yet he's gone. Our close knit school community is stunned in disbelief, but none of it surprises God. So that's where I started. My dear sweet little girl. We don't know the reasons things happen but God does.
The tears slipped off her face and she blinked the question with her eyelashes before she said the words I knew were coming.
"But what about you and Dad?? What if....??" She couldn't finish the question - but there was no need. I scooped her in my arms. "I know. I understand. I have felt the same way you have but you have to believe me when I say that God is with you no matter what."
She pulled back and looked at me with sudden concentration. The three familiar lines crinkled between her brows and she said - "You've felt the way I have?"
I smiled. Wiped her tears, then smeared away one of mine and said - "Yes. Of course. It's normal to feel like you are going to lose your mom and dad. You are at the age where you begin to realize that moms and dads won't always be around and some of them leave this earth sooner than we expect."
Look, Finch readers - I'm not a psychologist or a therapist and I have no official paper on the wall that says I'm qualified to suggest what you should do. I am a mom who has figured out that kids just want to be heard. They want to know that their feelings are justified and that it's okay to have them.
As adults, it's been awhile since we were afraid like that - so we forget - or maybe we remember but we try to sweep it under the rug and move on so we won't have to be afraid too. But friends, let me remind you that "Do not be afraid" is in the Bible 365 times. One for every day. This is not an accident. God means to comfort us every day. Do not be afraid of today or tomorrow or the next day, because God is already there and He will help us through whatever the day will bring.
(In memory of Theo's* Dad)