A few weeks ago, I posted about our journey with Josh and his battle with leukemia. I got quite a bit of feedback, so felt it might be helpful to tell how we helped our kids deal with their grief when Josh was promoted to heaven.
I’ve found that everyone deals with grief differently and it wasn’t easy with 12 other children to predict how they would respond or to have the wisdom to help each one. God provides the grace and wisdom when you need it- how that truth has been shown clearly to me so many times! When you need it, God will be there to pour out His wisdom to you.
First of all, expect the kids to have different responses. Some want to talk, some don’t want to talk about it, some just need time, some have questions, and some, usually the younger ones seem to have an incredible acceptance, trust and peace. Realize it’s okay and actually normal for there to be different ways in handling it.
One of the things we did which I feel was incredibly healing for everyone was to write memories of Josh. Josh died in March. We had not been able to do school that year, as he was diagnosed in September. Instead of plunging headlong into “school”, I instead had the kids write books of memories. For the little ones who couldn’t write, I asked them their memories and wrote it just like they said it. Then I’d have them draw a picture to illustrate the memory.
When you first lose a loved one, you think you’ll remember all the details about their lives, but you actually do forget; it was so precious to sit around and record those things before we had time to forget them. We also made a photo scrapbook of pictures of Josh and reminisced as we did it of good times, funny times, and so on, as we assembled it.
Instead of running away from the memories, it helped us to embrace them, and talking together about it was very healing. Some of the older kids were no longer at home at this point, so they weren’t very involved in this, but if I had it to do again, I’d find a way to involve them as well.
In August, when his first birthday in heaven rolled around, we threw a party for all his friends who’d been there for us during the time of his illness, and we celebrated his life. Our 3 year old wanted to make him a picture and send it to heaven, so we attached it to a helium balloon and send it upward. We used it as an opportunity to express our gratefulness to those who’d supported him and us during the 7 month illness- instead of focusing only on missing our boy. That too, was healing.
Another thing that was helpful was being involved in benefit concerts for the next 10 years to help raise money for a child with leukemia, as someone had graciously done for us in our time of need. We conferred with the hospital to find our kids each year, and the whole family, in many different ways were involved in the event. We kept up our relationships with many of the kids for years and tried to be a blessing, knowing the many needs within a family going through a medical crisis. Again, it was so healing to extend ourselves to others in the way someone had extended themselves to us.
In a nutshell, give each child room and time to adjust to life on earth without their sibling, or grandparent or whoever their loved one may be.
Consider their suggestions for dealing with their grief, involve them in helping others going through similar situations, and help them to see how God is using this in their lives and the lives of others.
I think all of our family values life more richly now, and also more clearly realize that our days are numbered. We’re not promised 70 plus years. We need to make the most of each day, express appreciation for others, express our love for others and not take life for granted.
To the degree you pour into others, you will be blessed. And it’s okay to cry sometimes too!