As I prepared to bring a memorial message for our dearly loved sister whose death was sudden and unexpected, I asked for and many people shared their thoughts which were a great help to me. One of the thoughtful helpers was a dear friend and deacon in my home church. He shared his thoughts in the form of a comforting letter of understanding for children grieving the loss of a parent. With his consent, I share with you the outpouring of his heart in the lines which follow:
Dear [grieving child],
The first thing that I want you to know is that I have been where you are. Although it would be unfair of me to say that I understand exactly how you feel, I do know what it is like to loose my mom. I was 11 when my mom died. She collapsed at home and was taken to the hospital where she died. There are things that I wish I understood then like I understand them today. So I would like to share them with you.
First of all your mom loved you very much. I knew your mom and I can say without a single doubt in my mind that she loved you both more than you will ever know. She also knew that you loved her. Right now, you may feel bad for the times you were unkind or rude to her or said something mean. Don’t feel that way. Although they seem now like big things to you that you wish you had never done or said, to her, they were small things. When ever she spoke of you, as anyone will tell you, it was always full of her love for you. Also she was proud of you. She talked of your talents and how you did in school. We know you better because of all of the things we learned from her. And she told us those things because of how proud she was of you.
You may be worried that some day you will forget her. After 30 years, I remember my mother today as much or more than I did then and so will you. Sometimes it will be in the little things, you will smell something that reminds you of her favorite flower or perfume, or you will say something that she would have said. There will be happy memories and sad ones. And though it does not seem like it now, the happy ones will outweigh the sad many times over.
Right now, you probably want the world to stop and it doesn’t seem fair that everything else around you is going on as normal. People are going to work and shopping and doing all the things that people do, but your world has come to a halt. Over time, you will be able to get back to what will eventually feel like normal, but it will be a different normal.
One thing I know, your mom would want you to help your dad and each other out where you can, but she would still want you to be kids. She would not want her death to make you take on responsibilities or worries that would cause you to grow up too fast.
Over the next few weeks and months, people will say things to you. Most will mean well, but sometimes it will sound just plain stupid to you (and you will probably be right!). In these situations, people don’t know what to say, but feel like they should say something. That causes people to say dumb things. When people say things that seem out of place or insensitive just remember that most of the time they are trying to help and don’t know how to express the deep sorrow they feel and that they just want to help you in some way.
Lastly, your mom was a Christian. She would want you to be the same when you are ready. She believed in God and trusted God. She loved God and now she is home with him. She wants you to be there with her. She waits for you.
Remember that she loved you very much. Also remember that your dad loves you very much. There is also a whole church full of people that love you and want to help in anyway you can. Don’t be afraid to ask.
Love your friend,