Walking With Kids Through Tragedy

Yesterday a tragedy struck our community when beloved Amy Beverland Elementary principal, Susan Jordan, was killed and a couple of students were injured in a bus accident at the school. The impact that Principal Jordan had on this school and our community cannot be overstated. She modeled servant leadership down to her very last act as she pushed students out of the way of the bus that would have certainly killed them as well.

Many in our community are numb as we work toward what it looks like to move forward together. For many students and families, this is the first experience of death that a number of these children have ever encountered, certainly this close. Walking through tragedy and grief with our children is an important part of what it means to be a parent, loving adult, and community.

Here are a few ways we can walk with our children through the experience of grief and tragedy together.

*Be sure to recognize your own emotions and feelings, modeling healthy and helpful ways to be sad, angry, confused, etc. Kids will be keenly aware of how tragedy impacts the adults around them and look for ways to navigate their own emotions based on what they see, hear, and experience from loving adults around them.

*Talk about God being sad. Talk about the promise of heaven. Talk about how much God loves us and everyone. Avoid saying things like, “God must have needed another angel.” OR “This is all part of God’s plan.” OR “Everything happens for a reason.” OR “S/he is in a better place.” These phrases communicate that God is selfish and can create fear by making kids (and adults) think that God caused or needed this tragedy to happen. This is simply not the case. God is sad with us. God’s plan is not for tragedy but thankfully, God does bring a plan out of our tragedy, grief, and loss.

*Talk with your kids about the things that have happened but talk to them in a way that empowers them to share their feelings. Ask them what they think happened. Ask them how they are feeling. Be intentional about actively listening to their thoughts and feelings.

*Reassure your kids that they are safe. Healthy physical touch (i.e. hugs, snuggling on the couch while reading a book or watching a show, etc.) is an important way to communicate safety and care. Spend as much time with your kids as possible. Presence is a powerful way to remind them you are there for them.
What other helpful and healthy ways have you walked through grief and loss with your kids?