Thursday, July 28, 2011


In my own grieving of so many losses during my fifty-nine years, I have learned to ask myself sooner or later in the process: “what is the gift of this loss?” Rev. William L. Vaswig, President P.P.M. (1990)

I awakened this morning to the news a grandson of a dear friend died last night of a drug overdose. My friend’s heartache is deep and unavoidable. She grieves for promise unfulfilled and sweetness lost. Her grandson wasn't a rebel or a tyrant. He was a gentle, artistic boy, troubled beyond his family’s reach. In her own mourning my friend hurts, too, for her granddaughter--the younger sister who found him lying on the floor. My friend is no stranger to loss. She’s faced death with strength and dignity often through her life. She wonders how her granddaughter will manage?

There should be pat answers and a five-point lesson plan for helping kids face death.
The closest I can find is the following meditation written by my pastor for
A Sadness Shared (1999), a chapbook Judith H. Hussain and I co-authored.


My son’s hamster died recently. Devastated, Joel mourned Chester as you and I would grieve the loss of a close friend.
I had read that it is good for children to experience the death of a pet without parents’ jumping in to save them. In this way, children learn that sorrow, with time, hugs and understanding, can be overcome. This made sense to me.
Although I hated to watch him suffer, I determined not to rush out and buy a replacement present, a game, or an outing. Instead, I escorted him, his younger brother, Seth, and a neighborhood friend to the back yard. Joel wept as he dug the grave and drove the cross into the ground, but the real pain came as each one of us said, “Goodbye, Chester. Thank you for being my friend.” The boys asked me if there was an animal heaven. I said I hoped so. As we prayed together, even I got wrapped up in the sadness.
From this experience, Joel learned that “dead” means gone from this earth. He also knows he is strong enough to survive sadness and that family and friends can help. He knows a little about funerals and mourning.
Above all, he understands that time heals.
Rev. Paul Demant

"Dead" means gone from this dimension of earth. With God's help, one can be strong enough to survive sadness. Family and friends can help. Funerals and mourning must be endured. In even the most wrenching loss there is a gift, if one can dare to ask. Time heals. We've learned these things, maybe to guide our kids through the same lessons.


  1. We always wonder why these things happen--children dying before their parents and even grandparents. Because I am a Christian, I always turn to God for the strength to get through these times of grief and to pour out his grace and love on all those who are suffering.


  2. When my sister died at the age of 10, I was 7, my parents told me that Ann was never coming home from the hospital because she had died. Ann had been in and out of the hospital a lot that year. In my little 7 year old mind I decided that would work out all right. We'd just keep going to visit her like we had in the past. I had no way of knowing or understanding the finality of death. I wish I'd learned that lesson from a hamster first.

  3. My heart aches for the seven-year-old girl even though she's all grown up.