I don't know how it feels for you to read those words. I'm guessing it stings a little. No one wants to think about a child losing their father. It hurts even more to hear them come out of the mouth of my sweet 3-year-old each and every day.
William is a very verbal child. I am constantly amazed at the words he uses and how well he communicates. He is his father's child. It is a source of joy for me most of the time. But when he communicates the truth of our new reality, that daddy is dead, it grieves my soul. And during the last 3 months, this is a phrase that I have heard at least a dozen times a day.
William is just trying to process what has happened to our family and communicate his emotions about it. It is a very healthy process for anyone going through grief. It helps me gauge his understanding of Barry's death. It gives me opportunities to talk about Barry with him and seal memories of him in William's heart. It opens the door for us to talk about deep spiritual issues like death, sin, the death of Jesus on the cross, the resurrection, and eternal life. It causes us to stop and pray, asking God to "heal our hearts" and "make our hearts happy again." It helps me to remember the promises of God and trust in His faithfulness during hard times.
But it can also make for very awkward situations. William doesn't just say, "My daddy's dead," to me. He says it to his teachers at school and church. He says it to his friends. He says it to the waitress at the restaurant. He says it to the doctor. I never know when and where it is going to come out of his sweet little mouth.
I am thankful for those who have not only endured these awkward situations with me, but have engaged William with compassion and truth. His teacher at school spent two months talking with him about his daddy each day during nap time - loving him and letting him express his feelings in a safe environment. My heart will forever be grateful to her for the way she served God and our family in her actions. The preschool minister at our church made sure that all of his teachers knew what was going on and encouraged them to engage William with the truth of the Scriptures when he expressed his sadness at Barry's death. And there are those who simply have no words when William expresses, "my daddy's dead," but their eyes fill with tears and he knows that he is not alone in his grief.
My purpose in sharing this with you is this: we live in a fallen world. Because of that, there are so many children who are experiencing grief and tragedy. It is difficult to enter into a child's pain. It hurts. It makes us afraid. It causes us to think about the "what ifs" in our own lives. And often, we just don't know what to say or what to do. So we avoid. But when a child verbalizes his pain and the truth of his reality, it really is a beautiful thing. It is them processing their grief and it helps them to heal. So enter into the pain with them. They are just looking for some safety in a scary time.
If you are a parent who is walking through tragedy with your child, please know that you don't walk alone. Just like our children need us to walk with them and help them process their grief, you have a heavenly Father who also walks with you. He knows the pain and tears that your child's words can bring. He knows how deeply you desire to take away the pain and the temptation to run from it. He will not only walk through the pain with you, but He will carry you when you just can't take another step. And He will deliver you and your child from the hurt and tears.