Children and Grief

 

Sarah from She Brings Joy recently wrote a beautiful post about her son’s attachment to the Comfort Bear SGM sent her after the loss of her daughter Beatrix. I read it after a week of reading many emails from grieving mothers…a week of preparing shipments, praying prayers, talking to mothers preparing to meet little ones and fill brief moments with a lifetime of love and memories, a week of watching the inbox fill again with requests from grieving hearts.

Sarah’s words were honest and real. They answered the question of my weary heart. They reminded me of the reason we press on, doing what little we can for broken hearts. Sarah wasn’t thrilled with the idea of a bear to fill her empty arms when all she wanted was her daughter. I could relate. I often wonder the same thing. How can a bear help this canyon of sorrow? She took out the Dreams of You Memory Book, and set the bear aside. I probably would have thrown it, in the early days of my grief filled with anger and despair, to be honest. Like Sarah, I am not much of a hugger of bears. Although, since my mother has gone home to heaven, I’ve spent a few nights curled up and hugging one of the last bears she made, tightly, aching for her. Some mothers have held the bears and cried. Did it fix the ache…no, but it was a small comfort.

It was Sarah’s son who asked for the bear, and formed a precious attachment to it as he found a way to grieve his sister, naming the bear Beatrix…and now affectionately called Bea Bear by his family. Bea Bear sleeps with him at night, hangs out on the couch with him, goes everywhere with him. Sarah says, “I have come to realize that this bear is his memory box. I have my box that I retreat to when I am sad, pulling out her tiny clothes and smelling the hospital smell. He carries his around, wearing his heart on his sleeve.”

 

Sarah’s story is not uncommon, we have found. Many families write to us that their children have formed attachments to the Comfort Bears, playing with them, calling them Brother Bear, or naming them after their siblings in heaven. Children grieve with a refreshing honesty that we adults often lack. They live out loud, play out loud, laugh out loud, and grieve out loud. They embrace the concepts of faith, heaven, and Jesus with a simple exuberhance…unyielding, unquestioning. Perhaps it’s the reason God requires a child-like faith from His people.  We can learn a lot from the way children handle loss and life.

This picture from another sweet mama named Heather also touched my heart recently. Heather and her daughter are pictured below, with their “Journey Bear” at the October 15th Remembrance Service. I still hope to hug Heather in person one day.

 

My mother originally created the Comfort Bears to fill a grieving mother’s empty arms. We never anticipated how they would be used to comfort the ache of a brother or sister’s grieving heart. The bears offer a simple way for siblings to act out their grief. They can play, snuggle, hug, and nurture the bear…activities they are longing to do with the baby that they were anticipating as a playmate and friend. The baby that never came home. These are natural ways for young children to express their grief on their own terms. It feels safe, non-threatening. The stories we hear are similar, and tug at our hearts each time we read one.

I was sitting at the funeral home recently with a child who lost his father. In awe of his bravery, I sat awhile with this special friend of mine. We talked a bit, and quietly played the games that a friend had brought to the funeral home. A few of his friends, students in his class, filed in, and some plopped down beside him. Others gave him small gifts they made. He accepted the gifts with grace. We played a little, talked a little, and sat side by side a little. We talked about big stuff and small stuff, everyday stuff, school stuff, memories of his dad, and just whatever. I thought about Job, and his friends. I thought that they were a comfort to him when they just sat quietly with him. It wasn’t until they started judging that they became hurtful. Kids don’t do that.

Kids know how to just sit and be with you awhile.

I like that. It’s the whole idea behind walking with you. Sometimes, the best we can do is just sit with someone awhile, where ever they are on this walk. Maybe walk alongside them, praying, weeping, rejoicing, living…one foot in front of the other. The other thing my young friend has taught me is that it works better when I do more listening than talking. Children will lead the conversation. And, they need to let out their thoughts and words in whatever avenue works for them. Whether it’s writing, drawing, playing, talking, etc. Just be there…be available. Let them lead the way. Grown ups aren’t a whole lot different when their world has been shattered into a million pieces that don’t make sense. They want a friend that will love and listen, without judging. A friend that will just sit and be with you awhile.

For more ideas on talking to children about grief and offering them comfort, please visit this former Walking With You post.

Comments

  1. I think children may love the Comfort Bear more than mommies do! When I first got mine Kyndra would tote it around. She doesn’t as much anymore but she’ll still grab it and play with it and I like to see the bear getting a little love from my kids.

  2. My younger two kids (ages 6 and 3) are especially attached to our “Journey Bear”. I almost envy the innocent way that kids process grief. I mean I wish they didn’t have to deal with grief at all … but they were expecting a little brother and they had to learn he died before he could be born. Its sad to watch them deal with that, but its inspiring as well. They never hesitate to say his name(most adults do), they never question where he is (heaven is a frequent topic now in our house). They explain very openly “Journey decided to send us his bear, because he could not stay here with us.” I’m not really sure where that explanation really came from, its not how we explained the Comfort Bear when it arrived in the mail. But it brings them comfort and for that I am eternally grateful!

    • I’m so glad that the bear brings your children comfort as they miss their sweet brother. I love the way children freely express their grief without all the issues grown-ups have. It was a great comfort to me to spend time with my son after we lost Faith and Grace and later our son, Thomas…like you mentioned, he would say their names when most adults weren’t comfortable doing so. He also had that accepting faith that his sisters and brother were in heaven…without question. He loved to talk about what they would be doing in heaven….loved to remember them and celebrate their birthdays. He loved to talk about what life would be like if they were here. He was never uncomfortable or inhibited. It was such a blessing to me…even as it also broke my heart that he had to know such grief. Children are such a blessing…and we can learn a great deal from the way they grieve and live.

  3. And thought I should add that about 4 minutes after the above picture of me and Mary and Journey Bear was taken, she fell fast asleep :-)

  4. I struggled so much watching my kids grieve, because they do it so openly and honestly. And yet they just accept God’s truth and comfort without question! Maybe we all ought to grieve like kids!

    • I’m with you, Mary…it is a struggle seeing our children grieve. My oldest son has experienced so much loss in his young life. Many times I have wished I could have spared him such hurt…and ached to know that there was nothing that could take it away from him. But, you are right that we can learn so much from the way our children grieve and trust with such abandon….they readily accept God’s comfort and His promises. So refreshing!

  5. My daughter was very matter of fact when we first told her we lost Blaine. She just said “I’m not upset, I’ll see him when I go to Heaven.” And that was the end of the conversation. Since then she’s talked about him almost everyday. Every time she makes a wish she wishes for him to visit or for us to be able to visit him. Last year she asked if she could send him a Christmas present. We have family bears, each with the name of one of our kids. She has his bear sitting on her bears lap. She’s never been really upset or cried over it. She doesn’t seem scarred in any way. She just misses him and wants to see him and play with him.

  6. I love that children accept heaven without question…their faith is beautiful. That is sweet that she wanted to send Blaine a Christmas present.

  7. Ethan is particularly attached to a little bear that was given to him when Jakin passed away almost a year ago. It’s heart lights up with you hug it and since we talked openly and honestly about Jakin’s heart condition, I loved it from the beginning too. He sleeps with it and cuddles it and tells me it “remembers him of Jakin”. Ethan often asks to go to “Shyla and Jakin’s” (that’s what he calls the cemetery) and he talks about Heaven often. We had buried two of his siblings between when he was 2.5 and 3.5. It is amazing how much he remembers and understands. He actually even exhibits some jealousy when other couples we know have a living baby. Oh how I wish I could heal his heart…

  8. It is so amazing to read all of these comments and what you wrote on your post about these awesome bears! I am so so happy that the comfort bears are bringing peace to mothers and their children.

    I love how my boys always include Isaiah in their day to day lives. They write about him in their homework, when having to share their family. They tell complete strangers at the store all of their ages, including Isaiah who is in heaven, when I get questioned if all of the boys are mine! lol

    They are the sweetest little boys, and they have picked up on the ways I include Isaiah in our family. They see that I refuse to let his memory and beautiful face, be slipped away in a closet, where we don’t have to feel or show our saddness when it becomes overwhelming.

    He is one of us. A part or the Ross family.

  9. Very true. I love the honest way children talk about their grief. We talk about Ethan with our daughter and hope she will remember him too one day.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] For more thoughts on sibling grief, and to read how the Dreams of You Comfort Bears have been helpful to children in working through their grief, click here. [...]

Leave a Comment

*