Sitting with Your Kids in Grief and Loss

... and allowing yourself to learn from THEM in it, too.

As expats—as missionaries, specifically—we experience a LOT of loss. And that’s not to say that those who don’t live the expat life DON’T experience loss, but I feel the loss you experience overseas is difference. Loss within a missionary context is different.

It’s an almost CONSTANT companion, dressed up in many different forms, but always there.

You are constantly navigating the loss of people (both death and departure), the loss of animals, the loss of homes, and the loss a sense of stability. Sometimes you feel many of these all at the same time. To add a generous helping of confusion to the mess, this loss is often experienced side-by-side with joy.

So at any given time, you are feeling ALL THE THINGS, and you cant quite figure out what is going on inside.

As an ADULT I struggle with all of this—so imagine how our kids feel.

One of our big goals as parents of “Third Culture Kids (TCKs)—kid’s living between cultures, we want to help them handle all of the changes, the big emotions, and the hardship that comes with the life we choose. Our kids LOVE the life we live (we love the life we live with them), but that doesn’t mean it’s not hard, or that there aren’t times we question if we are doing the right thing.

This last week we had a lot to deal with:

  • Our kids were struggling with being really happy to see their friends here in PNG, but also being really sad missing their friends back in America
  • Our kids had been struggling with some of the food differences
  • We got a puppy (a very sick puppy we tried to save), the puppy died, and then we were given a new, healthier, puppy
  • Daddy was away for work for the most of the day all week

Some of these things may not seem like a big deal—like their Dad being out of the house all day—but it’s a change in their routine and what they are used to being able to expect for the day. It still adds to a sense of “instability” in all of the changes they have recently experienced.

I bottle-fed Sweetpea until the very end; we did everything we could to save her.

They have been missing their friends, and feeling frustrated with the different food tastes, and then they got a cute little puppy Sunday and they were SO happy.

Mind you, we tried to explain something was wrong with her. We tried to explain we would do our best but it may not be enough.

But man, it still hurt when we woke up in the morning and realized she hadn’t made it through the night. And our kids were devastated.

The mama-bear in me wanted to rail at God. They’ve already been struggling with so many feelings—couldn’t we get a break? I wanted to be so angry. And instead I just got this overwhelming sense that God mourned with our kiddos too. We’ve been spending lots of time in our Bible for school studying creation and the birth of Jesus. We’ve talked so much in these last weeks about how God made the world, how SIN broke the world, and how Jesus came to save the world.

And I knew. I knew it was time to sit with my kids and tell them that “Sad isn’t bad.” That it’s okay to be hurting, that MOMMY AND DADDY are sad and hurting, and that we were here for them for hugs, if they needed to talk, or if they had any questions. We knew our friends who gave us the puppy were going to bring us a new puppy and it was easy to want to encourage our boys to just MOVE on. To not have to deal with the messy emotions and outbursts. But we want our boys to grow up to be healthy and well-adjusted men, and that means doing the messy work now.

So we cried. And we hugged. And we cried some more. And we buried her and talked about death. And we prayed. And we told them it was okay to be sad, or mad, or both. We gave them permission to have a hard day.

"Sad isn't bad."

-Mama Bear Siobahnne

And my five year old then proceeded to blow me away—

He prayed: “Dear God, thank you for this day. To you be all the glory. Thank you for loving us. Can you please play with our puppy until we join you in heaven.”

His child-like certainty and faith in Jesus and His goodness left me in awe. He told me that the puppy (SweetPea) wasn’t sick anymore and had a new body in heaven.

He reminded me that this is not our home. That death is not the end. That we won’t be sad forever.

World, meet Nightlight, our new puppy.

And man, I hugged him so tight. Because sometimes the sadness is so overwhelming it is easy to forget that it DOESN’T END HERE.

And despite being the adult, God has a lot to teach me through our kids.

And you know what? The new puppy is awesome. She’s healthy and feisty and adorable. But the kids still bring up Sweetpea and we encourage them to talk about her and what happened.

And I like that they think she’s having lots of fun with Jesus in heaven—I kinda think so too.

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1 thought on “Sitting with Your Kids in Grief and Loss”

  1. That was a very informative lesson of life! I have always said that it is important for people to feel their feeling and not bottle them in! All of you live a important life and I for one am proud of all of you. Love ya all!!! ♥️

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