Small Hearts With Big Hurts…5 Ways to Help Hurting Children
There are some phone calls that you never forget. This particular night I received one of them.
The Phone Call
It was a late Wednesday night and we had all made it to bed. I had just drifted off to sleep when I was awakened by the ringing of our phone. Calls to a pastor this late at night are never good…and this one would be no different. A man in our church with two teenage daughters had passed away of a heart attack…in the arms of his youngest daughter. It was so sudden. He had been working in our children’s ministry that evening; I had talked to him after church. But now there was a wife and two girls crumpled together in a hospital waiting room engulfed by their overwhelming grief, hurting hearts, and difficult questions with no easy answers.
Small Hearts With Big Hurts
How do you help children and teens who are suffering through difficult loss? Is their suffering any different? I realize that the pain doesn’t get easier as you get older, but years of life do tend to give a little more perspective to pain and suffering. A child doesn’t have that perspective to lean on; they only have pain that is raw and confusing. As they walk through the pain of death or disease it may be overwhelming. So if you know a child that is hurting, take the time to encourage them! Here are 5 ways to be an encouragement to the little ones that are hurting.
5 Ways to Help Hurting Children
1. Don’t minimize their pain
Small people have small problems that can hurt in big ways. Have you ever considered that the loss of a pet may be the first exposure to death that your child will have? The pain of death for them is real, and the grief is real! Don’t minimize your concern or care because you think their problem is small. Small problems to small people seem really big! Take their pain seriously.
2. Meet basic needs
One of best ways to show compassion during grief is to help meet the physical needs that arise. In the days after the sudden death I spoke of earlier, many teens had met at their house to grieve and mourn with the family. I remember when we heard a knock at the door…it was the pizza delivery man. The next door neighbor had ordered pizza for all the teens that were there! It was amazing how a little comfort food met a simple physical need and had an incredible effect on their mental and emotional state.
3. Be a good listener
James tells us to be slow to speak but swift to listen. Be honest, you don’t have all the answers! I don’t either! Sometimes it is better to just sit with a hurting child and listen to their heart; let them tell you why they are hurting instead of you telling them how they should fix it. Tell them you understand their pain, and be a compassionate listener as their heart cries.
4. Help them gain perspective
This must be done with incredible patience and discernment. To a child, small hurts that we may deem insignificant can be truly devastating and painful. From their perspective, the hurt that they are feeling will go on forever...there may be no hope in sight. Be patient with children as you help them see that difficult life events are painful for today but can actually become stepping stones to strength and maturity as time passes.
It might be helpful for you to share with them a difficult life event that you experienced as a child. Personally, I remember receiving the news that my grandfather had passed away. This was my father's dad...and a man that I don't ever remember meeting. My grandparents separated when my dad was in college so my visits to grandma's house didn't include my grandad who had moved to Florida. When he passed away, I was broken that I had never had the chance to meet him. I remember sitting on the front porch and weeping. I was broken.
Help children see that grief is part of the healing process. Don't force them to "just be strong."
5. Comfort them with Biblical truths
There is no better comfort than the Truths from Scripture. Show them that…
God can take our problems and work them for good Genesis 50:20 But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.
God cares about our needs I Peter 5:7 Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.
God comforts us when we are hurting II Corinthians 1:3-4 Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble.
God is always with us Hebrews 13:5-6 I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.
God’s grace is always sufficient II Corinthians 12:9 And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
Remember, it doesn’t take much for a little heart to have a big hurt. Don’t minimize the pain of the little ones you are around. Rather, take the time to comfort them with truths from God’s Word.
DJHarry Isaiah 64:8 We are the clay!