Helping Children say Goodbye

Guest blog post from Jessica Ann Jenner

As I sit down to write this today it is exactly one month since I set up ‘Together at Home’ a facebook group to share resources for church families to use during Lockdown.  I knew that I would be producing packs for the children in my own church and thought I would share them more widely.  One month on the group has over 2500 members and I now also have a website which has already been visited over 2000 times. As a Christian I really believe that God can be a source of hope during these difficult times and I wanted to produce a resource to offer hope and support to those having to say goodbye to friends and family members during lockdown.

“Saying Goodbye” is a sheet designed to help children explore their own feelings as they deal with the loss of a loved one.  There are so many things we take for granted that children will have access to when somebody dies – friends, wider family and teachers they can talk to, a funeral to attend – Covid-19 has changed that.

For parents, the responsibility to help their children understand and navigate grief might seem overwhelming.  There are so many incredible resources out there for families but even searching for them might seem like too big a challenge.  Parents, do not feel guilty for this struggle, take care of yourself as well as your family and recognise that being isolated together may have removed our sense of privacy or the space we might have found to process and grieve.

Here are the top pieces of advice I have collected:

Be honest with language

There is a lot of metaphorical language associated with death  – we may talk about ‘losing’ somebody, the ‘other side’ or ‘passing on’. This language can be confusing to children particularly when we have already been adjusting to separation from loved ones and promising our children that we will be together eventually. Although it may seem blunt, we should try to use simple and honest language when explaining that somebody has died, this will help prevent confusion.

Be honest about emotions

Children pick up on the emotions of those around them, make sure you are looking after yourself and don’t feel like you need to keep your emotions in check for the benefit of those around you. Children need to understand that everybody is feeling different emotions, that there is no right or wrong way to feel.  Try not to be hurt if your child doesn’t express sadness or tears when they hear about a death, allow them to unpack their feelings in their own time. 

Make time for memories

A funeral is a wonderful opportunity to join together in community, to celebrate the life of the person who has died, to share memories of happier times.  Funerals during the pandemic are being carefully controlled, numbers are limited, and social distancing rules still apply.

It is important to set aside your own time to celebrate and remember  the person who has died. Why not collect photos or items that remind you of the person who has died and share your stories together.  Help children to feel connected to any online funeral or celebration event that is held, find ways they can contribute and share too.

Understanding God’s Big Picture

It is so easy to question or blame God when somebody dies particularly against the backdrop of a global pandemic. Amid our anger and disappointment however, we can still hold onto God’s promise that there is a place prepared for us in heaven. As a Christian I believe that this broken and hurting world was not the one that God intended for us, instead through Jesus, we are offered eternity in heaven, in perfect relationship with our loving Father God, in bodies that feel no pain or sickness.

Jessica Ann Jenner

Jessica-Ann Jenner is a Children and Families Worker for Jubilee Church, Bromley.  She has a Masters in Applied Theology with Children, Families and Community Work from Moorlands College, UK.  Jess runs ‘Together at Home’ whilst living with Jeff a bearded dragon and a large collection of glove puppets!

Please do have a look at the other blog posts in the section on Dealing with Grief in COVID19.

At Community in a Crisis We’re passionate about building #relationalonlinechurch during #COVID19. Visit our facebook page or on Twitter. Register here for our training materials, recordings and events. We have training on; Offering hope in a Crisis – Evangelism in the local church, Multi-Platform worship training for worship leaders and Getting your church online through Zoom.

Published by Nay Dawson

Hello and thank you for reading my blog. I'm married to Jon and live in Southampton with our two girls. I work with IFES Europe as their Regional Training Co-ordinator, training staff and students across Europe. In 2019 I set up Passion for Evangelism a network of creative, public female speakers. I'm a Trustee for the Cowrie Scholarship Foundation raising essential funds for disadvantaged Black British Students. I'm also a Trustee for Friends International helping welcome International students to the UK. In response to the war in Ukraine I helped set up Ukraine Connect matching refugees and hosts across Europe

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