Three Ways to Walk a Girl Through Grief
GEMS Guest Post By Robyn Dykstra
Whether accidental, anticipated or a complete surprise, death is rarely welcome.
I am the reluctant expert on grief. Not credentialed, but experienced.
My boys were 7 and 4 when their favorite Grandpa, father, and their Gramma G died within four months of one another.
All the human anchors in our lives were gone and I was left with a tangled mess of emotions and unanswered questions from my children.
While there may be many things a girl may grieve—a death in the family, a broken relationship, a move, a divorce, an illness, or a pet, these three keys will translate to any grieving scenario.
1. Address the elephant in the room.
It feels counterintuitive to ask what a girl misses most about the person she is grieving. You don’t want to upset her or cause her more hurt, but experts universally recommend talking about how grief is affecting you.
Engaging your girls in conversation about their loss and how they feel is extremely beneficial.
If you have any personal stories about the person they are grieving, don’t hesitate to share them.
Some of my boys’ biggest smiles after their father died came when co-workers and friends shared true stories about their dad.
It didn’t add to their grief, it validated it.
2. Know grief is going to look/feel/be different for everyone.
Grieving is as individual as your mama’s chili. There is no recipe or set of directions. Everyone processes it differently, and just knowing that can be comforting to your girl.
Reassure grieving girls that what they are feeling is normal. Tell them it’s natural to move from happy to sad to angry to thankful in short periods of time.
Laugh when it’s funny. Cry when it hurts.
If the grief is oppressive or lingering, seek out a grief counselor.
3. Point your girl to hope.
The Bible is not silent on the topic of loss or suffering or grief. God extends comfort and hope through Jesus’s death and resurrection. Keep directing her to truth. Psalm 34:18 says, The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit (ESV).
In general, be kind and gentle with your girl about her loss. Tell her you are there for her and are praying for her.
The American Hospice Foundation provided these comments to avoid when comforting the grieving.
- “I know how you feel.” Never presume to know how her loss affects her.
- “It’s part of God’s plan.” This is terrifying for a girl and generates questions about God’s love and if God’s plan for her is an untimely death.
- “It’s time to get on with your life.” Grief takes time and patience and usually a lot more than you want to allow.
What you can say:
- I’m so sorry. Know that I am praying for you.
- I’m sorry to hear that this happened to you.
- I’m not sure what to say, but I want you to know I care.
- Offer eye contact, a squeeze of the hand, or a reassuring hug.
If the person she’s grieving was a Christ-follower, tell her the person they are grieving is having a good day! She will see him/her again.
I know you want her to feel better as soon as possible, but she will set the pace for her healing.
You can make a big difference in the way she feels loved by simply being present and patient and kind.
Today, my boys are full-grown, healthy, happy and whole. They love well, laugh often and remember our people fondly. I believe their wellbeing is due to the presence, patience and kindness of mentors and ministry leaders who showed the love of Jesus to them by giving them time to grieve, listening to their hearts, and reassuring them God was on the throne.
You can do that same thing for your girl.
Use a feelings chart to help your girl express how she’s doing. Choose from one of the free, age-appropriate Emoji charts here.
Remind your girl that no matter how she feels, you will never stop loving her or believing in her. Download free I Believe in You cards here.
Connection matters, especially in grief. The LOVED. U & ME Conversations Kit is an encouraging way to strengthen a tween girl’s relationship with God and her mom (or mentor) through a 4-session Bible study.
Keep a girl-friendly and fun pack of conversation cards within easy reach during dinner, carpool lines, and bedtime rituals. These conversation cards provide an engaging and simple way to be present and remind your girl how much she’s seen and loved.
Robyn Dykstra is a captivating national speaker, best-selling author and professional speaking coach. For decades, she’s been encouraging and equipping of women to trust God, follow Jesus and talk about their faith. robyndykstra.com