Death

Why It's Important to Talk to Your Kids about Charlie Hebdo

Charlie1 I was going to use this space today to talk about my blogging goals for the next year, but that post will have to wait until Monday because sometimes world events get in the way.

As a general rule, I've always tried to keep my kids aware of what is going on in the world around them. However, I've also often shielded them from a lot of the brutality and injustice in the world. I didn't let them watch all the coverage of the Boston Marathon bombings. They've never seen some of the amazing documentaries on 9-11. I do this because I think that images stay with you forever, and at young ages, they simply don't need those images in their heads. It's enough that they know the stories of what happened.

Yesterday was another one of those days where I felt it was important for my kids to know what was happening in the world but that they didn't need all the gory details. Twelve people died in a Paris magazine office yesterday because someone didn't agree with what they printed in their magazine. That may seem like it's far away and not relevant to our kids, but the truth is that if it has to do with protecting freedom, it's relevant to any child old enough to understand what freedom is.

I'm not suggesting that you should provide your kids with an in-depth dissertation on what happened yesterday, but I am suggesting that if your kids have heard about the shootings that you use it as a springboard to a discussion with them. Because freedom is important, and our kids need to know that from an early age.

Living in the United States it's all too easy to take our freedoms for granted. We don't have to wonder if the police are going to beat down our door because we own a Bible. We can go where we want and say what we want. We exercise our freedoms every day without giving them a second thought.

Charlie2

But an attack like yesterday's attack on the Charlie Hebdo offices is an attack on freedom everywhere. We need to talk with our kids about freedom of speech and freedom of the press. It can seem sometimes like the press has an agenda they want to push or an angle they want to pursue. But the truth is that most journalists (and I can speak to this because I've spent a lot of my life being one) simply want to write a good story that's as honest as they can make it. Do personal biases bleed through? Absolutely -- because journalists are human beings. But the vast majority of journalists at your local newspapers are simply trying to provide your community with the information it needs.

Talking with our kids about freedom of speech and freedom of the press is important for a few reasons:

1. A free press helps guarantee a free country. A free press is allowed to dig into the things the government is doing. It keeps the government in check. The press has exposed corruption and illegal activities in the government too many times to count. Without a free press, the government operates in secret.

2. A free press helps guarantee your free speech. The first thing to get muzzled in a tyrannical government is the press. As long as the press is allowed to be free, your speech is allowed to be free.

3. A free press is allowed to propagate unpopular opinions. We're always telling our kids to stand up for what is right, but sometimes what's right isn't what's popular. Because our press and our speech is protected, we can continue to say things that may be right but not popular.

If you're struggling to start a conversation with your kids about the events that happened in Paris yesterday, try some of these questions to get the ball rolling:

1. Why do you think people would want to stop the magazine from printing certain things?

2. Do you think that if an opinion is unpopular people shouldn't print it or put it on the Internet?

3. What do you think God thinks about freedom? (Check out Galatians 5:1)

4. Why do you think the founders of our country thought a free press was important enough to put in the Constitution?

Paris seems a long way away to most of our kids. But the events that happened there yesterday are worth talking to your kids about. Because if we raise a generation that doesn't value freedom of the press and freedom of speech, it will be really easy to lose those freedoms.

Dealing with Suicide

suicide It's been a tough week around here. Two junior girls on the soccer team at our local high school committed suicide over the weekend. Neither of my daughters knew them, but my older daughter knows people who did. And the fact that they were girls who are very much like my older daughter has really hit home for her. Yesterday morning, she looked at me and said, "Mom, they were me in two years."

I don't know the circumstances surrounding these girls. I don't know what their home life was like. I don't know what things they were struggling with, but I do know this: Those girls felt like there was no solution to whatever issue they were facing. They literally felt there was no hope.

The death of any child or teenager is difficult, but when a suicide happens, there's so much more involved for the kids who are trying to process it. On top of the sadness, there's anger that their friend would choose to do something that would hurt others so much and there's guilt that they either didn't know their friend was struggling or that they didn't do the "right" things to stop it.

As parents, suicide is equally difficult to deal with. We're often torn between wanting to let our kids talk about it and wanting to not put too much attention on it so as not to encourage others to see it as a viable option for solving their problems. It's hard to know what to do.

But, here's the thing. Any time tragedy strikes, our kids have to be allowed to process through what has happened. They need to know that their parents are safe to talk to. They need to be allowed to cry, to rage, to howl in grief. They need to be able to talk to their friends, their ministers, and counselors if they need to. They need to know that their feelings are valid. They need to know that however they feel about things is OK.

In situations like this, though, they also need to know that the choice their friends made wasn't the right one. They need to know that no matter how bleak things look, there's always help available. They need to know that their parents are there to offer help and to listen. They need to know that no topic is off limits for discussion. And they need to know that life is always, always the right choice.

So, today, I'm asking that you hug the kids in your circle of influence tight. Talk with them about what to do when they're sad and frustrated and can't see the light at the end of the tunnel. Be available when your kids want to talk. Take their concerns seriously. And, please, pray for my community as an entire high school full of kids deals with a tragedy that baffles both them and the adults around them and that breaks everyone's hearts.

Discussing Robin Williams

Robin Williams died yesterday. The man who brought so much laughter to this world couldn't find any in his own life and killed himself. I had no plans to blog about this. As tragic and sad as it is, it wasn't something I felt I needed to address. Until this morning. My younger daughter crawled into my bed as I was listening to the news on the radio.

"So, that actor guy died?" she said.

"Yes," I answered.

"How did he die?"

"He killed himself."

"Why would someone do that?"

And that's the question. Why would someone who appeared to have so much to live for fall into a pit of despair so deep that there was no way for him to see through the darkness?

At some point in their lives, our kids are going to know someone who is depressed. They're probably going to be touched by suicide in some form. My first experience came in high school when a guy I was in band with committed suicide. I was a sophomore in high school and completely shocked. I had no idea he was depressed. I had no idea there was deep pain hiding behind a quiet, shy demeanor. I had no idea.

And that's why we need to talk with our kids about suicide, perhaps using the death of this famous actor as a springboard for that conversation. It would be so much easier just to gloss it over, just to ignore it because this is a tough subject.

The truth is, though, that depression and suicide are topics our kids need to know about. They need to know that what they see on the outside of a person isn't always a good indicator of how they feel on the inside. They need to know that their words and actions matter and that they can wound or heal with those words and actions. They need to know that depression is an illness; it's not something that people choose. They need to know that when a friend struggles to live with depression, it truly is a fight for survival.

And, most importantly, our kids need to know that it's not something to hide. They need to know that it's not shameful to ask for help. They need to know that it's OK to bring in an adult if they or a friend are struggling with depression or suicidal thoughts. They need to know that God isn't missing from the situation. Because knowing these things can save a life.

So, don't hesitate to talk to your kids about depression or suicide. Don't skirt around the subject. Bring it up. Shed light into the dark places. Pray for your friends who struggle. Look for ways you can help. Because you just might save a life by doing so.

First Friday: The Breathtaking Grief of a Child

Grief1 The faith of a child can be breathtaking.

I’ve known it.  I’ve seen it.  I’ve craved it.

But over the last few weeks, I have realized something else entirely can steal your breath when it flows from the hands, the mouth and the heart of a child…

And that something is grief.

As keenly as I’ve felt the unexpected and recent loss of my Daddy, it is no more real than when I have seen it through the eyes of my children.

The moment we told our Grace my dad was gone…

Her heaving sobs.  Her broken heart.  Her understanding.

Ah, her understanding.

The both blessed and blasted grasping of reality and loss that continues to punch me in the stomach.

It is not only what takes my breath from me, but it is also what led me to heave my nearly eight-months pregnant body onto her top bunk to comfort her, despite my husband’s admonition and subsequent near-suffocation when I jumped on him in my attempt to “safely” get down.

I simply could not leave her alone in her grief.

I had to hold her and kiss her and quietly whisper, “I love yous.”

It is there in that bunk bed I learned why a Father bends so closely and keenly and unreservedly in comfort.  Why you can kick and scream and flail and He still holds you with whispered “I love yous.”  Why in the greatest despair you can also feel so strongly and securely held.

But Grace has not been my only teacher...

Our son.

Oh, our son.

The one who fought back little boy tears to say just how deep his love ran for the man he knew. Feelings infused with an unencumbered joy over the years that had been given to us. Made clear in his spoken response to the question, “How do you feel about this, buddy?”

“I am happy…happy because of all the fun things I was able to do with him.”

A declaration made somehow more beautiful a day later when he was watching fireworks and exclaimed, “That one’s for Pop Pop!!!”

For this little guy, grief has been about celebration.

Not only because of the promise of a heaven but also because the time with Pop Pop given to him has been so beautiful.

I see it in his eyes every time he talks about his memories.

It is not grief without hope. It is an expectant joy at the reunion waiting. Where they will eat peanuts and stay up late together and talk about “man stuff” for an eternity.

This.

From a six-year-old boy.

Completely. Breathtaking.

And then…

Well, then, there was the moment we buried my Daddy…

And my Sophie handed tissues out to everyone.

I watched as she wiped my mama’s eyes and patted her hands and unreservedly loved on her. She had no regard for protocol or reverence or the rules. She just simply saw hurt that needed to be salved…

So out came the Kleenex.

A sweet, punch-you-in-the-gut, steal-your-breath-away act of love.

She knows he’s gone.

She says often, “I miss Pops!”

But she also knows I do too…I hear it every time I burst into a flurry of unexpected tears and she asks, “You are sad about Pops?  Me too.  Me too.”  And then I feel it when just like clockwork, she reaches her tiny hand up to my face and wipes my tears as they fall.

She comforts even in her own grief.

I cannot even begin to tell you how like Jesus she is to me in those moments.  Reaching past her little girl hurt to love mightily on another. Seeing the need that is beyond her own sadness.

It is a care more breath “stealing” than taking.

Yes, grief is hard.

But through the eyes of my children, I see so often how it comes from a well of love and the very depth of hope and even faith.

It is not masked with a foreboding sense of fear or hopelessness.

It is just purely love.

A love that cries and hopes and comforts with a faith in what waits for those who love Him.

Oh, Jesus…

May I love and grieve like that.

One breathtaking, punch-you-in-the-gut, beautiful moment at a time.

Sara Cormany guest posts on the first Friday of each month. Sara is mommy to six-year-old Grace, four-year-old Drew and one-year-old Sophie.  When she is not wiping noses, changing diapers or chasing her kids, she is a sometimes writer and a sometimes teacher to teenagers.  But her most cherished role is that of one who is perfectly held by Jesus. She loves watching Him take the broken, the messy and the seemingly mundane of her everyday and turn it into something beautiful. She recently began her own blog called Where Feet May Fail. Be sure to check it out.

 

We All Make Ripples

ripples I attended a standing-room only event yesterday afternoon. It wasn't a soccer game. It wasn't a hockey game. It wasn't a concert. It was a funeral for a 9-year-old girl.

I hadn't known this little girl long. In January, I started teaching writing at a local homeschool enrichment program, and this girl was one of my students. She was so smart, so creative and so much fun. She had a sweet spirit and a smile that you couldn't help smiling back at.

Her death was oh so unexpected. When the head of the enrichment program called to tell me, I was tongue-tied. I couldn't find anything to say. I struggled with why God would take a little girl who had so much life ahead of her.

As I looked around the room yesterday at the hundreds of people who had shown up for her celebration of life, though, I was struck by how many people this little girl's life had touched. Every person in that room had had their lives affected by this one 9-year-old girl with the big smile and bigger spirit.

And I was reminded that our lives are like ripples in a pond. When you throw a rock into a pond, it creates ripples and those ripples spread throughout the water. We make ripples, too. We touch lives we don't even know we are touching. Every action we make, every word we speak makes ripples.

Yesterday, we got to see the effect of the ripples of a 9-year-old's life. We got to see the lives that were touched. And we were reminded that every life matters. Every word spoken or not spoken makes a ripple. Every smile, every action makes another ripple.

I don't know why God allowed this little girl's life to end so soon. I'll probably struggle with that for a while, but I am oh so thankful that the ripples in her life touched mine.

And I'm reminded that the ripples that we make matter. And I want my ripples to change others for the better.

Calming the Fears

life

We live in tornado country. My girls know what to do if the sirens go off, whether they're at school, on the soccer field or at home -- find the lowest spot with the most walls and the fewest windows between you and the outside and hunker down. Thankfully, we've never seen a tornado in close proximity.

But yesterday as we heard about and watched the devastation in Moore, Oklahoma, my girls realized that all those drills they do at school, all the talking we do at home are about something that could really happen. As we heard that two elementary schools had been hit -- one flattened by the monster tornado -- my girls truly understood that a tornado can hit, and it could hit their schools or our house.

It's a scary moment when the veil of invincibility is lifted from your eyes. Kids think they are untouchable. They think bad things only happen to others. It's one of the things that allows kids to be fearless. It's one of the things that allows them to trust without reservation. It's one of the things that makes them kids.

But in every child's life, there comes a moment when they realize that they could get hurt, that they could experience something bad. It happens at a different time in a different way for each child, but it is a moment when a little piece of what makes them children gets stripped away.

When that moment comes, we can allow fear to overwhelm our kids or we can help them put things in perspective. The truth is that any one of us could die today. We're not promised tomorrow, so we have to make the most of today. God has numbered our days, and it's our job to live them to the fullest while we have them.

But that doesn't mean that we live each day in fear that it will be our last. It doesn't mean that we raise fearful children. It means that we teach our kids that while we're not promised tomorrow, we are given this one extraordinary life to live to fulfill God's purpose for us. We don't have to worry about tomorrow because God has it under control. We don't have to live a life filled with fear about the future because God is with us as we take each step. 2 Timothy 1:7 says "For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind."

I can't promise my kids nothing bad will happen when they walk out the door of our home today, but I can promise them that no matter what happens God is there with them.

If your heart is breaking like mine as you watch the images of parents waiting for word on their children, say a prayer for the community of Moore today and consider donating to the relief efforts through the American Red Cross.

Talking to Kids About Tragedy

We were on the way home from my grandma’s funeral when we stopped for lunch. I glanced at my phone and saw message after message on Facebook about a school shooting in Connecticut. I flipped over to a news site and stared in horror at what I read.

My brain slowly began to process the horror. Like any other parent, I could only imagine the horror of dropping my child off at school and having them never come home. I could only utter shocked prayers and hug my own children tight.

And then I began to think: What do I say to my kids? What do I say?

How do we begin to explain the unexplainable, the unconscionable, the unbelievable? How do I tell my children that kids just like them, walked into a school just like theirs, in a community much like ours and they didn’t walk out again? How do I reassure them that it’s OK for them to go to school on Monday morning? How do I make them feel safe without lying to them? How do I answer their questions about how a good God could allow this to happen when I don’t understand it myself?

I’m not a crisis counselor. I’m not a psychologist. The only thing I know about child-rearing is what I’ve learned in the past 11 years. And I’m not sure that’s enough.

There’s no formula for explaining something like this to your kids. There’s no “right” answer. All I can do in this space is tell you what I’m going to do with my kids. Maybe it will help you.

Pray. Pray for your kids. Pray for wisdom to know what to say. Most of all pray for those families who have gifts under the Christmas tree that will never be opened. Pray for those families who went to the school to pick up their kid to find they would never come home again. Pray, pray, pray.

Be honest. No matter what, don’t lie to your kids about what happen. Don’t act like it’s not a big deal. If they’re old enough to understand what happened, they’re old enough to know if you lie. When our kids come to us in a crisis, if we give them honest answers, even if that answer is “I don’t know,” we reassure them that we are trustworthy.

Be a filter. As tempting as it is to have the constant coverage on the TV, don’t let your kids be glued to it. Younger kids probably don’t need those images in their heads at all. Teenagers may need to see for themselves, but watching those scenes over and over again simply does nothing but imprint the horror in their minds. Be a filter for what they see and hear. Talk with them about what they see and hear and keep talking.

Answer their questions. Don’t brush off your kids’ very real questions and fears. Answer the questions they ask. Reassure them that this isn’t something that happens every day. Talk about the security measures your school has in place to prevent something like this from happening. Keep talking and answering their questions as long as they have them.

There are no easy answers, no quick fixes when something like this happens. We can only hug our kids tight, give them an extra kiss as we drop them off at school and help them process the tragedy in their own way. And we can pray: pray that this never happens again.

Live As If Today Matters

I had a different post planned for today. But over the weekend, I was catching up on some blogs and Facebook pages that I follow. I discovered that a fellow blogger had recently been in a car accident, in which her husband had been killed and she and her two boys had been seriously injured. And I was struck by the fragility of life. I was reminded that we aren't promised tomorrow, but we do have today. God tells us "Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring" (Proberbs 27:1). We don't know the number of days we or any of our loved ones have, so we have to live like today matters.

So, today, I want to encourage you to live like there's no tomorrow. Focus on the things that matter, and let the things that don't just fade to the background.

Hug your kids.

Kiss your spouse.

Say I love you frequently.

Stop what you're doing to play a game with your child.

Do something silly.

Laugh out loud -- often.

Pray.

Listen.

Call an old friend.

Celebrate the little stuff.

Tell someone about Jesus.

Make it a habit to say "I love you" before anyone leaves the house.

Let go of anger.

Don't sweat the small stuff.

Actively look for beauty.

When the clock strikes midnight, the day is over, and we can never get it back. Live today as though it matters -- because it does.

Linking up today with The Better Mom and Graceful.