A Christian Reflection on How Grief Changes Children

Updated on June 4, 2018
denise.w.anderson profile image

When my brother died at the age of 16 in a tragic drowning accident, our family changed. I was only 15 at the time.

Death comes to all of us. It is simply our passage back to God.
Death comes to all of us. It is simply our passage back to God.

My Brother, Derwin

"Mommy, where's Derwin?"

"He's up in heaven, Honey."


"Heavenly Father wanted him to be with him now."

"That's not fair! I want him here!"

"I'm sorry. You will see him again."

"I want to see him now! Doesn't Heavenly Father love me anymore?"

When my brother, Derwin, died at the age of 16 in a tragic drowning accident, our family changed. I was only 15 at the time, and I had always lived in his shadow. He was strong, athletic, smart, and dependable. I always knew I could count on him—and then one day he was gone.

My younger siblings had a difficult time with the adjustment. Death was a new concept for them. When we went to the funeral home, I heard them asking my parents, "Why doesn't he wake up?" "Why can't he move?" "Why do we have to leave him here?" "I want him to come home!"

They couldn't understand that their beloved older brother was gone for good. It devastated them. I didn't understand my own feelings at the time, either. I watched everyone around me crying, but I couldn't. For some reason, I kept telling myself, "It's not my fault."

Death is no more than passing from one room into another. But there's a difference for me, you know. Because in that other room I shall be able to see.

— Helen Keller

Children are born with a keen sense of fairness and family. They look at objects or animals and automatically assign them the familiar roles of mother, father, and baby. Children love their parents, no matter who they are or what they have done. They naturally want to be with them and will do everything they can to return to them, no matter the cost.

When this natural course of events is interrupted through the loss of a parent or sibling, children grieve, and their development of trust is altered. The child's world view becomes one of pain and sorrow. The sparkle leaves their eyes, the shoulders slump, and feelings of self-worth are replaced by fear and doubt.

The very foundations of their world are rocked and they are left like a ship without an anchor. Nothing is sure anymore. There is deep uncertainty and they are much more cautious about trusting others. When children grieve, we cannot brush them aside with trite phrases or dismiss their feelings as only temporary. They want and need answers to their deep questions, and it is up to us as the adults in their world to provide them.

Children can easily develop distorted thoughts concerning death. Worry is the result.
Children can easily develop distorted thoughts concerning death. Worry is the result.

The questions of life and death have been around since the beginning of time. Any person who has lived on this earth faces them when facing their own mortality. They are:

  • Who am I?
  • Where did I come from?
  • Where do I go after I die?

If we have not found the answers to these questions ourselves, how can we help the children in our world face them? Grief requires an adjustment in our world view, no matter what our age when we experience the loss. The world view of children centers primarily on the home and family; therefore, when loss takes place within that world view, the entire world crumbles and trauma is the result.

Children have been known to lose language skills, regress to infantile behavior, and develop emotional disorders as a result of losing a parent or sibling. It takes years and lots of love to rebuild the relationships of trust that are lost and to reconstruct a more positive world view.

Even then, as adults, those who have experienced childhood grief have to replace the lost connection with one that can never be severed, that of being a child of God. God is our Heavenly Father and we are all his children. This spiritual heritage is the only substitute that will suffice for lost relationships in our earthly existence.

Death separates “the spirit and the body [which] are the soul of man.” (D&C 88:15.) That separation evokes pangs of sorrow and shock among those left behind. The hurt is real. Only its intensity varies. Some doors are heavier than others. The sense of tragedy may be related to age. Generally the younger the victim, the greater the grief.

— Russell M. Nelson

My Brother, My Friend

Written by Denise W. Anderson in memorial of her brother, Derwin.

There was a time when life was good. Running with the wind, we believed within. Laughter and children are forever young, carefree and loving, enjoying the fun. A time when my brother was always my best friend, together we will be until the end. Cheering and challenging, tailing and traveling, I'm with my brother, I'm with my friend.

Then death came unexpectedly to a strong willed youth like a saber-tooth! I cried in anguish, "God why can't you see? He was the best of them, how could this be?" My heart wrenched within me, my anger unending! He was my brother, my soul is now rending! Crying and cradling, sighing and saying, "You took my brother, you took my friend!"

Brothers are special, brothers are strong, and brothers are like saviors to those who walk their shadows.....

The days pass by so quickly now, time has ways to heal what we only feel. I think of Jesus who died on the cross, Mary and Joseph each mourned the great loss. Our Father in Heaven cried out in his suffering, watching his son as a lamb on an offering! Even the earth moaned seeing him all alone, Jesus my brother, Jesus my friend.

I know my Savior rose again. He is up on high, the Father is close by. Rejoice my heart and sing praises to him! Death has been conquered, we will live again! I will see my brother and we'll be together, never to part again, worlds on forever. Because we live again, I'll see him once again. I'll see my brother, I'll see my friend!

Years after my brother's death, when my husband's grandmother passed away, I became physically ill. I realized that I wasn't just grieving for her, I was grieving for my brother as well. I wrote a poem that expressed my feelings, then I looked through my things and found some pictures of him. I told my mother what I was doing, and she sent me a copy of the life history he had completed prior to his death. I added it to the booklet, made copies for my family members, and sent it to them.

The people most affected by my gift were my younger siblings. They did not remember Derwin, being so young when he died. The pictures and words coming from his own pen opened up a chance for them to reconnect with someone that they had loved and lost. The healing not only helped me go forward, but helped them as well.

When the children in our world are affected by grief, the most important thing that we can do is love them. As we encircle them in the arms or our love and listen to them, we will grow in our understanding of what it is that they need.

Their questions may seem deep and complex, but our answers need to be simple. As we avoid long explanations and address the concern that they have in that moment, we will help them to work through their grief and make needed adjustments in their world view.

A very simple demonstration of death is to show the child a lifeless glove. It is like our body. When the spirit is inside the body, there is life, just like when our hand is inside the glove. At death, the spirit leaves the body. The body remains here on the earth, while the spirit goes back to God.

Helping our children turn to the Savior in their grief gives them hope for a better future.
Helping our children turn to the Savior in their grief gives them hope for a better future.

Telling children that the deceased is "in a better place" or that "God wanted them to be with him" gives the child a desire to die so that he or she can be with the deceased. It is much better to help the child understand that death is a part of life. We enter this world at birth, and death is the way that we leave it. Some people die when they are old. Others when they are young. We need not be afraid of death, but we do not wish for it, either.

Children need to know that it is okay to be sad and cry when they cannot see their loved one. Sharing memories with them helps us to feel happiness and joy at this difficult time. We may even want to help the child create a project that preserves their memories. As we do so, we help them build trust with us, and enable them to have a more positive world view for their future.

Praying with them gives them the assurance that God is still there for them, that they are loved, and that they can turn to their Heavenly Father during their grief. Talking with them about the Savior's death and resurrection helps them to personalize the fact that they will see their loved one again. The hope that is generated, even though the child may not fully understand, gives a place of peace for them when they need comfort in the future.

Have you experienced a death in your family recently?

See results

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

Questions & Answers

    © 2017 Denise W Anderson


      0 of 8192 characters used
      Post Comment
      • denise.w.anderson profile imageAUTHOR

        Denise W Anderson 

        2 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

        Thanks, Tamara. It is difficult when a close family member dies. It is as if part of us dies with them. Things are never the same! My tears and prayers are with you and your family at this difficult time! I appreciate your sharing with us.

      • profile image

        Tamara Moore 

        2 years ago

        Thank you, Denise. This is a great grief in life to see our loved ones pass away, even as Christians. My children have experienced it with their father. This article is of great value, and comfort.

        Thank you!

      • denise.w.anderson profile imageAUTHOR

        Denise W Anderson 

        2 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

        You are welcome, Tamara! Grief is one of the most difficult emotions we will ever experience in this life. No matter who we are, when we lose those that we love, we are deeply affected. Our ability to find hope and an anchor through our Savior enables us to restructure our lives and move on. Thank you for sharing your thoughts!

      • denise.w.anderson profile imageAUTHOR

        Denise W Anderson 

        2 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

        What a tragic situation, Dora! I am sure that the child appreciated you speaking up in her behalf. We don't realize what happens when we continually relive traumatic events and children are involved. They are deeply affect, especially when it is their parents that they have lost! I appreciate you telling us about this incident as an illustration of what can happen!

      • denise.w.anderson profile imageAUTHOR

        Denise W Anderson 

        2 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

        That is what happened to me, Bill. I didn't come to terms with Derwin's death until I had children of my own and they were nearly teens! When I did finally process it, I felt a load lifted off my shoulders. Since then, I have been able to help others process their grief when close family members have passed on. Thanks for sharing your experiences with us.

      • denise.w.anderson profile imageAUTHOR

        Denise W Anderson 

        2 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

        That is the best way to do it, Eric, talk about it until you know that they understand. Communication is one of the best tools that we have to deal with our emotions, and when we help our children to communicate their feelings, we give them a wonderful asset that will bless them throughout their lives. Thanks for your insightful comments.

      • denise.w.anderson profile imageAUTHOR

        Denise W Anderson 

        2 years ago from Bismarck, North Dakota

        You are right, Carolyn, we must not let death define who we are. In order for us to do that, we work through our grief and make those changes in our world view that allow us to adopt new roles and keep our attitude positive. I appreciate you sharing your experiences.

      • profile image

        Tamara Moore 

        2 years ago

        Yes, we need to remember that there is HOPE through Jesus Christ! Grief does change children, and regular people, too... Yet, no matter the horrors and atrocities of the world, I know we must remain positive, and we can do so through His Holy Name! Thank you for this post :-)



      • MsDora profile image

        Dora Weithers 

        2 years ago from The Caribbean

        Denise, thanks for this insight into what happens with the child who is grieving. I knew a child who watched her mom gunned down, and her grandparents kept on retelling the story in her presence even though she begged them not to. I had to explain to them that they needed to consider her feelings. They thought she should just get over it. Your article is very helpful.

      • billybuc profile image

        Bill Holland 

        2 years ago from Olympia, WA

        I know it changed me as a teen.....not necessarily for the better...it's taken me a long time to come to terms with the death of a loved one. :)

      • Ericdierker profile image

        Eric Dierker 

        2 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

        Very well done. I figure the way I worked with death with my small children was mostly about talking about it in general. They all seemed to get it. Thank you for sharing your experience.

      • Carolyn M Fields profile image

        Carolyn Fields 

        2 years ago from South Dakota, USA

        Excellent post. Thank you for sharing your experience with us. I have known death of people very close to me. My first experience was as a young child (grade school) when a neighborhood child passed away. It does change your world view. You must not let it define who you are. It is another life lesson, from which we must learn.


      This website uses cookies

      As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, patientslounge.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

      For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://maven.io/company/pages/privacy

      Show Details
      HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
      LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
      Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
      AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
      Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
      CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
      Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
      Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
      Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
      Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
      ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
      ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)