Updated: May 2, 2020
By Teresa Goins
Death is a delicate matter. Even at my age (having experienced the passing of my parents and grandparents), it is not my favorite topic of conversation. Nonetheless, the death of a loved one is something that even our young people may have to witness at an early age. As mentioned in prior articles, I am in contact with a group of six young teenagers (my granddaughter and her close friends) every single day; and strangely enough, four of the six have lost a grandparent in 2020, three within the last few weeks. As their church youth leader (and surrogate NeNe, older and wiser friend), they look to me for comfort. I have been on my knees in prayer for guidance; hence, the reason for this month’s article topic. Please pray for me – as I pray for you, my readers – that God will equip us for this essential aspect of youth mentorship.
Compassion is not hard for me, but it is difficult to see my kids grieve. Just this morning, on the way to school, one of them said, “The year 2020 has not been fun,” and proceeded to say to the friend whose grandmother passed away most recently, “My Papaw died; [our other two friends’] grandparents died; and now your granny has died!” Because death seems so final and mysterious, we must remind our young people that it is God’s plan that we are once born and once to die; but because Jesus also once died, their deceased family members can live again in heaven (Hebrews 9:27). They are not forever gone but simply living in a different place, where they will await the appointed time to see us again.
It is also comforting to share with our young people that we, too, have experienced grief. Sometimes, just telling them how we felt when ourgrandparents passed helps them to know they are not alone in their sorrow. By reminding young people of the glories of heaven, they won’t worry as much about where their loved ones have gone and whether they will be okay. “… What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined [is] what God has prepared for those who love Him!” (1 Corinthians 2:9). There are heartaches on earth, but we can look forward to a better home, where “[God] will wipe every tear from [our] eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain …” (Revelation 21:4-5). Knowing that God will be with our loved ones in heaven can be a solace for young people, who have been left behind to go on with their lives.
One of my kids whose grandmother died told me it was just “yesterday” when she was with her grandmother, who presented her with a beautiful heart-shaped box. When she thanked her, her grandmother urged her to open the box. She opened it, then said, “But Mamaw, there is nothing inside,” to which her grandmother replied, “You cannot see it now, but in the future, when you open the box, you are receiving a hug from me.” This 78-year-old grandmother died in her sleep, unexpectedly, but her family believes she knew she was near death. How do we comfort our kids when they have lost someone so dear to them? When nothing else works, we must show them the unconditional compassion of God. Allow them to cry, grieve, and express their innermost feelings. Even Jesus wept when Lazarus died.
During grief, the most critical topic we must discuss with our young people is their own salvation. After her grandparent’s death, one of my kids said she felt afraid and “didn’t want to be alone.” We must convince our young people that there is nothing to dread but that this is the perfect time (if they haven’t already) to make a profession of faith. The only way we can see our loved ones again is if we too have accepted God’s gift of eternal life. That night, my granddaughter slept over with this child. When our young people need us, we must stand ready to calm their fears.
In conclusion, this is probably the most personal article I’ve written thus far because it has forced me to think about my own mortality. I pray daily that God will keep me here so that I can continue to be a mentor to young people. We have only a short time to love and guide them, and this God-given privilege remains my quintessential desire.