Troubling times like these call us to lament our sorrows and cry out to God together as a community. Please join us for a virtual service of Lament and Healing on Thursday, October 29 at 7 pm. This service will be livestreamed on this website at this link (not on Facebook) and will include an opportunity for individual prayer via Zoom breakout room during the service (The Zoom link will be available on the video page) We will ask God to meet us in our pain, give us courage, and grant us hope and healing through one another and in Christ. We hope you’ll join us.
Even those of us who haven’t lost something we’d consider major or tangible, even those of us who aren’t grieving the death of a loved one, we’ve lost our sense of normalcy, our ability to plan, our rhythms, the options we are used to having. We are having to use our energy in different ways, make all sorts of choices we never had to before, think through things with new factors in mind. It takes courage to lay this out before God and one another. ..
During the service you will be able to request private prayer with a member of the pastoral staff via the individual Zoom rooms. After the livestream, the video of the service – but not the Zoom rooms – will be archived on the Princeton UMC website to watch at a later time.
In talking with members of our church family in the past few days, I am realizing that COVID-19 and the loss that trails behind it is starting to hit very close to home for many of us. A member of our church family passed away last week from the virus. You may very well know others who have lost their lives recently, due to COVID or other causes. Unfortunately, there may be more in the coming days.
So how do we tell our kids about death and dying? How can we help them grieve? Last Fall, our Sunday School teachers participated in some training in how to help our children with grief. I have some of the highlights below and I’ve also added some more tips I found helpful in watching this recent webinar* on talking with children about death. I encourage you to watch the video, but here are some highlights.
Helping Kids Cope with Grief:
– Speak completely about death with children: “____ stopped breathing and they have died.” Avoid saying confusing things like, “_____ is sleeping for a long time.”
– Model openness and vulnerability for children: Name exactly how you’re feeling when you find yourself missing someone who died.
– Name that it is okay to laugh and be happy when you’re feeling sad and missing someone who has died.
– Encourage children to ask questions.
– Reflect on coping strategies that work well for you. Model these and name them for your child(ren). For example, “I need to go for a walk right now to help me think about my sadness.”
– Grief is not only about people dying. Our children may be currently grieving other things, like seeing friends, playing sports, going to church and school, etc.
– Follow kids’ leads for their preferred grief outlets: coloring, imaginative play, playing games, etc.
– Some children may be withdrawing into solitude in their rooms – keep inviting them to do activities as a family, like eating together, going for a walk, playing games, or whatever their interests might be.
– Talk about all of the helpers in your community and the extraordinary displays of love being shown by humanity right now!
– Don’t try to fix their feelings. Let them feel sad and affirm their sadness with statements like, “I feel sad, too.” Giving them space to feel their grief equips them for emotional regulation.
– Be patient with their grief process: your child might have big feelings about seemingly trivial things. (my son Henry was SO mad today that he couldn’t eat pizza for lunch!) This is part of their grief process.
Good Theology for Talking with Kids about Loss:
– Jesus came here to be human and show us all of the feelings. John said, “Jesus wept”. God’s faithful people do not always experience joy. It is okay to feel sadness and despair.
– When children ask tough questions, it is okay to tell them that we don’t know all of the answers. Have grace for yourselves. We don’t know the full nature of God.
– Children may need some sensory practices to help them remember God is with them. Light a candle, ring a bell or chime, or give them a rock to hold to remind them that God is near.
– Children can write a letter to God with their feelings. Tell them God is big enough to handle any feelings or thoughts they lift up.
– Go into the Psalms and read them with your child to show them that generations of people have suffered and asked questions of God.
– Reread the Holy Week scriptures together. Acknowledge the suffering Christ endured, while also reminding them that the story did not end with Christ’s death on the cross. Help them make spiritual meaning in this: what we are experiencing now is not the end!
– Be ready to theologically learn from your child. They can be the best theologians around!
Please know that our clergy and church staff are also here for you and your family right now. Feel free to email us or give us a call if you and/or your children need someone to talk with about big feelings. I also encourage you to join our PUMC Families WhatsApp group to share/receive ideas, prayer concerns, and to stay connected. While we cannot gather together physically, please know that your feelings are valid and that you are not alone!
Director of Children’s Ministry at Princeton United Methodist Church
*The webinar involved two experts from Green Leaf Psychology (Dr. Jennifer McCollum, Licensed Clinical Psychologist) and Sandra Concannon, Marriage & Family Therapist, along with four from Lafayette-Orinda Presbyterian Church — Rev. Jaime Polson, Pastor for Family Ministry & Executive Leadership, Lori Robinson, Associate Director of Children’s Ministry, Keris Dahlkamp, Director of Youth Ministry, and the moderator, Ryan Timpte, Director of Children’s Ministry,
Our Longest Night service is a worship gathering — we commemorate the birth of Christ in a manner more subdued than the typically festive Christmas services.
This low-keyed service provides a spiritual and affective space for the grief that accompanies loss of any kind, loss most keenly felt around this time of year. Music, prayers, candles, bells, and rituals all come together in ways designed to support and nurture faith in the midst of loss.
This year’s theme is “The Gift of Love;” it highlights our need to give and to love, and the symbiotic relationship between the two, so beautifully demonstrated in the Christmas story.
We would be pleased to have you join us for this hour of worship and reflection on Tuesday December 20th at 7:30pm, the evening before the winter solstice, the longest night of the year.
When Christmas is just not the same — because of the loss of a loved one, illness, aging, depression, loneliness, unemployment, loss, or broken relationship, — the Longest Night Service offers a peaceful, healing solace — away from the frenzy of the season. Join us on Monday, December 21, at 7:30 p.m. as we allow the light of Christ to shine through our dark winter night.
In this way people of faith can honor the birth of Jesus away from the dazzling festivity and cheery excitement of crowded holiday gatherings. Stephen Ministers from PUMC will be available to help individuals who would like someone to pray with them. Scott Sherrill will preach.
As Christians, we believe that God is with us, even on the darkest of nights.
Did you know that more and more people are declaring themselves as spiritual but not religious (SBNR)? In her sermon on November 15, Reverend Jana Purkis-Brash said that 70 percent of millennials describe themselves as more spiritual than religious. Yet some 55 percent of individuals rarely or never pray to God or attend service, don’t read the Bible or gather together. Religion and spirituality are not separate, says Pastor Jana, but are one and it is hard to have one without the other.
Gathering together is an important part of who we are and that is why people feel alone in difficult times in life when there is no community to gather with. Gathering with the community can be a place that offers us hope. In church we also receive the gift of a congregation that we embrace so we do not have to face our grief alone. It is God putting on flesh to walk that journey with us, she adds.
Pastor Jana reminds us in 1 Samuel 1: 4-20that Hannah is not an SBNR but a member of an organized religion highly committed to spiritual practices who needs that help to continue on her journey. She goes to the temple, deeply distressed and weeping bitterly, pours out her soul to the Lord and feels God’s presence right there in the sanctuary. As we seek to grow in spirit, Hannah is an example of a role model for us, as she says, “I have asked him of the Lord.” So also, we deepen our faith when we follow Hannah to the sanctuary.
Prayers are offered not just as a request for help but as an indication of people telling the truth about their needs. However, we must also remember that while God will answer our prayer, it is God’s will that is done, not ours.
Feelings are like waves, says Karin Brouwer. You cannot stop them from coming, but you can decide which ones to surf. Karin spoke at the March breakfast, served by the United Methodist Men, on Finding Inner Resilience to Meet Life’s Challenges. Karin trained as a trauma, abuse, and grief recovery counselor, and her insights were so valuable that everyone asked for the power point notes. Here they are.