This has been a whirlwind week for us. My mother-in-law, Nana, was put into hospice a couple of weeks ago. So last Sunday, we piled into the car, stopped in Ocala to pick up two college kids, and headed down to Port Charlotte to visit Nana. We knew it would likely be our last visit with her, but we were unprepared for how sick she really was. With seven kids gathered around her bed, we sang every hymn we could think of. We hugged her, stroked her swollen hands and said our goodbyes.
Four days later, we got a call that Nana had passed away. She was 85 years old, a life-long missionary who raised four boys — first in South Africa and later in Florida. Her hospitality to college students and so many other families that graced her table is legendary. Her large, Dutch frame was matched by her generous good nature. I knew Nana even before I started dating her first-born at 16 and she did not complain. Eternally sunny.
Matt and Annalise cried pretty hard the morning she died. The boys were less demonstrative and Rachel had processed most of her grief the day before, as she had left classes and driven down to spend one more day with Nana. For Matt and Annalise, who were 6 and 4 when Dan died, Nana’s death brought those feelings back up to the surface. And so this week, especially, we’ll talk about those feelings, tell stories of Nana and Dan, what we loved about them and remember special times we had together.
We also have this book sitting on the nightstand to read together:
This interactive book allows the child to draw pictures in the book to express his feelings. I actually ordered it this summer because I was looking for some books that would help my kids continue to process grief. Only Annalise still talks about Dan on her own. Matt rarely volunteers a memory or feeling but I know they’re in there and reading books together gives permission for those feelings.
We also tell lots of stories about Dan. I’ll say things like, “Daddy always loved this restaurant” and “Do you remember the time Daddy . . .” to help my youngest kids keep good memories as they grow up. It’s so important to me to have an ongoing conversation about Dan and my kids’ feelings to help them process their grief and move through it. And I want them to know their dad.
Friends were so kind to give us books after Dan’s death. I also found several on my own and in that spirit, I’m listing a few that I used with Matt and Annalise.
Tell Me About Heaven. This book, by Randy Alcorn, helps to answer questions about heaven.
Heaven: God’s Promise for Me. This is a sweet book by Anne Graham Lotz that I read with Matt and Annalise after Dan died. We did a study on heaven with the older kids, but I wanted a resource for my youngest kids. I so appreciated being able to snuggle together, read and talk about all that our loved ones have in heaven and what awaits us.
When Your Grandparent Dies: A Child’s Guide to Good Grief. This is a book I have on order. I’ll update as soon as it comes in and we’ve read it.
Hinds Feet on High Places for Children. This book went a long way toward our healing after Dan died. A friend, who had read this with her children during a painful divorce, sent me her copy with a kind note. I’ve since ordered this book for several other friends. It’s a beautiful allegory about trials and suffering we encounter in life.
In Hinds Feet on High Places, Much-Afraid, leaves her Fearing family and sets out to the high places of the Chief Shepherd. She’s helped along the way by two kind friends, Sorrow and Suffering, as well as the loving Good Shepherd. The original classic by Hannah Hunard, has been beautifully illustrated and edited for children. I had read the original version years before (highly recommended) but this illustrated child’s version was meaty and healing.
When we were at our most raw, we would read a few pages of Hinds Feet every morning for our Bible time and let the rich truths of this story sink in. The book is based on Habakkuk 3:19 ~
The Lord God is my strength, and He has made my feet like hinds’ feet, and makes me walk on my high places.
To this day, every time I see a deer by the side of the road, I think of this verse and how God is leading us to Him.
I hope these resources are a help to you. And I’d love to hear of other books that have helped you or your children in times of grief or a particularly painful trial. If you have a book to recommend, please note it in the comments. Thank you!