How important is community when a child dies?

As I write this I am aware that some of you have had to bury a child. Of all the things a parent is called upon to do this is the most unthinkable, a tragedy on many levels for parents and grandparents and the extended family. Even when the “child” is an adult the death is no less a tragedy. As parents we never expect to outlive our children.

My friend, Brian Prior, is the bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Minnesota. His latest post—The blessing of community in difficult times—needs to be shared. We are part of the community he calls upon for sustenance, prayer, and understanding. His post was prompted by the death of Nicky, a 6-year old Kindergartner who was at an end-of-school party: “this last Friday [6/1/12] a kindergartner from Breck drowned at a pool party he was attending with school friends.” Even though we have never met Nicky or his parents, we know the excruciating pain of such a loss.

In his post Brian reflects on the role of community in helping everyone, especially the parents, to grieve and find both comfort and hope to meet the days ahead. Brian well understands the power of community: He was only 13 when his father died. Brian remembers, even now, who was present to help him and the entire family move forward after their tremendous loss.

Brian writes, “As I talked to Nicky’s parents, grandparents and others who came out to be with them, over and over again the question was asked, how would someone make it through such a tragedy without a supportive faith community?” His answer is profoundly true, “I have no idea.”

To you whose loved one has died, I write to encourage you to let the community carry you as necessary. To you who walk with the dying and the bereaved, I write to encourage your compassionate and consistent presence—it means more than you can know. When death comes our words are inadequate, but our presence is eloquent.

Do you have a story to share? Do you have wisdom—gained “the hard way”—to share? I encourage you to read Brian’s post, and share a comment with him as he and the larger community minister to Nicky’s parents and to those touched by the life of this little boy.

One thought on “How important is community when a child dies?

  1. From what I have read and experienced, parents who have lost a child either feel tremendously supported or tremendously abandoned. Those who have support are indeed blessed. Honestly, though, sometimes there is no community to “let” carry you as necessary. I, too, encourage those surrounding those who deeply grieve to step forward instead of pulling away. When the instinct is to step back, that is the time to step up instead. Support can make all the difference in the world…lack of both immediate and ongoing support makes the loss much more difficult to handle.

    Thank you for your post.

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