Talking to children about tragedy and disaster

After the tornado in Moore, OK. Photo by Sue Ogrocki via thesilverpen.com

Talking with children about tragedy, especially if there is death and destruction, is a moment fraught with both possibility and danger. What follows is counsel from Hollye Jacobs (a mother, breast cancer survivor, nurse, and social worker) on her blog “The Silver Pen.” Hollye writes,

Begin-quotex7152In the aftermath of the Oklahoma tornado tragedy if you’re wondering how to talk to children about tragedy and natural disasters, you’re not alone. It’s totally normal to be bamboozled by such catastrophe. The key, however, is including children in the dialogue.

Many of you already know how important it is to me that adults talk with children and keep lines of communication open. Silence is NOT golden especially when television and other media are depicting graphic scenes of devastation. Children are being exposed to stories and photos of dislocated families, destroyed homes and a rising death toll. UGH. We MUST talk with children about natural disasters.

The thing of it is: when children are left alone with information, they have the capacity to imagine far worse than reality (even when reality is awful!). For example, young children often confuse facts with fantasy and may not realize that the same images are shown over and over again on television. Rather they may think that the disasters are happening over and over again. Yup. How awful is that?

Read the entire post: How to talk to children about tragedy and disaster

Hollye then goes on to detail 10 ‘simple’ concepts to put into action if you are called upon, or if you volunteer, to speak to a child or children about the tornado. She offers sound advice, good counsel, and counsel filled with hope. In her post she expands upon an earlier summary of how to speak with children after a disaster.

Infographic: Helping children cope with a natural disaster by Hollye Jacobs

More from Hollye Jacobs on speaking with children

  • Helping children cope with a natural disaster } a precursor to the post cited here about Oklahoma
  • Discussing cancer with children | addresses the broader topic of talking with children, especially Preschool children, in the context of Hollye and her husband talking to their daughter about Hollye’s breast cancer
  • The Silver Pen. Hollye’s website (which includes her blog posts). In her own words, ” The Silver Pen began as a way for me to document the physical, mental, emotional, spiritual and oftentimes hilarious journey through, with, over and around breast cancer. One year later I’m still in recovery but now on a journey to find Silver Linings in all aspects of life.”

Image source. “A woman carries her child through a field near the collapsed Plaza Towers Elementary School in Moore, Oklahoma on Monday, May 20, 2013.”

“My Shepherd Will Supply My Need”

For those who may need to be renewed in spirit, or those who may need a respite, or those who want to sustain hope in a dark moment, I share this post from the Sunday Morning Forum in which I participate. This arrangement and performance of Psalm 23 has a beauty that refreshes (even if it brings tears to your eyes). ~dan rondeau

Hear what the Spirit is saying

I was reminded of this adaptation of the 23rd Psalm the other day and wanted to share. What a beautiful thing to remember.


(arranged by Mack Wilberg)

My Shepherd will supply my need:
Jehovah is His Name;
In pastures fresh He makes me feed,
Beside the living stream.
He brings my wandering spirit back
When I forsake His ways,
And leads me, for His mercy’s sake,
In paths of truth and grace.

When I walk through the shades of death
Thy presence is my stay;
One word of Thy supporting breath
Drives all my fears away.
Thy hand, in sight of all my foes,
Doth still my table spread;
My cup with blessings overflows,
Thine oil anoints my head.

The sure provisions of my God
Attend me all my days;
O may Thy house be my abode,
And all my work be praise.
There would I find a settled rest,

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A prayer for those who grieve

Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. Therefore encourage one another with these words.

1 Thessalonians 4:13-14, 18 TNIV

A divider

At times, while grieving is intense (which may be any time or all the time or at surprising times) words of prayer may be elusive. Here are some words you may use, here are some words you may ask others to use for you:

Living God, we rejoice in your promises of blessing to those who die in the Lord; so strengthen our understanding of the light and peace which they now enjoy in Christ, that we may find consolation in our sorrow, through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen. —A Prayer Book for New Zealand

Change the pronoun from ‘we’ to ‘I’ and ‘our’ to ‘my’, use other words inspired by this prayer, stop and rest in the opening words, “Living God” and let the Spirit cry out from your heart to God’s heart for you as you stay quiet. Let the Spirit guide you.

Cold Comfort: a poem

Looking up into the sky through branches

One of the bloggers I follow, Diane Walker, posted this on April 18:

The kind words said,
The tender hands
Rest briefly on mahogany,
The hard men come
In their t-shirts and their caps
To drop you here
To rest beside the ashes
Of your love.
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The die is cast,
The dirt and flowers
Thrown into the pit,
The carpet rolled away.
The wailing imprecations
Of the lost and the bereft resound,
Awakening responses in my heart
Too harsh to bear.
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How does Diane end her poem?
Find out: Cold Comfort on her blog Contemplative Photography.
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Image: Diane Walker on Contemplative Photography

Present

From Voice of the Day for 16 April 2013 on Sojourners:

I can’t explain everything but I know this:
In both the joys and pains of life, God is with you.
God rejoices and mourns with you. You are not alone.

Eugene Cho

I share this conviction. I’ve experienced this truth. Sometimes it takes more effort than at other times. Sometimes it takes longer to reach that place of abiding with the ever-present-God. But it happens. What is your experience?

More information:

Crisis and Faith

As often happens, while looking for something else I found what I needed more.

Can crisis lead to faith? Does it always lead to faith? Is it the only way to (deeper, stronger) faith? These were just a few of the questions that came up in our Sunday Morning Forum at St. Margaret’s (Palm Desert) as we considered Saul, knocked down, blinded, challenged in his certainty and ambitions (Sunday, 4/14/2013 reading Acts 9:1-20).

Posted on 8 April 2013, Martin Spinelli shares about his movement from tragedy, loss, dark despair, and hopelessness into a new present filled with hope, and light, and the celebration of life.

Crisis and Faith: How Losing Almost Everything Can Help You See What Matters never uses the word God, but will certainly speak to you who treasure your relationship with God. In the short post there is no news of a return to church, or miracles, but you who gather regularly in church and who have come to look for (everyday) miracles will not be disappointed.

2006. An auto accident. Martin’s wife is killed. Their son, Lio, lies near death:

The space was dark and windowless, lit mostly by the small red LEDs of medical equipment. There, surrounded by a halo of computer screens, I found my only child with a fractured skull, severe brain damage and a horribly shattered left leg. It was suggested that I consider donating his organs. […] But as I looked at him, bruised and battered as he was on his hospital bed, something began to fill the void. I don’t know where it came from or how I came by it, but I was getting something. I had lost my wife, but at least — at least in that moment — I still had our little boy. As I stood there, my thumb wedged in his tiny clenched fist, I found myself saying, “I will face this. Nothing will stop me doing what needs to be done, saving Lio and getting him out of here. He will do it.” […]

Let Martin finish this part of the story for you: read his entire post Crisis and Faith

Mysteriuous, unbidden, at just the right moment, in the midst of pain and loss and darkness … it is how I have experienced grace, love, God. How about you?

When I read this …

… I first thought of those I love but see no longer. Written by Steven Charleston, a (retired) Bishop of the Episcopal Church it seems intended for someone yet living. I chided myself a little before thinking that I have friends, coworkers, loved ones, now dead, who are still living and still guiding and still giving me good example. I do indeed find them just around the corner. I do indeed find them inspiring me still.

I speak these words to them who accompany me along the way; ‘saints in light’ and ever present to me in the Communion of Saints. Perhaps you know someone to whom you can speak these words?

Begin-quotex7152Just when I think things have gotten so bad that there is very little room left for faith in this world, I turn a corner and there you are, still smiling, still believing, still trying to make a difference. You inspire me.

And that thought alone should be a blessing: that you are a source of inspiration. For me. For others. For all who know you. You are a living witness to what a human life can be when lived in a sacred way. Even when the going gets hard, you never let go of your vision. I want you to know how much that means to those of us who follow your example.”

The Rt. Rev. Steven Charleston, Choctaw, 4/9/2013
on Facebook: Native American/Indigenous Ministries of the Episcopal Church