All Courses Forums Course Discussion Forums Helping Children Grieve Comments on Dr. Schact's Reflection

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      Carolyn Osoinach

      First of all, what a moving story!  So many people are grieving the death of this young boy, in different ways and with different needs.  As a mother and a pastor, I really appreciate the way she described her dual vocations and the ways in which that can work and can end up in conflict.  I also appreciated her acknowledgement of her own grief while she was able to stay present in the moment and minister to those who needed it, not denying her grief but postponing its full expression until her duties as a pastor and mother were finished (for that particular moment anyway).

      What an honest confession, that when Dom died, she was left with no words to offer to God or to others, just with a desperate belief that God was in the midst of what was going on, that God was present.  I am glad she didn’t offer platitudes to either the family or her own son.  She was able to be present and guide them through unfamiliar territory (funeral homes, funerals, rituals, etc…), and didn’t have to need to try and “make things make sense” for them.

      She didn’t try and impose rituals, and she did not condescend to the children.  She came up with ways to make the service and the act of grieving available and relative to their experiences.

      I love the idea of reading from whatever book the child was reading when he died as part of the service.  With my kids, this would undoubtedly be some Pokemon book, so maybe this should be expanded to reading something from the child’s favorite book.  I think that makes the ritual of a funeral more accessible to the child’s friends, many of whom may have read the same book.  I think this could make the funeral rituals more accessible, and it is not condescending.

      I do wonder if any of the children were familiar with the Beatles’ song, Here Comes the Sun?  I appreciate her willingness to incorporate a different style of music, but I expect more of the parents than the children knew that song.  I wonder if perhaps she knew her own son knew that song?  I am not sure that any of the songs my kids would know right now/listen to right now would work!  I think one temptation for a pastor would be to rely on modern “praise” music that makes a theological point – as a pastor, I think there might be some pressure from a church congregation to exclude popular music in a funeral service, so I imagine she had to explore how creative she could be with church members.  Many might rely on popular Christian music as a compromise.  I am glad she did not, especially since Dom’s family was not churched – not the time to preach or proselytize.  Same thing with having the favorite teacher speak, even though she was of a different faith tradition.  What a message to the children – they were all welcome, all embraced, regardless of faith tradition.  Letting the tears fall (while making sure she functioned appropriately as pastor) communicated to the children that Dom mattered, and that their grief mattered to her.

      And she gave both space and support for her own son to grieve.  She empowered him to express his own feelings and process in the letter he wrote Dom’s family, and she taught him (and their family) a ritual in which he could be a full and equal participant, painting and placing rocks at the gravesite that each one made that reminded them of Dom.  I particularly love the t-shirts worn by the sports team in Dom’s honor.  These are concrete things children can do to express their grief.


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