How to talk to children about death

Lauren Chandler on saying "Goodbye to Goodbyes"

April 3, 2019

Many readers are familiar with the event that turned your family upside down—your husband's brain tumor. How did the uncertainty and fear of that season lead to the writing of your new book, "Goodbye to Goodbyes"?

Lauren: I have always wanted to write a children's book. (I didn't imagine writing one about death!) So when The Good Book Publishing company approached me with a potential partnership, I thought about the stories in Scripture that had been especially dear to me as we walked through Matt's health crisis. The first one that came to mind was the story of Jesus' interaction with Mary and Martha when their brother Lazarus died found in John 11.

In the midst of the uncertainty of Matt's health and our family's future, it was comforting to see Jesus tender with Mary and Martha. He wept with them even when he knew that he was about to heal the source of their heartache—he was going to raise their brother from the grave! Although we desired to see the outcome of health and wholeness, our hope was bolstered by the promise that Jesus would be with us intimately (as he was with Mary and Martha) no matter what and that one day, if we had to say goodbye for now, it wouldn't be forever.

Was it hard for you to write this book, i.e., did it bring up any anxiety as it regards how unpredictable life can be?

Lauren: It was good for me to write the book—to remember God's faithfulness in Mary’s and Martha's distress and in ours. It was good to be reminded that he will continue to be faithful to his promise to not abandon his own and that, one day, death will be no more.

Why do you think many parents are hesitant to talk to their children about sickness and death?

Lauren: Sickness and death are hard subjects for adults. I find that we often don't think much about these subjects until they come crashing into our world. That's why it's important to develop a theology of suffering sooner rather than later. My hope is that this book would encourage parents to think hard and wrestle with Scripture and the Lord through the reality of suffering. It happens on this side of heaven. Why? What will eventually happen to sickness and death? What does Jesus—his life, death, and resurrection—have to do with it all?

What advice would you give parents who want to start addressing these hard topics?

Lauren: Don't avoid them, but don't dwell on them. This is why reading the Bible with our children is helpful. Scripture doesn't gloss over the hard parts of life. God speaks directly to them. You know your children. You know what they can handle and when. Be sensitive, discerning, and wise as you ask them questions or as you answer theirs. Every child is different. One of our kids asked deep, theological questions at an early age, so we were able to answer this particular child a little bit differently than our child who just wanted the quick, sound bite answer. We gave them truth in appropriate doses.

How have you seen your own children helped by the message of this book?

Lauren: They're a little outside the book's target age range (at 16, 13, and 10), but I've found they will never outgrow its message. I want to always put before them that Jesus enters into our suffering with us—he weeps with those who weep and rejoices with those who rejoice. He also conquered death and sin for us. There is pain in our goodbyes now, but there will be a day, for those in Christ, that goodbyes will be no more. I'm not sure they understand the depths of this yet. I'm not sure I do. But I know it is a message I want to wash over us time and time again.

At the end of the day, what are your greatest hopes for how the Lord uses this book?

Lauren: I hope that parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and friends read it to the children in their lives and are themselves moved to love, adore, and worship Jesus for his tenderness, faithfulness, and power. I want to plant a seed of hope in children to remember that goodbyes won't be forever in Jesus. I pray it is a resource for those who have found sickness and death crashing into their lives, to help them navigate the goodbyes with their children.

I'm sure readers will want to know: how is your family doing?

Lauren: We are well! Matt is healthy, and his scans continue to come back clear—no sign of disease. We thank God for his kindness in that! However, we are still working through the residue of that season and would appreciate your prayers. Although there has been physical healing, there is still healing to be had for us all. We believe the Lord has a purpose in the layers of healing and thank him that he has brought us this far and will bring us all the way to him.

You can grab a copy of Lauren’s new book here.

Lauren Chandler

Lauren Chandler is an author, speaker, and singer/songwriter. She is the wife of Matt Chandler, who serves as lead teaching pastor of The Village Church, and the mother of three children.  Read More by this Author