Three weeks ago, my ten-year-old confided in me that the scariest thing about COVID-19 is that none of the adults know what’s going on. His words bounced around inside me for days – I realised how unsettling this must feel for our children who are still just about basking in a pre-teen bliss of believing that Mum and Dad are invincible heroes who can fix anything. We took a determined stand against insecurity: extra patience, healthy routines and loads of fun. Perhaps, deep down, I was fighting to remain that invincible hero who can protect my kids from anything scary.
And then the phone call came. We’re all together, all the time, aren’t we? And so, when we received the sudden, horrific news that a young friend had lost his life to COVID-19, our kids were right there as we crumpled and wailed and wept in painful horror, disbelief, and sorrow.
Honestly, it’s not the way I’d choose to share that kind of news with my children. We’ve experienced bereavement before, and have thought of calm, careful ways in which to break sad news to them. We’ve agreed in advance what we’ll say and how we’ll say it, foreseeing every possible reaction. We’d never plan to fall to the floor, clinging desperately to one another, tears and snot running down our faces, crying out “WHY?” in anger and disbelief.
We’ve journeyed a few weeks on from that point now, and it’s been a messy but beautiful time of being real and honest with our kids. There’s no escaping one another at the moment, so they’ve seen it all. Faith is an important part of our family life, but that doesn’t mean I have answers to these big, painful questions. Instead, we’re learning that it’s ok to parent without answers. We’re careful to protect our kids from terror and hopelessness, but we’re ok with showing them that we’re sad and confused and hurting inside. It’s fine to hug and weep and not have anything wise to say. We’re on a journey together, and that’s the important thing.
Living out everyday life together as family is a healing process. We’ve walked and talked every day; the children have nurtured seeds into fragile plants, helping them to think about life and death as something that’s part of every living thing; they’ve written cards and drawn pictures for our friends, and found ways to be kind and encouraging to others. Overall, I think they’ve seen that Mum and Dad haven’t got it all together all the time, but life’s still good, even when it’s really hard. It’s a lesson we all have to learn eventually!
Being together 24-7 can make moments like this seem challenging. We’re not always in control, and sometimes that is scary. But living life in its fullness – warts and all – in front of our children presents opportunities beyond anything we could have fabricated. I hope that our tears and laughter of the last few weeks will inspire a lifelong understanding that sorrow and pain are not the end of the story – the only response to death is more life.