This past Saturday started off like any normal day.
My daughter Manda was with me along the lakeshore as I taught “Red Hot Faith” with a beautiful group of West Michigan ladies.
Upon returning home, Manda went to run some errands with my husband, while I put my feet up for some rest and relaxation. As I was getting caught up with my friends through FB, I came across a shared news article link reading,
“Police: Girl, 13, stabbed multiple times by brother”
My heart immediately went out to this family, as the online chatter shared this young victim was fighting for her life. I silently said a prayer for all involved, including my FB friends connected with this family.
Before I was even finished praying, my Amanda walked in the door bawling.
She rushed right over and mumbled through her crocodile tears, “Mom, mom, did you hear Emily’s been stabbed?”
I stared at her in disbelief, quickly putting together the puzzle pieces of this unbelievable tragedy together.
The 13 year-old girl stabbed multiple times by her brother is the same 13 year-old girl who lived on our street for nearly two years, and was one of Manda’s dearest friends.
Friends, what do you do when an unforeseen tragedy hits this close to home?
How do we help our kids cope when the unthinkable happens?
Whereas I certainly don’t have all the answers —we all know that, right?!— here’s what I’ve found to help thus far —
1. Let them feel.
Manda —my girl who has a tough outer shell, but a kind, compassionate inner heart —snuggled up close and cried for a good long time. I just let her “feel” her feelings, and then gently tried to affirm and acknowledge the myriad of emotion she was facing.
- Yes, this is so sad.
- It’s ok to cry, sweetie.
- She is a really good friend, it makes sense you would feel so heartbroken about this.
I hope to model to my children the power and priority of prayer. After her time of tears, my girl and I went to prayer. Praying earnestly for Emily, her family, her community. Asking God to somehow use this tragic situation for good and to ask God to surround all involved with His Light and Love.
I cried to my God for help.
From His temple He heard my voice;
my cry came before Him, into His ears. —Psalms 18:6
3. Do something.
It is a bit of a helpless feeling when you want to do something to help, but there’s not much, if anything, anyone can do.
I suggested to Manda we think through ways we could reach out to one of Emily’s nearby relatives, and later walked down the street to deliver fresh flowers to her. Walking down the street, hand-in-hand while holding flowers and a homemade card, somehow made us feel less powerless and more powerful.
Another group of Emily’s friends rallied together and held a prayer vigil for her and her family last night. Awesome! I talked with Manda to see if that was something she wanted to “do,” but because we do not live in that community, Manda felt less comfortable to attend. Do something that feels comfortable for you and your family.
4. Limit social media and media exposure.
I’ve been careful to not allow Manda to repeatedly see or hear coverage on this tragic situation. Researchers share constant exposure to coverage of a tragedy can heighten anxiety, and at this time we are focused on praying for healing for all involved, and that’s an angle the news doesn’t often cover.
I’m also not sure what is being share on FB, Instagram, and other social media sites, so I’ve been extra cautious of the amount of time Manda is spending online.
5. Let them talk.
I’ve learned this weekend that Manda —and my other kids too— just need to talk things out. How could this happen? How can we help? How will this change the future? How could God allow this?
And what they need are not just quick Bible verses to throw their way (i.e. “You know God works out all things”), but for me to really hear their heart, acknowledge their concerns, and listen to them when they talk. Here’s what I’ve found helpful so far:
Things to Say—
- I am so sorry. (this is my all-time favorite)
- Please tell me how I can help. I want to be here for you.
- May I give you a hug?
- Please tell me what you are feeling right now ~I have never been through something like this.
- It’s ok if you do not feel like talking right now. Just know that I am here to listen whenever you are ready.
- Would you like a journal? Maybe it would help to write or draw your feelings out.
Things NOT to Say—
- “I know how you feel.”
- “It’ll all be fine. God knows what He is doing” (Whereas it is true God does know what He is doing, these words are not often helpful to someone going through a tragic season.)
Let them feel, pray, do something, monitor media exposure & let them talk — these are the five things I’ve quickly learned to help us navigate through a tragic situation with our middle-school aged kids.
What am I missing, friends? What else would help? Share with us please!
Also, for those of you who have been praying for Emily, here’s an update from her family (shared with permission) —
“Emily is doing great, her breathing tube has been out for a while, and she has been chatting non-stop…We all appreciate the prayers and love everyone sent her way…and to the whole family.”
Will you join us in praying for Emily’s healing, for her whole family, and for her small close-knit community?
How about for you, friend?
How have you made it though difficult situations? Have you had to navigate your family through tragedy? I’d love to hear from you!
Thanks for stopping by my blog, *She Sparkles*! Have a wonderful week!
Cindy….I saw your fb post and have been praying for this family. I’m so glad Mandy’s friend is going to be okay. These are great thoughts here you share. We’ve not walked through this type of tragedy as a family where it impacts our kids so close to home like in your daughter’s situation but I’m sure we will at some point. I will continue to pray for your neighborhood and this family specifically.
Cindy – love the ideas of what to say and not to say , having walked through tragedy and heartbreak I found many well meaning loving normally very sensitive friends were unable to complete a sentence which made sense or without speaking words of much help … I saw their heart but oh yuck .. A hug a no words would gave better … Thanks for your words in this moment to help each of us learn to think before we speak .. And in doubt be silent and hold close & pray silently (my mantra)