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Where was God when I needed him? How could God let my brother die?

Children and grown-ups often have questions about God after someone dies. The one question they ask most often is How could God let this happen? It is common after a death to be angry with God and feel abandoned. Some children lose faith and wonder how a loving God could do such an awful thing. Adults wonder why terrible things happen to nice people too. It helps to know that people have a wide range of feelings toward God like anger, frustration, and disappointment and that it is OK to share these feelings. In fact - expressing these feelings can help to let go of them.

Sara (5): a case study

Cliches often block a young childs understanding of death because they take language literally. Many of these cliches relate to God. Five-year-old Sara was told it was Gods will that her grandma died - that God took

Grandma to be with Him. He loved her so much because she was so good. She misinterpreted the explanation thinking if God could take Grandma, God could take her too. This idea about God created unnecessary anxiety.

My mom said Grandma was so good God took her away. Arent I good too? Why doesnt God want me?

You are good, Sara, and so was your grandma. God doesnt take people away just because they are good. They die. No one knows why some people live a short life or why some live a longer life. No one knows the time they will die. Everyone dies. That is a part of life, whether they do good or bad things.

Julian (7)

My brother Sam was so ill. We took him to the doctors and gave him all of his medicine. How could God still have let him die?

Julian, sometimes there are no answers. I know you and your mom and dad did everything you could to take care of Sam and help him be healthy. Its hard not to blame God when everyone tried so hard. Lots of people feel let down by God when someone they loved dies and they have tried so hard to keep them alive. Other people believe God doesnt let people live or die, but that God stays with you and helps you when you are going through something hard. What do you think?

I think Sam is in heaven with God and they are watching over me. Do you think God is helping Sam in heaven?

Thats a good question. It might help you to feel better if you think God is taking care of Sam. Maybe you can imagine God giving Sam medicine and keeping him healthy in heaven. Drawing a picture of God with Sam, saying a prayer, or lighting a candle feels good too.

Grown-ups cant always give you all the answers about God and death and what happened after Sam died. Sometimes life and death can be mysteries, and there might be a bigger picture than you and I can possibly imagine.

Adam (11)

am so angry with God. I hate God. It's Gods fault my dad got hit by a car.

Anger, blame, hatred, and love are feelings lots of children have towards God after a death. You need to know thats normal and OK. Sometimes I get angry with God too. Sometimes I wonder where he was when someone I loved died. Sometimes I am grateful for his help in getting through my grief. Sometimes I wish I had more answers to my own questions too. There are just some things no one knows.

I cant even say a prayer. I dont believe in God anymore!

I understand you are so angry with God that you feel you cant believe in him anymore. Sometimes we are so upset after someone dies we need someone or something to blame - and that can be God. You might feel like that for a while and that is OK. In a few weeks or months you might change your mind. You might see it wasnt anyones fault - it was just a bad accident that happened that no one could change. You might need some time.

The only question I have now is why did God have to kill my dad?

Right now you feel deeply disappointed in God for not saving your dads life. I cant answer your question for you, but can I talk to you about how you feel about God? How do you feel about what happened to your dad? What are your thoughts and beliefs about God? That might help you to understand your feelings a little better.

Amelia (9)

After my sister died I wanted to know more about God. What is God? What do different people believe?

It seems like you are doing a lot of thinking about God. God can be a special force, nature, a spiritual being, or love itself. How anybody feels about God or sees God is very personal. There is no good or bad way. Some people believe they have a personal relationship with God. Others feel religion brings them closer to God. And still others dont even believe in God.

Some people believe that when you die your soul or the part of you that is God goes to God. Others believe you come back in another form - a plant, an animal, or another human being. Still others believe you are buried in the ground and it helps the plants and animals to grow.

Concluding thought

It is crucial to respect a childs belief system. What do you believe happens after someone dies? is a good open-ended question that opens a dialogue for exploration. Adults can engage children in discovering their own spiritual understandings rather than telling them what they should believe. Then the dialogue can be expanded to an acceptance that many people have different belief systems. Its OK to admit that no one has all the answers about God and the meaning of life and death.

 
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