How do I cope when a loved one dies very young?


by Shari Abbott, Reasons for Hope


Loss of someone we love is never easy, regardless of their age.  Their absence in our lives breaks the heart and steals our joy.  Always allow time for grieving, understanding that we were created by God to feel emotional pain and that grieving is natural process of coping with loss. God gave us the ability to love, and in the loss of loved ones He has given us the ability to grieve.  And we can trust that He is with us in our grief.


As stated, we grieve at the death of friends and family of all ages.  We even grieve when we hear of the death of people we don’t know, perhaps public figures we admire or deaths from violence or catastrophe.  But in your question, you are asking about a very specific loss, that of someone young — perhaps a child or a young adult.


As with all death, we as Christians should remember that God did not create us to suffer in this way.  He created Adam and Eve perfect, and it was only because of their disobedience that sin entered the world and the physical body became subject to death.  They were banished from the Garden of Eden where they had been given the Tree of Life.  Therefore, no longer would their bodies be eternal.  Of course we also know that along with the beginning of the process of death for their bodies, came a spiritual death.  But God in His mercy provided a way for man to be restored both spiritually and physically.


So as Christians we have great hope when a loved one who belongs to the Lord dies. They have been spiritually reborn and will have eternal life with Christ.  If we have lost someone whom we believe was not saved, we can still hope that before they took their last breath they trusted in Christ.  Remember it is Christ Who saves.  So even if we did not hear a public profession of faith, there is always hope that the person might have called out to Christ before death.  Now that may not give us the comfort we desire, but it does give hope.  Remember there is always hope in Christ’s mercy and grace.


How to Cope When a Loved One Dies Very Young


Back to the question of dealing with the loss of a young person.  It might be easier to accept the loss of the elderly because in our understanding they have lived a more complete and full life.  We fully acknowledge that losing someone at a young age is often more difficult.  But coping with the death of anyone we love, under any circumstances, should always be the same for Christians.  We must remember to do exactly what God commands us to do…trust in Christ.  He commands this because He loves us.  We are to trust that He is the Sovereign God over everything and in His purpose and plan He is working all things our for our good and to His glory (Romans 8:28).  Believe that even in our losses are His blessings and His will for us in Christ Jesus (1 Thessalonians 5:18) — and remember and believe that one day we will understand.  



Allow yourself time to grieve.  Let the heart break and the tears flow, but in doing so seek the Lord and He will give you His peace (John 14:27) and comfort (John 14:16-18).  It might not seem enough at first, but trust in Christ’s promises, and as you move forward you will feel the pain of loss less and feel His presence more.


I  have personally experienced the loss of loved ones who were very young at death.  Two nephews at eight and nine, a best friend at 16, and a daughter at 29 (a prodigal loss — not death, but a similar experience of loss and pain in many ways).  What comforted me most in each loss was very different.  I was a child myself when my nephews drowned and it was my parents who explained that they were in heaven and now living with Jesus.  It was a very simple assurance of hope in God’s promises for His people.  When my best friend died at 16, all of us (her girlfriends) were inconsolable at her funeral.  It was her mother who came to us and comforted us with the words, “don’t cry for Jill, she’s with her Lord and Saviour in heaven.”  Those are words I’ve never forgotten and they are one of the very best (and shortest) testimonies I’ve ever heard.  Both of these examples provided an eternal perspective and gave comfort from the promises of Jesus. He has prepared a place for us and one day we will be with Him.


There were many other losses of gone-to-soon friends and family — a childhood playmate from illness, a long-time friend who drowned in college, a great-nephew killed in a car accident… and far-to-many others.  In the most painful loss I experienced, I came to understand how important the mind is in the grieving process.   By continually remembering Who God is, what He has done for us and who we are in Christ, we can and will find the strength and comfort needed. (I speak a lot about this in my book Why the Butterfly? A Book About Remembering. Read preview here.). Rightly remembering those three things focuses our minds and hearts on Jesus.  Rightly remembering will help us to keep an eternal perspective.  And, by anchoring our hope in Jesus, we can transform our minds and cope with grief much better.


So again, it is important to allow yourself time to grieve.  Below are a few suggestions.  But remember no suggestions from a mortal person can give you what you fully need to get through the grieving process.  Only Jesus has the strength and comfort that truly heals the heart and refreshes soul.


1) Seek the Lord first.  Pour out your heart to Him in prayer and hear Him speak to you through His Word.  Read the Bible focusing on His provision of comfort and peace in your suffering.  Remember that Jesus wept when His friend Lazarus died (John 11:35).  Shed your tears, experience the pain, but in your grief look for the Lord’s blessings.  Laura Story puts it well in the refrain from her song, Blessings:

What if your blessings come through raindrops

What if Your healing comes through tears

What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know You’re near

What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise


2) Allow your Christian friends to comfort you.  When the grief is so great you can’t see the light through the tears, you can’t find His joy in your pain, let God work through His children as Christian friends share His love and His promises with you.  


3) Keep an eternal perspective.  This life is not what God intended for us.  With all its pain and suffering, this earth is not our home.  There is a home of total peace and comfort promised to us by Jesus (John 14).  Michael W. Smith’s song, Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus, reminds us of this hope:


Turn your eyes upon Jesus

Look full, in his wonderful face

And the things of earth will grow strangely dim

In the light of his glory and grace



Remember, one day God will wipe away every tear.  God will make all things new. 

And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. (Revelation 21:4)


But until that day…

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13)


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