Last week, the Diocese of the Midwest had to deal with the sad and tragic repose of one of our Protodeacons and his Matushka. They were found murdered in their home last Sunday, November 11. What do we do when something like this happens? For that matter, what do we do when our children have to deal with a tragic death of a friend, whether it be an untimely death due to cancer, a drug overdose, or even suicide?
One thought that comes to mind is that we don’t have to pretend that we have all the answers. Don’t give your child canned answers that are meant to appease him or her. Be vulnerable with your child and let him or her know you struggle at times with the same things. I think what is important here is to listen to your child and let him or her speak about his or her concerns. Don’t be quick to criticize if he or she complains about God and the Church and questions why these things happen. Affirm to your child that when someone dies due to such things as suicide and drug abuse, his or her soul is committed to the mercy of God and that we leave any judgment to Him and not our own sense of heaven or hell.
But such occurrences also offer an opportunity to speak about the one reality the Orthodox Faith does offer. We know that by His death on the Cross and His resurrection from the dead on the third day, Jesus Christ tramples down death by His death. By sin, death came into the world, as Saint Paul says in Romans. The death we are talking about here is not necessarily biological death. Sin as a reality brings death into the world in that it separates us from communion with our Creator; to be separated from God is death, even if we continue to live physically. To live in the world for the sake of the world itself — that is, to make the world the source of life — not only leads to physical death, but more importantly to spiritual death and separation from God.
We should be upset and grieve at death because God did not create us to die. He created us to enjoy an unending life of communion with Him. So tell your children that death, no matter how tragic it may be, offers an opportunity to find life in Christ. Take your children to the funeral services in the Orthodox Church when a fellow parishioner passes away. Don’t shield them from death. Help your children see death in the light of Christ as a passage to the day that never ends.
“If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain” [1 Corinthians 15:14].
The blessing of the Lord be upon you.
The unworthy +Paul