The night before my husband chose to take his own life, I heard Psalm 68:5, “A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling.” God charted the next season of our lives with this promise and I used it as I shared this life-changing news with my children.
“You have a new daddy—God promises to be a Father to the fatherless!”
It was hard to tell this information to myself, so I knew right away that God had entrusted me with a huge responsibility in telling my children. They would always remember this pivotal moment of their lives. We were crossing a holy moment and the sovereignty of God and His promises would be our foundation.
When telling children difficult information, I heard it once said that you should insert only what the suitcase of their hearts can hold.
It is important to tell your children the facts but be careful to share only what is age appropriate. My older children (ages 8, 9, and 10) were told as little as possible, but enough for them to feel they had sufficient information to satisfy their curiosity. Telling my younger children that daddy died was all they could handle. They did not need to know how he died because they just could not understand at the ages of 1-6. Sadly, like sharing the secrets of sex, people will talk, and you want to make sure that you are the one to delicately and lovingly share the details of this news with your children.
Grief over a suicide or another type of tragic death is complex and will manifest in many ways for children. Grief may lie dormant for years until their understanding catches up with their reality. I knew my children would eventually want and need to know the story of their dad; therefore, I took time to write out the story and details of his choice to the best of my understanding and experience then let it sit until it was time to share with them. I took time to share this information with them before they left home after high school. It is never easy to discuss but is important enough to share so that the enemy doesn’t continue to use this scheme against future generations.
What would I do differently today?
I’m not sure that I would change anything as I prayed that God would direct my steps and I believe that He did. I found comfort in the promise that God was their father. I trusted also that He is the great counselor even though God will often use others to speak into a life. The impact of the sin of suicide is deep and long-term. Grieving the loss of father, regardless of how he died, while directing them to God as Father is important and takes lots of time. Getting wise counsel from the Word of God is important. My daily prayer for my children is that God would restore their soul from their walk through the valley of this death.
How are the children impacted by all of this?
Click here to read Q&A with my children almost twenty years after the suicide death of their dad.