The Toy Chest

by Darlene

I am looking for a way to help a family through the tragic loss of their 2-year-old son.

A family I know recently lost their 2-year-old son, Matthew, who was playing in a toy chest with one of his older brothers. The older brother climbed on top of the toy chest and fell asleep. Little Matthew was not able to get out and suffocated.

The oldest brother blames the one brother who was on top of the toy chest and he is very angry. These boys are in my class at church and I am searching for ways to comfort them. I know God will give me the words, but if anyone of you have any ideas, I would love to hear from you.

Comments for The Toy Chest

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Jun 29, 2009
Underneath the anger...grief
by: Diane

You don't say how old the firstborn boy is, but I agree with Jennie, a professional counselor could help him and the family feel safe enough to express the grief and deep sadness they feel over losing his little brother. He is probably not the only one in the family that feels better blaming the second-born boy than working through their grief.

So much of life is out of control for all of us, but especially for children. Expressing anger gives the illusion of being in control, so it is hard to stay with the sad feelings, but that is what needs to happen. For the second-born boy it is probably too confusing, as he may not even be old enough to grasp the permanence of death, much less how it could even possibly be his fault.

You indicate the family attends church. At some point this will be comforting to them if they understand that God has determined our life spans, including the date of death.

The support of other parents/families who have lost little ones is irreplaceable in a situation like this also: they understand beyond words.

And don't forget your own prayers for the Lord to touch their hearts with His infinite understanding.

He wept. And He has our precious tears saved in a bottle in heaven.

Apr 01, 2008
Reality Testing Might Help
by: Jennie

Oh, Gosh, what a tragic story...

The older brother is angry that his little brother died, and he is making the other brother a scapegoat, a target for all that anger. Initially, this is understandable, and may be tolerated in the heat of the disaster. But eventually, the older brother must be made to see that this was only a tragic random accident, not the result of malicious intention.

He will destroy the surviving brother's life, (and perhaps his own) if he cannot eventually learn to dissipate his anger and forgive his brother for this innocent although tragic mistake.

Usually, in bereavement cases where there is a significant element of guilt present, it can help the people involved to "reality test" the situation.

In other words, to look carefully and realistically at where the blame and guilt should really lie.

In this case, it would go something like this:

"But he shouldn't have fallen asleep on the toy chest!"

Reality testing:
--"Did he mean for Matthew to get trapped"?
--"Did he mean harm to come to his brother?"
--"Should he really be deemed guilty for his brother's death?"

Adults are usually capable of implementing and benefiting from reality testing. But children can be emotionally irrational about such things, and might not be mature enough to "see the logic". You might try this technique on the boy. Maybe if he realizes he could stand to lose his second brother, too, he can come to some forgiveness and compassion.

I know you really care and want to help, but I really think professional counseling might be necessary... for the entire family.

Before it is too late.

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