Friday we had a day of learning at NTS around the theme of bioethics. I attended a workshop on children and dying. They discussed a lot of euphanisms for death (expired, passed away, gone on, etc.) and medial “jargon” that sometimes frightens children (DOA, DNR, etc.). One euphanism that we use that remains dangerous is the phrase “gone to sleep.” The counselors cautioned that we should never use this with siblings around since many children will then be afraid to go to sleep. What do chaplains and children’s doctors say to a sibling when their brother or sister dies? One they use goes like this: “your brother’s (or sister’s) body just couldn’t produce enough energy to stay alive.” I am sure this could be misinterpreted as well but it might be better.
One thing they suggest is that we never mix theology with death reports (attributing death to sin or God’s direct activity). I wonder if some of our theological euphanisms might be just as bad. If we say someone has “gone to be with Jesus” and then ask a child if they would like to “give their heart to Jesus” it would not be a surprise to hear them say…..NO WAY! I imagine we could confuse a child with another phrase as well “the Lord has taken them home.” How many times do we use a euphanism that backfires with a concrete thinking child?