Question of the Week: Children Wonder about Suffering


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This week’s question was shared on our Facebook page.

One of our readers is in need of advice or a prayer book to help her fourth-grader understand suffering and loss. Recently there were several deaths in the family as well as the death of a classmate, and now the family dog is seriously ill. During bedtime prayers the child has expressed anger at God and is, overall, very upset. If you have advice or a book to recommend for our reader to read to or with her child, it would be greatly appreciated!

Please share your answers and experiences in the comment box below.

Do you have a question you’d like to submit for a future Question of the Week? Please email us at with “Question of the Week” in the subject line.


About Author

Barb Szyszkiewicz is a wife, mom, Secular Franciscan, managing editor for Today's Catholic Teacher magazine and editor at Her three children range in age from high school to young adult, and she enjoys writing, cooking, and reading. Barb is a music minister at her parish and an avid Notre Dame football and basketball fan. Find her blog at FranciscanMom and her family’s favorite recipes with nutrition information for diabetics at Cook and Count.


  1. That question is addressed in Dear Pope Francis, a children’s book where the Pope answers letters from children around the world. On page 64, a 7 year old from the United States asks, “If you could do one miracle, what would it be?” The Pope says he would heal children and goes on to say, “I’ve never been able to understand why children suffer. It’s a mystery to me. I don’t have an explanation. I ask myself about this, and I pray about your question. Why do children suffer? My heart asks the question. Jesus wept, and by weeping, he understood our tragedies. I try to understand too.” He goes on to say, “My answer to the pain of children is silence, or perhaps a word that rises from my tears. I’m not afraid to cry. You shouldn’t be either.”

    As a mother of five, this question has come up in our family as we have endured suffering too. The words from the Bible, “Jesus wept,” help initiate conversation about suffering, especially for children. It is important for them to know that Jesus understands their pain because he wept too.

    I have also tried to help my children accept and even embrace suffering as a gift, using the story of Padre Pio’s stigmata and my own personal experience as I suffered through breast cancer. In my own suffering, I closed my eyes and saw Christ walking beside me. He was carrying the heavy cross on his way to be crucified. He was sweating and bleeding, tired and thirsty, and He leaned in to me and whispered, “This cross is so heavy. Will you help me carry it, just for a little while?” When the physical suffering for me came to an end, I closed my eyes to see the risen Christ, illuminated and radiant with joy. These images helped me, and as I shared age-appropriate versions with my own children, it also helped them.

  2. Tonya Brownell on

    When our family dog died, our child had a real difficult time suffering. A priest sent us the Mr. Roger’s book, “When a pet dies”.

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