Children and Grief

Should Children Go to Funerals?

I joined a forum at HuffPost Live the other day.  They called me a couple hours before the forum started to see if I’d be willing to add my funeral director’s perspective.  I was not entirely prepared (which was evident in the final question they asked me towards the end of the convo).

Otherwise, it was a great conversation and an honor to be included with other respectable persons in their fields.  The article we are discussing is “Letting Children Share in Grief” from the New York Times.

Disney: Stealing the Death Virginity of Another Generation

The first time death became real for me was when I watched Bambi’s mother die.  I still remember it like it was yesterday.  And yes, I cried.

I cried when Mufasa died.

And Disney’s “Old Yeller” messed me up for like a month.

Yup.  Disney pretty much took away my death virginity.

In fact, Disney has effectively taken away the death virginity of multiple generations.  And they do it so subtly too.  One minute you are watching a movie that has been made for you.  Life is good.  Cartoons are dancing across your TV screen, singing happy songs about the circle of life and the whole time it’s a set up.  A set up to pull you in and steal away your virginity.

Now, they are stealing away the death virginity of a new generation with their “The Odd Life of Timothy Green.”

I have to admit that when I saw the trailer for “The Odd Life of Timothy Green”, I didn’t want to see it.  Not because it looking poorly written or poorly produced, but because of the emotional nature of the story: A couple who can’t have kids miraculously finds a boy named “Timothy Green”.  I’ve grown wise to that cunning Walt Disney.

After watching the video below (spoiler alert), I’m pretty certain I will shield my tender soul from this movie.

Watch as Disney steals the death virginity from these unsuspecting children.

Tips for Helping Your Children Grieve

In the Western world, death is one of the last taboos.  Death has become so sterile … so unspeakable … so frightful … so improper … that we assume we MUST protect the innocent souls from it’s darkness.  In many parental minds, those “innocent souls” who need the most protection are our children.

Death, though, isn’t something that we CAN protect our children from.  It is a part of life.  A part of life that we can either ignore, or we can learn to find the life that exists in death.

Here are a few helpful tips that I’ve gathered from three separate Counseling journals about how to help your children grieve:

  • When death happens, have a close relative, preferable a parent, tell the child about it immediately.
  • Understand that children do indeed grieve, can comprehend loss and experience grief processes.
  • Stay close to the child, giving them physical affection.
  • Let the child see you grieve; it gives them permission to grieve on their own.  “It will help the child to see the remaining parent, friends and relatives grieve.  Grief shared is grief diminished…if everyone acts stoically around the child, he or she will be confused by the incongruity. If children get verbal or nonverbal cues that mourning is unacceptable, they cannot address the mourning task.”
  • Avoid euphemisms such as, “passed on,” “gone away,” “departed”.  In and of itself, the concept of death is difficult enough for a child to understand; using euphemisms will only add to the difficulty.
  • Advise the child to attend the funeral, but do not force him or her to go.
  • Gently help the child grasp the concept of death.  Avoid vague explanations to the child’s questions, but answer each question as honestly as possible.
  • Keep other stressing situations, such as moving or changing schools to a minimum; after the ceremonies, continue child’s regular routines.
  • Be honest with the child about the depth of the pain he or she will feel.  “You may say, ‘this is the most awful thing could happen to you.’ Contrary to popular belief, minimizing the grief does not help.

Based on the above tips, how would you answer the question, “Should I bring my child to a funeral?”

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