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Young kids and funerals

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How do you handle funerals with very young children, let's say, 8 and under? If it's a family member that the child knew, is it too much for the child to see a lifeless body?

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The first funeral I went to was when I was roughly two or three.  I remember my dad holding me up to see inside the casket.  He said it was an uncle of his.  I was wondering why someone would put a mannequin in a box.  Next (still before 8), one of my great grandmothers died.  I knew it was her dead body, and I remember everyone saying how lifelike she looked.  I still thought a dead body looked about as lifelike as a mannequin.

 

By the time I was 8 years old, I'd been to at least three funerals. I don't recall being traumatized.

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Posted · Hidden by Just_A_Guy, January 26, 2015 - Duplicate
Hidden by Just_A_Guy, January 26, 2015 - Duplicate

The first funeral I went to was when I was roughly two or three.  I remember my dad holding me up to see inside the casket.  He said it was an uncle of his.  I was wondering why someone would put a mannequin in a box.  Next (still before 8), one of my great grandmothers died.  I knew it was her dead body, and I remember everyone saying how lifelike she looked.  I still thought a dead body looked about as lifelike as a mannequin.

 

By the time I was 8 years old, I'd been to at least three funerals. I don't recall being traumatized.

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I think it's a great learning time for children.  The first funeral I remember going to with an open casket was my grandfather's when I was 8 years old.

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Death is part of this life.  Most children can handle it.  It shouldn't be traumatizing unless something is forced on the child, such as maybe giving "grandma" a kiss goodbye in the casket and the child doesn't want to do it.  I believe it's okay for children to see grief.  They need to know that grief is okay and natural, and to see that even grown men and women cry.

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I grew up in the Philippines - we have so many pets and farm animals living in our property that death is just a part of the cycle of life.  I don't remember seeing my first chicken get butchered - chickens are always getting butchered - we kill them before we eat them - ever since before I was born.  We spend all day at the family graveyard a lot - visiting dead people.  My seatmate in 3rd grade died of leukemia and I attended her funeral - she was my first dead person to look at.  And then, of course, there's Jesus hanging on the cross with drops of blood running down his face and his body right there on the altar of the church that we go to almost everyday.

 

It's not traumatic at all.  What can be traumatic is if a child sees an adult's negative reaction to death and then they start to feel there is something to be feared about death.  You know, like in horror movies.  I don't watch horror movies.  I saw Evil Dead when I was 15... never again.

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I hate funerals myself. My family knows that when they go, parents and siblings, I won't be there. I might consider the burial part, but I refuse to attend the viewing and any other such thing.

A funeral of a neighbour boy (back in the Philippines) was really traumatic for me. I was 8 or 9. I knew him. My siblings and I played with him. He died of a failed heart. At his funeral, people were wailing and pawing over his body, it was really intense for me. I couldn't sleep that night. I was scared to death and kept seeing images of his body. Anyway, I must be the exception, because now as a 30-year old adult, I still hate funerals. Though, having been a hospice nurse for a long time, I was around death a lot, but it was different.

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I hate funerals myself. My family knows that when they go, parents and siblings, I won't be there. I might consider the burial part, but I refuse to attend the viewing and any other such thing.

A funeral of a neighbour boy (back in the Philippines) was really traumatic for me. I was 8 or 9. I knew him. My siblings and I played with him. He died of a failed heart. At his funeral, people were wailing and pawing over his body, it was really intense for me. I couldn't sleep that night. I was scared to death and kept seeing images of his body. Anyway, I must be the exception, because now as a 30-year old adult, I still hate funerals. Though, having been a hospice nurse for a long time, I was around death a lot, but it was different.

 

We're the same.  I will attend a viewing but I won't "view".  We have different reasons though.  I just don't want my last memory of the person be while he's dead.  Besides my classmate in 3rd grade, the only other people I've seen dead is my grandpa and my dad.  And yeah, in the Philippines, they PAY for people to wail at funerals.  LOL.  But as kids - my siblings and cousins were like, PARTY!  Because there's always food and mah-jong and card games everyday until the funeral and we just got used to that, I think.  I don't ever remember being scared at funerals.  Even when the older cousins would repeat stories about how the dead person was just seen attending his own funeral.

Edited by anatess

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I hate funerals myself. My family knows that when they go, parents and siblings, I won't be there. I might consider the burial part, but I refuse to attend the viewing and any other such thing.

A funeral of a neighbour boy (back in the Philippines) was really traumatic for me. I was 8 or 9. I knew him. My siblings and I played with him. He died of a failed heart. At his funeral, people were wailing and pawing over his body, it was really intense for me. I couldn't sleep that night. I was scared to death and kept seeing images of his body. Anyway, I must be the exception, because now as a 30-year old adult, I still hate funerals. Though, having been a hospice nurse for a long time, I was around death a lot, but it was different.

 

I don't know how it is for non-member or unendowed funerals, but if you get the chance to dress a dead relative for burial I would encourage it. It is almost sacramental in nature and a way of honoring the body that served your loved one in life.

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We're the same.  I will attend a viewing but I won't "view".  We have different reasons though.  I just don't want my last memory of the person be while he's dead.  Besides my classmate in 3rd grade, the only other people I've seen dead is my grandpa and my dad.  And yeah, in the Philippines, they PAY for people to wail at funerals.  LOL.  But as kids - my siblings and cousins were like, PARTY!  Because there's always food and mah-jong and card games everyday until the funeral and we just got used to that, I think.  I don't ever remember being scared at funerals.  Even when the older cousins would repeat stories about how the dead person was just seen attending his own funeral.

 

Yes, Filipino funerals are dramatic, to say the least. Certainly, the more recent funerals I've been to here in Utah haven't been anything like that back in the Philippines. My daughter has already been to a funeral but she was only a year old, not old enough to know what was going on.

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I don't know how it is for non-member or unendowed funerals, but if you get the chance to dress a dead relative for burial I would encourage it. It is almost sacramental in nature and a way of honoring the body that served your loved one in life.

 

Mordorbund, you might enjoy this if you haven't seen it already.

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I do the viewing thing because I think the family expects it. I don't like it much - as was said about it being the last visual to remember - but I've become accustomed to seeing the maniquin look. I don't think it harmful to children, but I wouldn't say it a necessary ritual.

 

I have found most LDS funerals to be lighthearted. The viewing may not be, but the service sometimes borders on a roast. I'm sure all families are different, but I am speaking from experience of about 10 LDS state-side funerals. 

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I do the viewing thing because I think the family expects it. I don't like it much - as was said about it being the last visual to remember - but I've become accustomed to seeing the maniquin look. I don't think it harmful to children, but I wouldn't say it a necessary ritual.

 

I have found most LDS funerals to be lighthearted. The viewing may not be, but the service sometimes borders on a roast. I'm sure all families are different, but I am speaking from experience of about 10 LDS state-side funerals. 

 

You know... I wonder how LDS in the Philippines do funerals... a lot of the stuff that happens in funerals in the Philippines is due to the Novena that is a Catholic thing.  Hmmm... and with the "no gambling" thing in the WOW, there's not gonna be card games and such.  I wonder if it's as drastically different as a Filipino LDS wedding compared to the traditional wedding.

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Mordorbund, you might enjoy this if you haven't seen it already.

 

I have, and it captures the sentimentality of the experience while providing a practical walkthrough. The only thing I would add is what I mentioned before. It is (for me) a sacred experience that should not be passed over lightly.

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How do you handle funerals with very young children, let's say, 8 and under? If it's a family member that the child knew, is it too much for the child to see a lifeless body?

When my grandmother (bio-grandmother), my bio-dad (still with my mom at the time) insisted that I see her "lifeless body". That is the only thing that I remember about him at all. I was traumatized and could not look at a dead body until I was 15, when my grandmother (Mama's side) and the fear I would never see her again cured me from that fear. Young Children or any child needs to do so when it is right within themselves.

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Regarding funerals in the US, I've attended two now, and I admit the first one shocked me a little. Firstly because I hasn't expected an open casket, I was previously unaware that this tends to be tradition here. Im no child, but I think ill avoid the "viewing" part at the next US funeral I attend, and I've made my wife promise that I will not be observed in this manner after my death in the event that she outlives me (which is statistically likely).

Secondly, as mentioned above, they seem to be a lot more light hearted than I am accustomed to. But I much prefer this to the period of intense mourning that I'm accustomed to at funerals in the UK.

Edited by Mahone

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The first funeral I attended was my little sister's. She was 10 and I was 11. The last I saw her alive was when she was in convulsions and the ambulance whisked her away. Two weeks later we are burying her. 

 

I was so hurt, angry and confused. She had a stupid wig on, and a fancy dress that she had never worn when alive and the makeup was more for a woman of the streets and not a 10 year old child. Grandma had my Uncle (her youngest son) hold me up and over the casket so I could *kiss* her good bye. I kicked my legs, flayed my arms, bit his chest and screamed that I be put down. When he held me up to scold me, I projectile vomited right in his face. It took me nearly two years to come to grips with her death. I lost 25 pounds that I really couldn't afford to lose. I slept under my parents bed too. Since I had to share a room with Grandma, and didn't want to be near her at all. I was angry with her for nearly a decade! 

 

From then on, when my younger siblings went to funerals Grandma and Uncle were NOT allowed near them. No hanging them over the casket to *kiss* the deceased goodbye. What a stupid tradition to begin with. I sure didn't see Grandma & Uncle kissing the dead!

 

Mom and Dad's views were- explain what a funeral was, what happened there and give the child the option to go. All children under the age of 8 did NOT go. Generally a neighbor watched over them. After my little sister's funeral, most of the family converted to LDS, and the funerals were LDS ones. Even for those family members who were not LDS. If Dad and Mom had to 'tend to' the services, then it was LDS. note: Mom joined the church in 1974, two years after Daddy passed. In 1987 she had the proxy work done for Daddy. So at these LDS funerals, after the internment, the younger children were brought to the Meetinghouse for the luncheon. As a teen, I always brought a change of clothing - jeans, blouse and tennis shoes or loafers. The younger ones came in their play clothes. There was always the Primary President there, and she would undoubtedly explain to the children where the deceased was now, the plan of salvation and that we can be sad that our kin is not here on earth, but be happy that they now are one step closer to being with our Elder Brother and Father. 

 

Even to this day I will not attend the internment. There really is no traumatic reasoning for this - I just will not go. 

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I will modify my response . . . forcing a kid to kiss or view is IMO too much.  Good for them to attend, but in the right way.

 

That sucks Iggy . . . although . . . I must say vomit in the the middle of a viewing sounds like something right out of a movie.

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Regarding funerals in the US, I've attended two now, and I admit the first one shocked me a little. Firstly because I hasn't expected an open casket, I was previously unaware that this tends to be tradition here. Im no child, but I think ill avoid the "viewing" part at the next US funeral I attend, and I've made my wife promise that I will not be observed in this manner after my death in the event that she outlives me (which is statistically likely).

Secondly, as mentioned above, they seem to be a lot more light hearted than I am accustomed to. But I much prefer this to the period of intense mourning that I'm accustomed to at funerals in the UK.

 

I have no foreign (outside the US) funerals to compare, but I have attended the funerals of three grandparents, my father, an aunt, a cousin, and a few others.  All have been LDS funerals, and I don't recall any light-heartedness attached to any of them. Though I admit that might depend on what you consider light-heartedness; at my aunt's recent funeral, for example, an uncle (her brother) included some humorous stories about her childhood in his eulogy. Since the funeral was a time to celebrate her life and rejoice that she was among us, even as we mourned her passing, this seemed entirely appropriate.

 

I bawled like a child when giving a prayer at my father's funeral. I was not feeling smiley when we took pictures later, which is why my current picture looks like I'm scowling. (The larger picture of my wife and children, of which my avatar pic is a crop, features all of them smiling away, with me in the middle looking like my father just died and was being buried on my birthday. Which was true.)

 

I have heard that non-LDS funerals tend to be massively depressing affairs. How sad. A funeral should be a celebration of life as much as a mourning of its end.

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How do you handle funerals with very young children, let's say, 8 and under? If it's a family member that the child knew, is it too much for the child to see a lifeless body?

 

I draw the line at under age 2.  If the person was close to the child then they definitely attend and view the body.  We touch.  We say good bye.  We talk about bodies and spirits.  We talk about the resurrection.  We talk about eternity.  And Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.  We teach the gospel in a way that it can't be taught at any other time.  Children grieve too.  And not seeing someone dead shouldn't be a scary thing.  Death is a normal part of life.  I had a friend who was always looking for a loved one who had died, until she became an adult.  The reason was because it wasn't real to her.  If we treat the experience as a normal part of life then kids will too.  Its only when we freak out that they get scared.

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I hate funerals myself. My family knows that when they go, parents and siblings, I won't be there. I might consider the burial part, but I refuse to attend the viewing and any other such thing.

A funeral of a neighbour boy (back in the Philippines) was really traumatic for me. I was 8 or 9. I knew him. My siblings and I played with him. He died of a failed heart. At his funeral, people were wailing and pawing over his body, it was really intense for me. I couldn't sleep that night. I was scared to death and kept seeing images of his body. Anyway, I must be the exception, because now as a 30-year old adult, I still hate funerals. Though, having been a hospice nurse for a long time, I was around death a lot, but it was different.

Bini, not many Utah funerals are like that.  Maybe doing some desensitization "therapy" would be helpful.  Its not good to not address the trauma of that one funeral you attended as a child.

 

to the thread at large: This is exactly why we should use funerals as learning experiences for children.

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I will modify my response . . . forcing a kid to kiss or view is IMO too much.  Good for them to attend, but in the right way.

 

That sucks Iggy . . . although . . . I must say vomit in the the middle of a viewing sounds like something right out of a movie.

I had been crying nearly non-stop since my sister left in the ambulance, and was literally sick with grief. Even though I was 15 months older than her - we were inseparable and the family (extended family also) treated us like twins. The funeral home stunk too,[ way too many aromatic flowers, incense and the heat was turned way up] which added to the nauseous tummy and excruciating headache. In our home, we did not have aromatic flowers, candles and such. We didn't even have aerosol sprays - air fresheners, hair spray, fabric starch, deodorants, etc. as those caused my Mother and myself  to have migraines.  

 

In remembering my first funeral and my last one this last Feb, Only two were not LDS. When I was in High School, my best friend in school lost her baby sister to a freak car accident. They were Catholic and of course Dad and I went to the funeral. Mom stayed home with my youngest sibling. I got sick to my stomach there too. From the incense. I also thought that there was a whole lot of guilt being heaped onto the surviving family's heads. The 5 year old was playing outside at the bottom of the steps (18 cement steps up from the street to the yard area) when a car driven by a teen boy lost its automatic steering and careened into her. Neighbors called the police and for an ambulance. No citations were issued. But that poor teen had so much guilt heaped onto him. He committed suicide about 3 months later. 

 

LDS funerals to me are soothing. I especially like when the Plan of Salvation is reviewed, and when it is emphasized that the deceased has stepped through a door into the next phase of their existence. My next oldest sister gave the eulogy at our eldest sisters memorial. My oldest sister passed during Thanksgiving week (my little sister passed on Thanksgiving day in 1963) - and since she was cremated, we could do a memorial at any time in the future. We had it in March. Better weather, and this gave her co-workers, extended family, church members, and neighbors time to get to Seattle and time to help with the service.

 

We all wrote down serious memories, loving memories and funny memories about her. Then my sister compiled it all into the eulogy. She also sprinkled it generously with LDS teachings, doctrine and scriptures. My oldest sister had been serving in Primary for over 30 years. Her first students were now parents as were their children. My youngest brothers four children, from ages 15 to 10, sang A Child's Prayer,  a cappelia. Because I was family and sat in the front pew, I didn't see all of the people who were attending until we adjourned to the RS/Multipurpose room for the luncheon. Hew ward was in the North Seattle Stake building. The chapel is HUGE! They had opened the doors and the foyer, which is half the size of the chapel I think, had fold up seats to accommodate the overflow. The divider between the RS room and the gym was opened and tables and more chairs were set up. For four hours we were at Church. The little children were there, and they were allowed to play and mingle with everyone. Had my little sisters funeral been more like my eldest sister's - I would never have been so stricken with grief for as long. 

 

Bini, your daughter is about 3 now isn't she? Not quite old enough to understand the concept of death. BUT she is old enough to remember. If you do decide to have her with you at funerals, I wouldn't take her to the viewing or to walk past the casket after the services, nor would I take her to the grave site. 

 

It has taken me decades to form my own view of funerals. They are for the living to help come to grips that their loved one is no longer walking this earth - but is now walking on the other side of the veil / door. It is for the survivors to say good bye.

 

When my Mom passed after 3 years of being bedridden and in constant pain - my two older sisters and I took a trip to Victoria BC via a ferry out of Seattle. We celebrated Mom's life. We celebrated the fact that when she finally let go and passed, she had been pain free for two hours before her passing. We all had been her care givers up to that time. So her passing was a relief to us and we celebrated that too. My Mom and two sisters shared a house, and their HT was a psychiatrist (and a High Councilman) he counseled us that it was ok, healthy even to feel relief at her passing. It wasn't anything to feel guilty about. She passed June 27. We took the trip on the 4th of July. There were quite a few extended family members who thought we were truly Crazy Weird Mormon's to be taking this celebratory trip. There were some elderly sisters at Church who thought the same thing, only they said Heathen's not Mormon's. 

 

But at the end of the day, we were all okay with what we did, and how we felt. Before I packed up to go back home to Oregon, we found Mom's journals. In them we read her views on funerals. Turned out she wanted her funeral to be more of a celebration of her life, not a dark, dreary, dirge. Sing joyous songs, praise Father in gratitude for all the blessings He showered her with during her life. Only remember the good things about her and please, please bury her with her husband! 

 

My Husband and I wish to be cremated - and we both want Happy, Joyous Celebrations of Life memorials. Personally I would prefer that no one wear black. Not even the men - don't want the men to wear suits either. I was born in June, so wear summer colors and summery comfortable clothes. Re-cap the plan of salvation, omit my various callings and emphasize my love of the Church, members and most of all my love of Christ and our Holy Father. Repeat only the good, humorous things about me. Eat the foods that you like, not my favorites. And please, please don't have pictures of me there. I hate pictures of me!!! Plus there really aren't any since my littlest sister took Mom's steamer trunk full of our childhood pictures and they all rotted in her basement when it flooded, and my ex husband burned my hope chest that was full of all the pictures I had taken in my life. Sing Amazing Grace. Play Seals & Crofts Summer Breeze as background music during the luncheon. 

 

You know, think I had better put together the music for the luncheon, what to sing during the memorial, and write up part of my own eulogy. 

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LDS funerals sound nice.

 

My grandfather committed suicide at the age of 72 because he was terminally ill.  His children were horrified.  His death was announced to the family as a natural passing caused by his illness, and the suicide part was super-duper top secret to all but his children and grandchildren.

 

We thought we had the secret managed pretty well, and then at the funeral the priest opened his eulogy with, "It's always a tragedy when a child of God commits suicide like our dear [name] did."  The resulting gasp from the audience almost blew out the altar candles.

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