Explaining death to children can be a difficult situation. More often than not, parents and other adults get it wrong. The children end up even more confused than before.
I've witnessed nuns ushering children through the church and back to class while we were setting up a funeral. All the while saying things like; " It's part of life" or "We all die". Many times I'll see parents trying to quiet or calm children for a service. The child barely realizes where they are or why they are there. Parents will force children to sit quietly for a few hours before the service and expect them to continue their boredom throughout the service. Rarely, does any of this work and certainly doesn't explain to the children anything about death. Often I think they only bring the children because there is no one to babysit in such a situation.
I've even seen one child get upset in the middle of a service because she wasn't sitting where they always sit in church.
Recently, I found myself at an evening funeral at a tiny country church. When they remodeled the church a few years ago, they put in a single door at the entrance. With a step at the threshold, and five more steps three feet from the door, we had to carry the casket at the ends to fit through the door and then directly up the steps. On the way out we squeezed two pallbearers at each end and proceeded down the steps. As the preacher opened the door and we stumbled over the icy doorway, I was expecting to see my beautiful hearse with the door open and all the bright LED lighting illuminating the rear compartment. But what did we see instead? Two children! Climbing into the back of the hearse! The other men and myself were in need of setting the casket down and all we could do was yell at the kids to get out of the way.
My parents sheltered me from death. Even when my Grandfather died, we did not attend the funeral (for multiple reasons). We simply stopped going to his house. It wasn't until last year that I finally made it to the cemetery where he is buried although his death was over 30 years ago. And none of my siblings have ever been there either. We never said goodbye to anyone, we just never got to see them again.
I've recently run across this Sesame Street example that does an outstanding job of getting the point across to a child (or Big Bird) as to exactly what is going on. In it, the storekeep, Mr. Hooper has died. The writers decided to have the character die as well. >>This is how they handled it.....<<
Death is never easy and there isn't always a good reason.
But I feel that we need to educate our children better.
We don't need distraction toys in the lounge, we need to teach respect and honor.
How did you learn about death?
Did your parents shelter you?
Or were you faced with it head-on with no explanation?
What was your first experience like?