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Susan Adcox

Grand Photo of the Week: Goodbyes

By November 21, 2012

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death of a grandparent

Last week I witnessed five children saying goodbye to their grandpa. One of them read a poem at the graveside, and a speaker at the funeral shared their memories of their grandfather. This occasion was especially poignant for me as we said goodbye to my father last year. His grandchildren and his great-grandchildren took his loss hard, but one thing that helped was letting the great-grandchildren put something in the casket. Mostly they put pictures they had drawn. My grandson put a piece of his origami, and my youngest granddaughter made a whole book, because her great-grandfather liked books. Above you see one of the pages of the book. My favorite page said that Big Paw "was soft and gave good hugs."

Many children first experience death when they lose a grandparent or a great-grandparent. Some observers may feel that placing mementos in a casket is a silly or even slightly barbaric practice, but many people -- not just children -- find consolation in doing so. Many caskets now come with a discreet little drawer for items to be placed in. When a grandparent's death is anticipated rather than sudden, creating artwork can help children be better prepared for the death when it comes.

How do you feel about including children in funerals? What activities do you recommend for helping children deal with grief? Leave a comment below.

Photo S. Adcox

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Comments
November 21, 2012 at 10:59 am
(1) ANNA ROBERTS says:

I am now aged 50 and I lost my grandmother earlier in the year. I was lucky to have had her for so long, but the sadness and longing I had for her once she was gone, was none the less.

I decided to write a story about her life for my own children. I have now had the story turned into a book called The Good Mother Mouse. It tells the story of her life and her passing through a family of mice. The book is available to view online, Just type in St Peter’s Hospice Bristol and then The Good Mother Mouse in their search box. You can view a free pdf file of the book and if you would like to, you can order a paperback copy from me. anna@castlecombetearooms.co.uk. All monies raised from the sale of the book will go to a children’s cancer hospital and charity. Writing the story was very therapeutic for me. It helped my children understand a little about death and how it makes us feel to lose someone. And more importantly, being able to do something good and positive in memory of my grandmother, has been a wonderful experience. If you have lost your own grandparent and have children, then The Good Mother Mouse is a sensitive and gentle story that will make you cry, but it will help to heal as well. Please take the time to have a read of the story. ANNA ROBERTS – CASTLE COMBE – ENGLAND

November 21, 2012 at 11:27 am
(2) Sukhmandir Kaur says:

My 3 1/2 half year old granddaughter has been talking about about death. She told her mom not to worry or be sad becasue a person who dies comes back as a baby. We are not sure where she picked this up as it’s not been anything we know that’s been discussed in front of her, however in her young life we have lost several good friends, she has been to a funeral (perhaps 2) and not long after at the deathbed of a dearly departed one, and kids are like sponges soaking up what ever they hear regardless of their age. She also knows that leaves fall from trees and she may come across a dead creature when on a nature walk, and talked to her mom about it, so in that respect she is also learning about death. We have a dear friend who has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, before we went to visit my daughter explained that our friend’s body is dying. My granddaughter went to her and asked her 2-3 times “You have cancer? until our friend replied “Yes.” We all enjoyed our visit, our attitude rejoice in every breath giving praise to our creator with each breath, thought and deed. When our energy departs this mortal body it merges with its origin into the creator’s light and love and the body remains recycled into creation.

November 21, 2012 at 11:33 am
(3) Sukhmandir Kaur says:

I got so wrapped up in answer your question. Just want to offer my condolences. However we rejoice in life and understand that death is a natural process of completion, there is nearly always a profound sense of loss when a loved one departs this world. I imagine this special ceremony, with the children brought you a measure of peace and joy.

November 21, 2012 at 11:36 am
(4) Kerry says:

I’m so sorry for your loss. I love that drawing and think it’s such a good idea for young children as a way to express their emotions about something so difficult.

November 21, 2012 at 11:49 am
(5) Newlyweds Guide Francesca says:

I’m sorry for your loss. I think it’s important to help kids understand and grieve. Of course, you explain death to them – as you would any topic – based on what’s age appropriate. But they need to say good-bye to loved ones, especially grandparents to whom they are close. They understand much more than we usually give them credit for.

November 21, 2012 at 1:08 pm
(6) Grandma Kc says:

The drawing is beautiful and touching and I like the idea of letting a child put something in the casket — let them but don’t force them. As for children going to funerals I hate to go to them myself and I don’t think a child needs to see a loved one in a casket — let them remember them alive and they way they knew them. For this reason my casket WILL be closed. I really wish I had never seen my own Daddy that way….

November 21, 2012 at 2:41 pm
(7) Nonna V says:

Thanks, Susan, for your question/comments about grandchildren at a funeral. It’s a serious topic and needs to be addressed with great sensitivity and respect to all affected by a loss. Sometimes children have the truly remarkable gift of understanding the most abstract idea or intent. As a child, my beloved brother would slip into my room at night and smudge my eyeglass lenses with his fingerprints. The next morning I would appropriately wail, moan and complain. But for me (secretly) it was an endearing gesture of his affection. So, the gift I gently placed at his side in his casket was a pair of his reading glasses — lovingly and tenderly smudged with my own fingerprints.

November 21, 2012 at 2:55 pm
(8) Lydia (Mai) says:

I think that young children have a better understanding of life and death than most grown ups. What we call death is really an extension of life. I think placing a momento in a casket is wonderful idea. Buddhists will offer items for loved ones to “take” with them. These items include food, clothes, photos of things they liked (a favorite car for example), books, playing cards and even some basic toiletries (towels, soap, toothbrush, etc). I think it’s a wonderful way to remember what made a person so special. I know I have taught my grandson that death is just an end for a tired body but the spirit never dies. ..it just goes on to the next phase in life and it would be awhile before we get to see them again.

November 21, 2012 at 3:36 pm
(9) kimberly says:

We have a big family, lots of friends, so all of mine and now theirs are included in all the goings on of funerals. It is just another part of life, though a heartbreaking one. I think it’s lovely to share one last gift of love and perhaps a very real comfort to a little one.
For me personally, that whole scenario offers some closure that I need.

I know such gatherings as take place this week will still be missing “Big Paw.” I hope you enjoy some stories and pictures and sweet memories of your father.

November 21, 2012 at 4:13 pm
(10) NS Gill says:

Although it is a sad occasion for your family, I hope that coming together to celebrate life with Thanksgiving so soon afterwards helps the healing. Doing things, like the crafts and book, must make the children feel better. Nice idea.

November 21, 2012 at 9:33 pm
(11) Nancy says:

I think it’s wonderful to include children, provided they want to be included. In my experience, parents need to assess this for each child. My father-in-law’s funeral was huge (and televised – not my idea!) and I was glad my son, who was quite young, didn’t want to attend. It would have been too much for him. I do wish we’d done something like you describe, where he could have drawn something special for his grandfather. I will definitely remember this idea.

November 21, 2012 at 11:59 pm
(12) imaddy says:

Sorry so for your lost. We only let our kids attend immediate family’s funeral, and we talk about it extensively with them and ask if they have any questions, we answer all their questions openly and honestly.

November 22, 2012 at 12:03 am
(13) imaddy says:

So sorry for your lost. We had our kids make things that they are good at like drawing or writing and we had them put it in the casket.

November 22, 2012 at 12:06 am
(14) phylameana says:

Including the children at funerals is a good idea, small tokens placed in the casket or otherwise. Not sheltering them aids closure and helps them to better understand the birth/death cycle.

November 27, 2012 at 12:47 pm
(15) Indrani says:

Oh! So sorry for your loss!
A very painful goodbye and how children take it!!!!

November 27, 2012 at 3:48 pm
(16) sara says:

What I believe is the best way for children to learn of the loss of a loved one is to have all the time in the world to explore the loved one to the fullest. Spending time with our parents and grandparents is the best. You absorbed their nature and their ways of living and the memories that you have. When they pass it gives you a stronger ground and foundation to fulfill the path of life that they were unable to finish, the journey that humankind has been on, to explore and share and develop for the next generation so they will have stronger values and morals. Appreciate more what you have . . . be content to take the time to honor that special person’s voice and hear them and feel their compassionate arms that hold you so dear as they whisper in your ear: I never leave your heart and soul and you’ll be watched over. Never believe that you are ever alone in spirits.

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