How to Explain Cremation to a 5 year old? - Mothering Forums
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#1 of 12 Old 03-25-2007, 08:42 PM - Thread Starter
 
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My grandmother has cancer and may pass soon. In many ways it is a very peaceful and natural, she is in no pain and lives nearby so we are spending time with her every other day. I think my 5 year old will be okay about her death because she has slowly lost functioning and I think dd will see that great-grandma will be happier to be free of this body, but...

I'm worried about what to say if dd wants to know what exactly happened to her body. Her wishes are for there to be no service of any kind (note: do you think I should do some kind of ritual/memorial just with dd, like would that help her...?), to be cremated and to have her ashes kept until her husband passes someday and then the ashes buried together. What the heck can I say to make cremation not sound scary? My dd is very sensitive and prone to nightmares...

Anyone with any experiences/advice?!!

Thanks so much...
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#2 of 12 Old 03-25-2007, 09:31 PM
 
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I've read that it's best not to use the word "burned" because it can be upsetting. It's supposed to be good to say something like "After Grandma dies, she has said that she would like to be cremated instead of having her body buried in the ground. Cremation is when they put the body into a special room that turns the body into ashes." If the kids want to know HOW the body is turned into ashes, you could say "with a special process" or, if you think your child can handle it, "they use a lot of heat."

No personal experience here -- when my dad died, my son was still a baby.

- Amy, mama to 6 1/2 year old DS
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#3 of 12 Old 03-25-2007, 10:57 PM
 
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Children take their cue for responses and emotions from the trusted adults around them. If you accept crematon as a good choice, you will impart that attitude to your child. If however, you have doubts, find it "creepy", your child will pick up on that, no matter how you try to hide it.

My little ones were 5 and 6 when my father died. They did not attend the memorial service, but did come to a gathering at his home that followed. They were the only children there, among 100 or more people, but I think they benefited from attending. My niece and nephew who were left home seemed to take much longer to process the event.

We spoke frankly of cremation. I sort of see the point of avoiding the word "burning", but my kids would have figured it out, and wondered why I was being uncharacteristically indirect. I did avoid any graphic details, but I think it helped that I am genuinely supportive of the idea of cremation. Besides, I don't think burial is any less "creepy" if you let yourself think of the details too long.

I would advise talking now with your DD about her great-grandmother's body is no longer functioning. Gently but clearly point out how she is gradually losing functioning. This makes death a process, rather than a sudden event.

Do you believe in an afterlife of any sort? If so, you can say GGM no longer needs her body; her spirit is free of the body. Or whatever your beliefs support. If you don't believe in afterlife, you can talk of how she remains alive in the hearts and memories of those who loved her - she finished her time in her body, and the time was right for her to die.

I think too often in our culture, death is taboo - no one speaks of it, we have all sorts of euphamisms, and children especially are sheltered. Good for you that you are letting your daughter participate in this very natural stage of life, and there to help her learn how to react.

Rhu - mother,grandmother,daughter,sister,friend-foster,adoptive,and biological;not necessarily in that order. Some of it's magic, some of it's tragic, but I had a good life all the way (Jimmy Buffet)

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#4 of 12 Old 03-26-2007, 12:31 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks for these wonderful responses--I will point out to dd how GGM is losing functioning so that she will be aware of the process--great idea...
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#5 of 12 Old 03-26-2007, 03:16 AM
 
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Our family dog recently died and we had him cremated. I told ds1&2 that Bubbles' body would be put in a special oven and burned (he would not feel any pain) and we would get the ashes back. They have seen fires in their grandparents' fireplace, so they have seen wood turn to ash.

Now, my ds's are not prone to nightmares, though ds2 did seem to have one the night after we let Bubbles go (had him euthanized). We were all in the room when he died; the boys both said they wanted to stay. We had begun preparing them for what might happen (as far as what would happen if he we ended up saying goodbye that way) as soon as we realized how sick Bubbles was.

There are resources on the internet that can help explain cremation to children. (I was caught off guard when ds1 asked, and had to figure out what to say on the fly. I had no idea what to say, but collected myself and answered simply. What I did may not work for every child.) Here is one link I found. http://life.familyeducation.com/deat...ion/41380.html

Just do a search on something like, "Explaining cremation to child."

I like the PP's suggestions on preparing your daughter for her grandma's death.

Anyway, good luck.

...and, of course, to you.
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#6 of 12 Old 03-26-2007, 02:13 PM
 
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An option is to go for a semi scientific and natural process. The body is made up of water and minerals and other things. When the soul passes out of a body (you can insert your concepts of Heaven if you believe them or whatnot), you can say that what is left is a shell, like you see on a beach. There used to be a little creature living there, but it has moved on.

When bodies are left behind and people move on, some people like to return back to where it came from, part of the same water, earth and air that it is made out of. In granny's case, she would like to return to the earth with her husband. So their ashes are united and dispersed and become part of this earth. What cremation does is help people get back to a nice form for the earth to take it in - it's faster. It's um... a little like baking cookies, heh.

I guess the actual dynamics of the cremation is harder to explain. I think I was explained about it when I was a child (it's part of most Hindu funeral services) and it was always explained to me that it was a cleaner, more hygenic process. There were no boxes and digging, and decomposition, or nasty things. Just pure, clean silt. When I was little, the whole concept of being buried was kind of funny, gross and scary - nobody wanted worms up their noses So cremation is the way to go! I think little boys would probably be more susceptible and appreciative of the gross factor, but I can see how a little girl wouldn't want to even think of that. You never know though. I think I was eight and somebody we knew died, and they told me about cremation, that it was like a flash process turns your body (that nobody will use anymore) into a compact, neat form.

Hopefully I didn't make it worse...

I think it's a beautiful gesture the granny made - I think your child will be okay with it.

FYI - Paul had a cremation and wanted one from the get go.

The only issue I have was with the lack of a funeral process. If the granny doesn't want any kind of viewing, a celebration of life party, like a wake, can easily be done, and I think that helps a lot of people remember great times and enjoy the life of the deceased. It helps with closure too. Paul wanted a grand ole party when he died, and that's what he got. That's the only part I had a hand in, the other stuff his family made plans and I didn't have any choice in the matter of his viewing.
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#7 of 12 Old 03-26-2007, 03:17 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Oh thanks so much--I will use your idea about the body like a shell on the beach, it goes well w/something I just figured out, which is that I can say the body is turned into white sand (instead of ashes, my dh saw some once and thats what he says it seemed most like). Shells and sand and a free happy soul--sounds just fine...Thank you all!
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#8 of 12 Old 03-26-2007, 06:23 PM
 
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: For your grandmother and her peaceful transition. I'm so glad you have the chance to say goodbye and make peace with this, and thankful that she has no pain.

WARNING: The comments and opinions expressed above do not necessarily reflect those of the community in which I reside; or those of the internet parenting network.
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#9 of 12 Old 04-02-2007, 01:14 AM
 
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My mother passed away when DS was 3.5 yrs old. She was cremated and I brought DS along so there would be no mystery as to what happened to his beloved grandma.

I told him she was going to be cremated and a great deal of heat would be used to convert the body into ashes. End of story. The key is to explain as much as you feel comfortable doing without giving your child undue cause for worry or concern. For example, if grandma is currently in a hospital, you'll have to repeatedly stress that most people who get sick and end up in the hospital do eventually get well enough to go home again, although this won't be the case for grandma. Don't want your child to get an unhealthy association of death with a hospital.

Practice saying what you want to say with a friend if you need to. Your emotions and how you tell your DD will have a big impact on whether she'll get nightmares from the experience or not.

My thoughts are with you on this difficult journey. As one faces the imminent departure of a loved one, especially a parent, our lives are never the same again.

Sign hanging in Albert Einstein's office at Princeton: Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted, counts.
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#10 of 12 Old 04-02-2007, 01:32 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks everyone. My wonderful, lovely, sweet, funny grandmother passed 2 days ago. It was a beautiful experience--she was holding my hand...DD hasn't asked the technical questions, we do believe in heaven in a new agey kind of way, and I think dd just accepts for now that her soul just flew up there. Thanks all...
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#11 of 12 Old 04-02-2007, 02:39 PM
 
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You and your family are in my thoughts.
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#12 of 12 Old 04-03-2007, 08:45 PM
 
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I'm so glad you were able to be there!

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