Trip to cemetery with 4 year old? Your opinions, please? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 19 Old 08-09-2006, 11:21 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Hi Mamas,

Would you take your 4 year old to the cemetery?

I ask b/c although I've ALWAYS been honest with my children about death, I have yet to bring them to the cemetery where my parents are buried. DS#1 has been asking loads of questions about death lately (and has on and off for some time) and just today asked if I would bring him to the cemetery to "honor my mother". He said this b/c there's a cemetery near his preschool and he asked what people were doing there one day, walking around the headstones. We haven't yet discussed the details of what the cemetery actually is. Like, I don't think he really "gets" that some people choose to be buried in a casket in the ground. But it seems like he already knows this. In fact, he has said something before about people going to the cemetery and "not leaving". I have just chosen to not go into those sorts of details with him just yet.

So, should I bring him? And if I do, is a 4 year old ready for a discussion about burials/bodies in the ground, etc? That part might not even come up, but I'm sure he'll ask if my folks are really there, under that headstone.

TIA.
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#2 of 19 Old 08-09-2006, 11:42 PM
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I've been taking my 5 year old to the cemetary to visit his brother forever, but that's different I guess. We've explained to him about death and everything but sometimes he still wants to dig his brother up to play with him. I don't think he really "gets" that when you're dead you're not coming back.
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#3 of 19 Old 08-09-2006, 11:50 PM - Thread Starter
 
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2Sweeties-Thanks for your reply & insight. This is what I'm looking for. Interested to see what everyone else thinks, too.
And I'm so very sorry for your loss.
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#4 of 19 Old 08-10-2006, 12:05 AM
 
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I have taken my now 3 year old to visit my mother's grave (a year ago) and I have a photo of her on our landing. He knows she is "mommy's mommy" and that she loves us.

We don't go often because her grave is very far from us, but we get out there about every 2 years or so. I will bring the boys with me every time I go because I think it is important.

- okay, just thinking about this makes me miss my mom so much, you know? and I know I will get upset and cry when I visit the grave, but I also think it is important for my kids to see that. I don't want them to be afraid of emotions like my father's family is.

Siobhan

You know the attributes for a great adult? Initiative, creativity, intellectual curiosity? They make for a helluva kid...
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#5 of 19 Old 08-10-2006, 12:11 AM
 
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2Sweeties & Bearsmama - I'm sorry for your losses

My mom and dad had a little girl before I was born. She died at 2 days old and I grew up going to the cementary to visit Amy. I really didn't understand that 1) I couldn't just dig her up and play w/her, I was convinced she'd be nicer than my other, older sister and 2) that when you walk on the ground at a cementary that you aren't walking on the people. It totally freaked me out to learn about bodies being buried and then walking to Amy's gravesite where you'd have to walk over a couple of rows to get to it. I remember dreading going to w/my Mom and "walking on the babies" (Amy was/is buried in the children's section) and talking about it w/my kindergarten teacher early on in the school year (and I started at 4.5, so I wasn't much older than your son is now).

If it was my kid, and he had an active imagination, like I did, I'd explain that we go to the cementary to honor our loved ones, to visit their grave stone and think about them, but I think I'd leave out the bodies being buried for a while. That was my experience at least.
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#6 of 19 Old 08-10-2006, 12:44 AM - Thread Starter
 
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siobhan-Thank you. And the whole discussion makes me miss my mom, too.

And Em-thank you. My son has a VERY active imagination. Somehow he already seems to know that there are bodies buried under the ground at a cemetery. I never told him this. And in fact, have only ever said that people go to the cemetery to honor the people they love who have died. In fact, I was just talking to DH and mentioned this question that I posted to everyone. He said that DS just mentioned something about cemeteries to him the other day, too. And I started getting worried that he told DS too much. Thankfully, he did not. And I say this b/c of my son's imagination. And the fact that he lives in his head a lot. We're very honest about everything. I never brush off his questions. But I do, however, think about how much information I am going to share with him. I consider how far I want to take the conversation and how much I think he's ready for.

Oh, and this is a side question, but I am hoping that it's really, really normal to ask so many questions about death at this age??? Huh? And the questions have really stepped up a bit recently.

Thanks again, mamas.
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#7 of 19 Old 08-10-2006, 01:13 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bearsmama
Oh, and this is a side question, but I am hoping that it's really, really normal to ask so many questions about death at this age??? Huh? And the questions have really stepped up a bit recently.
It was normal with my dd (now 6yo), but then again I have had many conversations with her about death since she
was maybe 2.5-3yo.
My Mother became ill while I was pregnant, and wasn't expected to live to see dd born. I moved in to help my Dad
care for her. So her "Mema" being very ill is all
she has ever known of my Mom. Dd has always been really comfortable with my Mom, her hospital stays, and sickness. During a couple of those hospital stays
I felt like I should prepare dd in the event that Mema wasn't coming home.

Even last Saturday we called 911 for my Mother, and at one moment alone at home with dd (my dad had followed to
the hospital) I had a moment where I thought this was it. I started to cry really hard and dd came behind me and
just had the perfect words for me. Comforting me when I felt like I should be reassuring her. "Cry it out Mama. It's
okay to feel the feelings. Jesus will be with Mema and she can watch over us, it will be okay." Then I started crying
cause my dd was just helping me so much and I was proud of her.

From watching my dd. (She has dealt with my Mom. The loss of my Aunt, and both my Uncles. She has attended their
funerals, and been to their graves/mausoleum with me.) Some children have more questions about death and they
can also have a better understanding than we give them credit for. Not that we shouldn't be careful sharing too much.
I am just so amazed at her ability to process it all.

In fact my dd likes to visit cemeteries. I always loved cemeteries as a child. My Mother tells me stores about
when she was young she would pack a pickle and a book. Then ride her bike to the cemetery to read and have
a picnic with herself. My Dad thinks were all creepy, but to each their own.

-Janna, independent mother of dd, Ms. Mattie Sky born on my 25th birthday, 06*23*2000. My Mama Feb.21,1938-Sept.10,2006
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#8 of 19 Old 08-10-2006, 01:28 AM
 
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Hey Bearsmama!

First, yes, at his age I think it's absolutely normal to ask so many questions. My oldest started a little sooner because I was in school to be an embalmer (hence the username "embalmer girl" ) when she was just over two so she wondered what I was doing at work or school. But I would say that since Bears has a basic grasp of what cemetaries are, he would probably do fine on a visit. I'd just keep it short and answer with short explanations any questions he has.

I think death is one of those topics you revisit many times over so no need to offer everything at once, anyway.
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#9 of 19 Old 08-10-2006, 09:53 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by trinity6232000
Some children have more questions about death and they
can also have a better understanding than we give them credit for. Not that we shouldn't be careful sharing too much.
I am just so amazed at her ability to process it all.
I agree, and I've had this experience with dd (now 5.5). My gma died when she was nearly 4, and while she had many questions about death, she handled the experience extremely well. We recently visited gma at the mausoleum (on a visit home), and she handled that well, too. She absolutely understands that dead people do not come back, and has for a long time.

Each child is different, and you are the best judge of your own child. But trips to graves can definitely be healthy and helpful for some small children. And if my child *asked* to go, that would factor strongly in my decision. It is often easier for children to process and accept death than adults.
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#10 of 19 Old 08-10-2006, 11:23 AM
 
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I agree that it's individual - we also had a (very close) grandma die at three, and it resulted in a long-term phobia around death. Mainly, she's worried about anyone else she loves dying and never coming back, never seeing her mama or daddy or brother again in this world. Her understanding then expanded into knowing when you get older, you're one step closer to the grave, baby. She really wishes I would dye my hair so the grey hairs would go away. Let's just say that we don't go visiting many graveyards.

There was a very, very funny book I found about death, it was by a Dutch author I think. I at least thought it funny. My daughter, not so much. But it explained everything in a very multi-dimensional manner (what different people/cultures think happen after you die), including the graveyard and burial customs. It was cartoonish. If I can find it, I'll let you know.
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#11 of 19 Old 08-10-2006, 11:30 AM
 
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I began taking dd to the cemetary to visit my mom's grave since she was about 4. She didn't have too many questions then. But we visit about once a quarter she is used to it. She is 5 now and has began asking how did your mom die? What was she like? Was it gray when your mom was alive? (She means black and white pictures LOL). What were fun things your mom did with you? Was she sick a long time? When will you die? I want you to live forever, until I'm a grandma. Things like that. She is still trying to grasp mommy's, mommy in the ground. She asked to visit her great gma's grave at mother's day. Gramma passed away back on Feb. 14th. Dd was close to her.
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#12 of 19 Old 08-10-2006, 12:14 PM
 
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Hi Bearsmama. Over last few years we've taken our young children to wakes and funerals of family members, and talked frankly about death. Most recently, probably a year and a half ago (??), we attended a funeral and the graveside service of a relative. That would've put the kids at about ages 5, 3 and 1. We not only went, but when my oldest began asking questions about the cemetery we told both kids that when people die their bodies are buried in the ground. We even discussed decomposition, with an emphasis on the fact that it is only their body, that the person doesn't feel going into the ground or decomposing. We've discussed that their spirit lives on as part of the universe and everything in it, which gives some comfort and fits with our personal beliefs (and we've discussed that no one knows for sure what happens, but we do know that once a person dies their body doesn't move or feel anything). We've discussed it all very matter-of-factly, openly answering all questions as age-appropriately and honestly as possible. The kids have handled it all very well. Their biggest concern about death is who would take care of them if we died, and of course they have asked if they will die. I think this interest is very normal.
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#13 of 19 Old 08-10-2006, 12:18 PM
 
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My ds is 3-1/2 and has visited the cemetary where my mom is buried 3 times now. We try to go every year. The last time we went was only a couple of months ago and it was the first time that I was a little concerned about ds's questions. We always talked about nanny and about how she died (10 years ago so he doesn't have any memories of her). He seems to grasp a little bit about death but we have never gone into the bodies in the ground discussion. I'm not sure why. Probably because it freaks me out a little bit and I'm a grown woman. If he had asked we would have been honest with him and answered his million questions but he never did ask.

Karen - spouse to dh for 11 years, mama to ds (Nov '02), dd (May '05) and ds and dd (Jun '08)

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#14 of 19 Old 08-10-2006, 01:07 PM
 
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We haven't been to a cemetary for awhile because our family is buried in another state. When we lived closer we went to the cemetary sometimes though. I don't think dd really understood but I think avoiding would have made it more scary.
I think my dd had a lot of questions about death between ages 3 and 6 so that is probably very normal. We had some pets die during that time which really needed a lot of patience and explaining.
If your dc wants to go and is asking questions I'd take him. You don't have to give more details than he asks for.

Kim ~mom to one awesome dd (12)

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#15 of 19 Old 08-10-2006, 02:00 PM
 
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I guess we have just aslways been very blunt about cemetaries and it has never been any sort of issue. wehn our bidies die we bury them in the ground because we don't need them any more. but then we have small rodent pets and fish pets that were forever dying and forever getting buried . . .. we have also had a lot of friends die. (two daddies and two kids) so no i think that 4 is in no way too young for that.

what we haven't really addressed is whypeople go back to the cemetary to visit the graves. honestly I am not even sure. we have put flowers on graves because we new ther deceased family would be stopping by and wanted something beautiful and sweet to be waiting for them. but we never discussed why someone would be coming by in the first place. that I think may be too big for a 4 year old to grasp. but prhaps that is because I lack a firm grasp on it.

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#16 of 19 Old 08-12-2006, 02:44 AM
 
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I work at a Funeral Home/Cemetery and I think I've see it all. Many of the children i see are brought into the arrangment rooms (something I personally and professionally don't agree with, its just not the right environment for children) and to viewings. The cemetery is usually abstract for many children even with straight honesty. Most children are OK considering, some FREAK out just walking in the doors or into the gardens, overall I think kids get it . Talk to him before hand, go on line and look at cemeteries maybe even caskets (french for "a box in to hold precious things".) Also in most Funeral Homes there are borchures on helping children grieve and understand death.
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#17 of 19 Old 08-12-2006, 02:48 AM
 
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We've walked through cemetaries many times, just as part of our walks around the neighborhoods. We have a few pioneer cemetaries that are just like a little park and just very welcoming. I guess I grew up going through them and never thought not to do that. It was actually a really natural way to talk about death, which my Dd already knew about because my dad is dead, and both of my grandparents died in the last couple years.
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#18 of 19 Old 08-12-2006, 11:05 AM
 
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My grandma died when my daughter was 18 months, so that was her first trip to the cemetary. She's been a couple times since, but we don't go often. I don't feel a need to go. She does know that some people choose to be burried in a cemetary when they die, and also that there are bodies, in caskets, under the ground there. She's seemed to understand all this since about 2 or 2.5, and we take a very honest approach about death with her (everyone dies, it's a part of life, etc). Unless your child is very sensitive about death and dying -- I know I was when I was four -- he should be able to understand and handle going to a cemetary.

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#19 of 19 Old 08-12-2006, 04:08 PM
 
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