Childhood What Is Not Okay To Expose A Kid To Regarding Death And Dying?

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Powder

MyPTSD Pro
My parents exposed me to so much that I now realize was not good for me and I could not handle, besides early physical, sexual, emotional, and spiritual abuse.

Add making us watch close up recordings and narrations of surgery (on TV) while eating dinner. I often felt severe nausea. I got them to stop exposing my younger sibs (down to age kindergarden) to this by joking that I'd had enough since the baby's face being peeled back looked literally identical to the lasagna we were eating. They thought this was hilarious, and based on my ability to make light of this (I was 11), ended the nightly surgery school during meals. (I think they have sociopathy and did not feel nausea, plus both are like robots when it comes to medical stuff as medical types.)

But what is NOT healthy for kids regarding death and disease?

I have wondered about this and try to pay attention when others speak about this, about what was not good for them.

I read in "Black Elk Speaks" that even for a native American boy at age 11 to go off to war and fight and kill grown men to defend his village during the colonial period of USA, was unhealthy for his spirit, he said, as a man in his 70s, in the 40's. This was based on his own assessment of himself, not some theory.

At age 10-11, I was exposed to long hours in a critical care facility of UW Seattle Medical where my beloved grandpa was slowing dying of cancer. It was not treatable then. It was all just morphine, ice, and palliative. I was there every weekend and holiday, for hours each time for a year. So were my sibs younger than me, who don't remember as much of that time as I do. I think it was bad for me to see someone I loved dying of cancer at age 9-10. I was high IQ enough to know what was happening to my loved one, but not verbal and abstract enough to discuss my emotions or how to conceptualize or how to ask questions about what would happen. I was not emotionally centered or loved at home enough to handle the complex emotions of loss, ambiguous loss, death, afterlife and spirit.

I was told things like "god would listen to my prayers and save his life" which God was not going to do in the 1980s for Multiple Myeloma. Trauma, could be defined as proof that if there is a God, this being has no problem with a hands off policy on the worst horrors imaginable and cannot therefore, be easily summed up as "good" or in any way "comforting."

There was no way for my f-ed up parents to "do that right." but how can you be honest with a kid about death to mitigate and not over-expose them?

I have read that it's not even good to take kids to funerals until after age 13 due to their not having the abstract thinking skills yet to handle the grief and discussion about afterlife, etc. Of course, we were taken to the funeral. But we were not present when he was in his last moments. We were spared or left out of that.

Thank you for helping me "correct" my mind on what is harmful and healthy for kids to figure out why I"m having emotional flashbacks to this period of life (I had PTSD prior to this) as if it were pretty traumatizing.
 
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Suzetig

MyPTSD Pro
I loved dying of cancer at age 9-10. I was not emotionally centered or loved at home enough to handle the complex emotions of loss, ambiguous loss, death, afterlife and God.
I think this is more the issue - not so much about being over exposed to death, but not having the emotional care and support to process and make sense of what was happening.

In my experience children can cope with death and dying, and there's some research that says it's better to be open and clear with children about death than to use metaphors or euphemisms. They need clear explanation about what death is and can get very confused about the idea of, for example, grandpa being in heaven (why can't I go to him/him come to me), or saying he's passed away etc.

Even attending funerals, with support is ok - my husband is very resentful that age 10 it was assumed he couldn't cope with his grandpas illness and wasn't allowed to attend the funeral,not attending made it difficult for him to accept his death.

Worth bearing in mind that so many of our death rituals are cultural so what's ok in the UK will be different from the US, and in many cultures it would be the norm that children are included in all aspects of death so I expect you may get wildly varying responses.

The main thing is whether you feel you had the support you needed to process your grandfather's death and what support you might need now.
 

brat17

MyPTSD Pro
This is a tough one and one I don't feel real certain about.
My daughters were only 5 and 7 when their 4 month old niece died of SIDS.
They were 7 and 9 when their paternal grandfather died after a month hospitalization that they did not see him.
They were 11 and 13 when their maternal grandmother passed after 2 yrs in nursing home-with minimal visits.

I remember talking to a professional about the effects and the best way to handle things and being told it is best to be pretty honest. I remember being told that ideally, if given the opportunity, it is best to expose them to a funeral home with someone who they have not been attached to such as a distant uncle, rather than a grandparent they are close with. (I did not have that choice) I also remember that neither of them seemed affected when their grandfather died (I was concerned about the lack of emotion) and being told that kids tend to be "matter of fact" about it except to the extent that it may effect them directly, such as their own caregiver (mother or father) or sibling. Basically, what role did the deceased play in the childs life? What does it mean now? Will we have to move? Who will take care of m

I am really second guessing myself on this one now. I took them to the funeral home even for their 4 month old niece. The arrangements were a little different as the body was in a separate room, right off the visitation room so that it was more of a choice to go to the casket. My 5 yr old was drawn to view the baby several times. My 7 yr old had no interest.

I had some childhood experiences but nothing that left me with any trauma.
 

Friday

Moderator
In parenting-land... There is no right answer. Even for 2 kids in the same family, much less once one starts looking at different families, and different cultures.

Meaning, in some families, those things you mentioned could all be well & good, and in others some of the children would be well and good with them, while others aren't, and in other families those are just more examples of ways abusive & neglectful parents continued to abuse and neglect their kids.

There isn't a "normal" in regards to death & dying & how families handle that. Talk to 50 parents, and they'll give you 50-500 different ways they've handled it (because parents often handle things different for each child, and different for each child for each death).

So I would -personally- focus less on what's normal/ideal (since there isn't one, makes it easy ;)), and focus more on yourself & your specific reactions.
 

Powder

MyPTSD Pro
Thank you all for these thoughtful responses. I'm thinking through, and I hear a common core idea that it really depends because death is hard to accept sometimes, but we have to face it, even as children. Yet, that is much easier with loving support.

I guess it was so bad for me because the who died was the only one I felt was strong and loving enough to function as a support to me, someone I actually looked up to, everyone did. He was strong and good and loving.

When he died, I felt those qualities also died from my life.

I was not able to face others or cry when he died, at the funeral, for years. I felt empty and defeated.

But, I have been able to cry and often do when it washes over me, but the thing is that when I do, it is more like flashbacks and it seems like it just happened. I think I have almost DID to the point that child parts come forward and suddenly re-experience the loss as if fresh. I don't know. It's dissociation of some kind.

I somehow managed to find a wonderful man who has these qualities, and I now know they lived on in a longing for them in me, and I found them in my husband. Which has been a 23 year relationship, and I still admire these things, plus his other qualities that are just him, such as humor.

It was actually my grandma, the widow, who first stated that J. my husband, is very like grandpa in stature and personality. Later, I have connected with this in a more personal way.
 

brat17

MyPTSD Pro
Muse I am so sorry for what you have gone through with the death of your grandfather. It also makes complete sense with what I was told many years ago regarding how children handle death. He was the person you looked up to and for strength. That is such a horrible loss for a young girl. I can imagine you at this age and being unable to verbalize, process, or even ask questions even with the highest IQ. So glad you found those qualities in your husband.

@Friday-you are right about it all, there is no normal and we do the best we can and what feels right at the time. Since ptsd, I am always second guessing what I did when I was healthy and often needlessly.
 

LilLynx

Policy Enforcement
Not ok to make seven year old see the body in the coffin, DEFINITELY not ok to make the same child touch the dead person. Not ok to freak them out by hiding the tv and mirrors with cloth and sit in total silence. So many things. (my friend still really struggles after these after forty years)
 

Suzetig

MyPTSD Pro
Yeah, all of those were very common death practices - and still happen in some places. It wasn't that long ago that the deceased's body would be laid out in the front room at home for people to visit and pay their respects. And closing curtains, covering mirrors etc was considered a mark of respect and showed a house to be in mourning.

Actually, my mum died recently and we still kept curtains and blinds closed between her death and the funeral - it didn't occur to me not to.
 

LilLynx

Policy Enforcement
It affected my friend to the extent she could not deal with any of her mother's passing 24 years later and still terribly affected now (15 years on from that time)
 

Gs172003

MyPTSD Pro
Not ok to make seven year old see the body in the coffin, DEFINITELY not ok to make the same child touch th...
I agree. My brother took his three small kids to my cousins funeral ( all under the age of six) the committed suicide last summer. They were all very close to him. It DEVESTATED them. Guess who got to ride in the funeral line with them and try to calm them down? Yours truly. How do you explain suicide to a freaking kindergarten kid? My brother is not the brightest crayon in the box
 

LilLynx

Policy Enforcement
I don't understand how a parent couldn't see how that stuff would disturb a young kid's mind. Some people. *shakes head*
 
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