Death & Funerals: Children

    In these series of posts I will be looking informally at the taboo nature of death and funerals.  This post looks at the relationship of children to death and funerals.

    Children have a fairly controversial relationship with death and funerals.  I have discussed children and funerals in another post, mainly looking at the way we separate children and this topic.  But there were a few things I wanted to explain further.  As well as other concepts I wanted to touch on but had to cut out.

    If you read the last few posts in this series then by now you know my perspective.  That we see death as a corrupting and indecent thing like sex, and as a dirty and polluting thing like excrement.  So the thought of introducing such a thing to children is quite the controversy.  But why exactly?

    Many see children as 'innocent' and 'pure', unexperienced and untainted by the world.  They need our protection from the unsettling things of the world.  This can be seen in the way we emphasise the importance of childhood and make a strong distinction and separation between the child and adult.  Then how we focus on preserving this distinction, keeping the child as innocent and 'child like' as possible.

    Sex is the best specific example of this that we can relate to.  The topic of sex is kept away from children, legally and socially.  It is as removed from their world as possible even when they would never notice it one way or the other.  Think of the Katy Perry and Elmo issue back in 2010.  A decent fuss was made about how much cleavage she showed on Sesame Street.  As some pointed out the audience of Sesame Street are not really likely to notice her cleavage so much as the song.  It is not something they look for or prioritise.  Nor did she even show that much really in the scheme of things.  But we, the adults, noticed as it is something we look for.  She became sexualised and thus inappropriate for children whether they notice or not.

    We see sex as a marker of growing up, of coming of age.  I remember in the last year of high school the teachers gave out an essay where we had to write a coming of age story, as they did every year.  Except that they told us to avoid writing about our first sexual experience as everyone did it and it was cliched.  Students would turn to their sexual experience as defining coming of age for them.  As the marker of their entry into adult hood.  So many did this that the teachers had become sick of it.  There is numerous evidence to support sex as the marker between childhood and adulthood.

    The sexuality of children is highly protected, highly guarded and highly controversial.  Think of the visceral reactions when we talk of pedophilia.  We regard pedophiles in such an extremely negative way, more so than many other crimes.  In some ways there is the perception that pedophilia is the taking of a child's innocence, a forceful sexualising them.  Of course there are other reasons to, but this is the one I am looking at for my argument.

    This is the same when it comes to death, which is seen as a dirty thing, a non-innocent thing.  To teach children about death is to remove a certain part of innocence and purity from them.  As with sex death is seen as something for adults.  That it is a concept we understand and experience as adults, not something we know much about as children.  I often hear people say how "they're too young to understand" when talking about children and death.  Many genuinely think children cannot grasp the concept, that it is beyond their understanding and might only confuse them.  This is often the same language and argument style I hear when people talk of how children do not understand sex properly.  I do not mean to argue children can understand these concepts, or this argument is wrong.  I am simply demonstrating that many think death is outside the cognitive powers of children in the same ways that sex is.  That people think death is too complex a topic for them as they do not have the appropriate experiences to understand it properly.

    Thinking of children and death together is uncomfortable for most of us.  As unsettling as thinking of sex and children.  Death and children are indeed contentious concepts we prefer to keep separate as much as possible.  This demonstrates that exploring why we keep them separate helps to explain what we really think and feel about death and funerals.


1 comment:

  1. i have experience of losing a loved one, "my baby"..its really hard to accept it and its not really easy cause i lost my other half of my life..though its really hard but i need to accept it that God has its purpose why He take it away from me


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