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Section 14
Children's Perception of Death (Part 2)

CEU Question 14 | CEU Test | Table of Contents | Grief
Counselor CEUs, Social Worker CEUs, Psychologist CEs, MFT CEUs

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On the last track we discussed involving children in funerals.  The four topics we discussed are how funerals help children accept the reality of death, what if the body isn’t presentable, preparing a child for a funeral, and when not to take a child to a funeral.

On this track we will discuss burials and cremation.  Three challenges we will discuss are how to explain a burial, how to explain a cremation, and spending time with a body prior to cremation.  As we discuss these three topics, you can decide if the information is applicable to clients you are treating. 

Burials and Cremations - 3 Challenges

#1 How to Explain a Burial
Have you found that grieving children are sometimes confused by the purpose of burials?  Such was the case with Justin from the last two tracks.  Justin’s father, Merle, asked for help in explaining a burial to Justin.   

Merle stated, "Justin wants to take the casket home, so he can check on his granddad from time to time."  I stated, "Consider reminding Justin what happens to animals when they die.  Let Justin know that decay spreads disease.  In talking to Justin, you can remind him that putting a body in a pretty satin lined casket is not enough." 

When Merle spoke with Justin, he stated, "We have to do more than put granddad in a casket.  We’re going to take good care of him.  To do that we need to close his casket and seal it.  Then, we’ll take it to the place where they keep dead bodies.  Do you know what that place is called, Justin?"  Justin knew that the place bodies were kept was called a cemetery.  Merle then stated, "At the cemetery, they will put granddad in a grave dug out of the ground.  They’ll bury granddad in a nice spot where we can visit as often as we like." 

Are you treating a grieving child like Justin who could benefit from having the purpose of a burial explained to them? 

#2 How to Explain Cremation
Second, we will discuss how to explain cremation to a grieving child.  Joan, mother of 2, elected to have her husband cremated in accordance with his wishes after his unexpected death.  Joan’s youngest child, Jordan, age 7, did not understand cremation.  Jordan’s 13 year old sister, Miranda, told him cremation meant that their father was going to be burnt to ashes in a fire.  Jordan’s reaction prompted his mother, Joan, to seek help in explaining cremation. 

I stated to Joan, "First, consider explaining to Jordan and Miranda that cremation is not the burning of a body in a fire.  Rather, the body is put through heat intense enough to turn the body to ash."  Joan stated to Jordan, "The flames won’t actually touch daddy." 

Next I stated, "You may find it productive to inform Jordan about what is done with the ashes.  He may want to see them.  If so, decide if it is okay for Jordan to see the ashes.  Consider looking at the ashes yourself first.  Periodically, bone fragments will be visible." 

At a later session, Joan stated, "I felt that Jordan could see the ashes.  After he looked at them, he asked what we were going to do with them.  I had planned on keeping them, but Miranda brought up scattering the ashes.  Jordan decided the ashes should be scattered at his dad’s favorite fishing spot." 

Do you agree that helping grieving children understand cremation can help them to better accept the reality of death?

#3 Spending Time with a Body Prior to Cremation
In addition to how to explain a burial and how to explain a cremation, the third topic we will discuss on this track is spending time with a body prior to cremation.  Even though cremation is done immediately after death, parents might consider arranging for a time when they can view the body with the grieving child prior to the cremation. 

Would you agree that spending time with a body prior to cremation can help confirm the reality of the death for a grieving child? 

On this track we have discussed burials and cremation.  Three topics we discussed are how to explain a burial, how to explain a cremation, and spending time with a body prior to cremation. 

Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Grassetti, S. N., Williamson, A. A., Herres, J., Kobak, R., Layne, C. M., Kaplow, J. B., & Pynoos, R. S. (2018). Evaluating referral, screening, and assessment procedures for middle school trauma/grief-focused treatment groups. School Psychology Quarterly, 33(1), 10–20.

Grolnick, W. S., Schonfeld, D. J., Schreiber, M., Cohen, J., Cole, V., Jaycox, L., Lochman, J., Pfefferbaum, B., Ruggiero, K., Wells, K., Wong, M., & Zatzick, D. (2018). Improving adjustment and resilience in children following a disaster: Addressing research challenges. American Psychologist, 73(3), 215–229. 

Mishara, B. L. (2003). How the media influences children's conceptions of suicide. Crisis: The Journal of Crisis Intervention and Suicide Prevention, 24(3), 128–130. 

Orbach, I., & Glaubman, H. (1979). Children's perception of death as a defensive process. Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 88(6), 671–674. 

Sandler, I. N., Ma, Y., Tein, J.-Y., Ayers, T. S., Wolchik, S., Kennedy, C., & Millsap, R. (2010). Long-term effects of the family bereavement program on multiple indicators of grief in parentally bereaved children and adolescents. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 78(2), 131–143. 

Schonfeld, D. J., & Demaria, T. P. (2018). The role of school psychologists in the support of grieving children. School Psychology Quarterly, 33(3), 361–362. 

Online Continuing Education QUESTION 14
What are the three topics we discussed regarding burials and cremation? To select and enter your answer go to CEU Test.

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