There have been several times in my life where I have been struck by the crippling news of suicide. News that has brought me…
GROWING UP WITH DEATH, A CHILD’S PERSPECTIVE
Visiting my Great Grandma as a young child was a weekly occurrence, my Nan and I would bring lollies to the nursing home to give to her. We were close, sitting on her bed, sharing lollies and stories and snuggling up next to her for what seemed like hours. It was a feeling of love, comfort and acceptance on my Saturday morning visits, it was my routine and I loved every minute of it. That is until my Great Grandma passed away.
I don’t remember a lot surrounding this, only that we didn’t visit for a while and then my Pop was very sad. I do however remember sitting in my Mum’s bedroom on the morning of the funeral as she dressed, all in black. No one was talking to me about what had happened, and I remember asking my mum where she was going. It was then that I was told she was going to my Great Grandma’s funeral. I asked if I could go too, I was told a simple no, it is not a place for children, and I was to young to understand. In this sentence I felt as though, no one really understood me or my ability to understand. I wasn’t given the chance to understand or say goodbye to someone I held so dear. I remember questioning that answer, I wanted to go and felt I was in a position to have to fight for that right. Though my arguing got me nowhere and I was not allowed to attend, and the service went on, without me.
In the weeks following the funeral I questioned my Pop, he seemed sad and didn’t want to discuss anything with me. I didn’t understand why, even though his mum had just died, I didn’t fully understand the complexity of the issue I only understood that no one wanted to discuss anything surrounding this with me.
I went on to develop an odd obsession with death, funerals, cemeteries and all things associated with dying. In the years following I became very sick myself and was hospitalised, I was diagnosed with a blood disease and was sure that I too would die, in my mind very soon and wanted to know as much as I could about what I was going to happen. My mum already sick with worry about my health grew more and more concerned about my headspace and the multitude of questions and my intrigue surrounding death. She tried to ease my curiosity and perhaps even scare it out of me by taking me to a cemetery to visit an open grave, this did not work, and my curiosity only grew. As the years went by, I still had questions in the back of my mind but voiced them less frequently as I didn’t like the way I was treated when I tried to gain some knowledge about such a taboo subject. I was lucky to go the rest of my childhood and teenage years not losing anyone else close to me or in my family.
That is until I lost one of my best friends to suicide in my late teens. This shook me but not at all in the way I was expecting, his death, whilst it completely broke me taught me so much and was my ‘lightbulb moment’. His death began my career in the funeral industry.
Since then I have had my own children and they have grown up knowing nothing else, “Mum has always worked in the funeral industry and does everything she can for both the deceased and their families”. I have been totally honest with them and answered all their questions as clearly as I can, to save them from the unknown that plagued me as a child. I feel that power comes with knowledge and I want to aim them with everything they need to gain a clear perspective of what I do, why I do it and life and death in general.
Since moving to Goulburn and taking over ‘Bob Rudd Funerals’ my youngest two daughters have been in the thick of what it means to grow up in the funeral industry as we live onsite at our funeral home. In giving them clear answers and information based on their age and understanding I feel there hasn’t been a lot of conversations around the industry and didn’t really feel as though they had had much insight into death or funerals as they are both very young.
That is until my three-year old’s pre-school teacher informed me that she had introduced a game at school today called ‘funerals’. She would answer the phone and mention that someone had died, pass on her condolences and ask what arrangements they would like. Following this she picked some flowers and placed them with her friend as she made emails and attended to the mortuary care (keeping in mind she hadn’t even been around any of this other than hearing me speak with staff about what needed to be done).
At three years old she knows far more about the funeral industry than I was aware of well into my late teens. I don’t feel that her experience has done any harm and if anything has taught her so much compassion, knowledge and understanding into the world we live in and life, including death. I truly believe that we experience more unease and discomfort when we are faced with situations that we aren’t fully aware of rather than knowing the complexity of issues and the facts surrounding them.
My three-year-old is very capable of understanding, as I was but wasn’t given the chance. I feel she will only grow to be more aware, compassionate and resilient as the years go on.
My little girl wants to be either a Paediatrician or a Mortician and I will give her all of the knowledge to make an informed decision for when that time comes, as for now she enjoys playing with her baby sister, cooking, making friends, craft, dancing and playing funerals and I wouldn’t have it any other way, my perfect little girl with her eyes wide open.
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