Teach Your Children Well
By Rick Allen, Allen Family Funeral, Collin County LIVING WELL Magazine
Nothing makes a parent more proud than to hear someone else brag on your kid. Typically, a parent’s response is something like, “Are you sure we are talking about the right kid?” As we all know, behavior is often different at home than it is when they are out on their own and, thank goodness, most of them mind their p’s and q’s and wind up making us proud.
As I grow older and watch our children and their friends grow up and mature, I have to wonder if there is something we could be learning from them. Because my days are filled with exposure to events surrounding death, grieving families and funeral tributes, I have the opportunity to observe people who are often experiencing the worst thing that may happen to them in their entire life. I have always felt that adversity brings out the very best or, unfortunately, the very worst in people. While I sometimes have to shake my head at the worst, I equally stand in amazement at some of the wonderful people who are poised, full of grace, loving and caring with one another––even in difficult times.
Something that has been most striking to me about common behaviors I am witnessing recently is how the younger generations are responding when one of their peers has died. Unfortunately, most of the time when a younger person has died, it is due to an accident or an incident that has been acute in its onset. Shock, which is a common part of the grieving experience, is very obviously present and the denial that a death has occurred could easily overcome someone who is not yet a mature adult. It has been a common practice for many years to suggest allowing those who are grieving an opportunity to see their friend one last time at an open casket event such as a visitation at the funeral home or at least having the casket open prior to funeral services for viewing. However, over the course of the past 15 years or so, a trend has been emerging and people are often foregoing the viewing altogether.
My personal opinion is that in an attempt to deal with grief, those who want to have the least exposure to it are actually only prolonging their grief. It appears as if the logic is that “if we ignore it, it will go away.” What I am actually witnessing is quite an opposite response to death and grief by the younger generation. When a peer has died, the surviving friends actually want to see that person to say good-bye. They do not seem to be fearful or turned off by viewing the body of a friend who has died, but rather appear to find comfort and closure, just as the experience is designed to offer. What is really interesting about this attitude toward the viewing experience is that it is a full circle back to what the grandparents of this generation found to be commonplace regarding funeral tributes. It is as if the viewing custom skipped a generation for one reason or another.
Having witnessed this desire for a viewing opportunity in the younger generation, I have to ask myself how this has occurred. Obviously, they have not been taught it by parents who have trended to the complete opposite attitude and most will not remember the customs of their grandparents. So, I have to assume that it is something thought through and decided as being relevant by this younger generation. If that is indeed the case, do we, as older adults, need to look to the younger ones for advice on how to deal with grief and loss in a healthier way? Quite possibly so. I always encourage people to listen to their inner self. Follow your instinct and do not be afraid to go against what you have been taught as being normal.
Rick Allen is the owner of Allen Family Funeral Options. Visit their website at affoplano.com or give them a call at 972-596-8200.