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Dealing With Death: Funerals And Memorials

Every culture and religion has different traditions for funerals and burials, and they can seem pretty strange and scary. It might even feel weird that people are going through all this stuff for someone who isn't alive anymore. Well, here's something you may not know:

Funerals are for the living, not the dead.

Yep, it's true. Funerals and memorial services exist so we can say goodbye and pay tribute to the person who died, and this can be a very important step in the process of grieving. Here are some ideas for dealing with funerals, and making the most of this chance for healing and remembrance:

Know what to expect. A funeral service will seem much less strange or overwhelming if you know exactly what's going to happen. Sit down with a trusted adult and talk through everything that you're going to see and hear at the funeral. Ask anything you want, including questions about who will be there, what they'll say and do, and details about the body and the casket.

Do what comes naturally. People might expect different things of you at the funeral, and they can often contradict each other. For example: your uncle says to you, "Be strong, kiddo," while your aunt tells you, "Let it all out, dear." How can you do BOTH? How do you know the "right" way to act? Well, the "right" way is whatever way you feel like. If you need to cry, then cry. If you don't want to, then don't. Don't force yourself to do or say anything, and as hard as it may be, ignore what other people may be thinking.

Expect strange emotions. What does it mean if something really freaky happens during the funeral? What if you burst out laughing for no reason? You may be surprised and relieved to know that this sort of thing happens a lot. There are so many conflicting emotions running through us at times like these, that occasionally the "wrong" one, like laughter, will pop out. It may be embarrassing, but it's also normal.

Participate if you want to. If someone you love has died, you have a right to take part in the funeral or memorial service. Standing up and talking about the person, reading a favorite poem or the lyrics to a favorite song-all these things can make you feel better and help others understand what this person meant to you. If you don't want to get up in front of people, you can write something and have someone else read it out loud for you. If you don't want to participate at all, but would rather just be there and listen to others, that's okay too.

Don't go if you don't want to. Funerals are usually held within a few days of a person's death, and you may not be ready to go out in public, deal with relatives, or be around others. If you absolutely don't want to go, you shouldn't have to, and you should be honest with your family members about your feelings. But before you decide against going, give it some serious thought. Many people say that going to a funeral was really good for them, not only because it offers a chance to say goodbye, but because it makes the person's death seem real and final, and this helps them start dealing with their grief.

Remember: When someone dies, there will probably be lots of talk about religion, since death has a lot of religious beliefs attached to it. If you come from a religious family, this will feel appropriate. But if your family isn't very religious, all this talk might seem strange to you. If you're confused by anything you hear, talk to a trusted adult, religious leader, or counselor about it. It will probably help you to explore your own thoughts and beliefs about religion and the afterlife. But keep in mind that like most things about death, nobody has all the answers. The more you understand, the better you'll feel, but some aspects of death and dying will always remain unknown.

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