A month ago we did a funeral for 18 year old girl who was tragically killed in an accident. We easily had 150 students in our church from the local high school she attended. During the ceremony we had a time for an open microphone sharing opportunity and it was interesting to hear the language, ideas & emotions students shared at the funeral service.
There was a lot of talk of the deceased girls "spirit".
That her spirit would "always be with us" and when we "visit the restaraunt that was her favorite she'll be there with us". Many phrases like this continue to show people that spirituality is something that teens are willing to wrestle with. Spirituality allows people to cross the finite boundaries and create ideas that the after life is desirable and those we lose have the ability to still be around us. Taking opportunity to talk about the afterlife, heaven, death, resurrection isn't as hard as people think it is. Timing is usually everything with those conversations with teenagers.
There were a lot of empty promises to the family.
Statements made to the mom & sister of the girls who died resemble the "I'll ALWAYS be there for you". The hard part is I've seen enough funerals & known enough situations where the people that make those promises forget what they said within a week. I get the heart & emotion behind the statement because for most students they've heard similar statements and think it is the right thing to say. Now there will be those handful that don't forget the families loss and will be there to encourage and just be present but many will forget. I totally understand why things are said, but I know personally how families feel when people do forget about their loss.
Death, tragedy & loss creates emotionally charged reactions
Students are emotionally unstable in a lot of situations because the context of their experiences is so limited and physiologically they are emotionally charged as well. In those moments students feed off the emotions of those around them. Twice there were young ladies without any tears on their face until they were waiting in line to share publicly and the "forced tears" happened. I sat back & watched and it was interesting to see who these ladies were trying to make eye contact with as they "cried". I'm not trying to make fun of these situations but it is interesting to watch & observe some of these interactions. It is also interesting to hear those students share who would say "Hey i only met her once at taco bell but she seemed like great person...." and they'd share more about their feelings than sharing about the girl who died and her life. To me, those moments felt very narcissistic instead of focussing on the family and the girl who died.
Emotions run high, death isn't easy to handle and at the end of the day it was a beautiful remembrance of a young girl who I would agree, died way too soon in her life. It was also interesting observation of a dynamic in student culture that you don't see everyday.