When Children Participate in the Death Ritual of a Parent: Funerary Photographs as Mnemonic Objects

Laurie Faro

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


When children lose a parent during childhood this offers emotional and life changing moments. It is important for them to be included in the death ritual and to be recognized as grievers alongside adults. Recent research has shown that children themselves consider it relevant to be part of the ‘communitas’ of grievers and do not like to be set aside because they are considered to be too young to participate. In this case study, I describe how a Dutch mother encouraged her three children, aged 12, 9 and 6, to participate in the death rituals of their father. She asked a funeral photographer to document the rituals. In that way, later on in their life, the children would have a visual report of the time of his death in addition to their childhood memories. The objective of my case study research was first, to explore in detail hów children are able to participate in death rituals in a carefully contemplated manner and in accordance with their age and wishes, and second, to examine the relevance of funeral photographs to them in later years. The funeral photographs will be presented as a visual essay of how and when the children took part in the rituals and which ritual objects, such as the coffin and the grave, but also letters, poems and drawings were important in creating an ongoing bond with their deceased father. The conclusion of this case study presentation is that funeral photographs of death rituals may function as mnemonic objects later on in the life of children who lost a parent in their childhood. These photographs enable children, when necessary, to materialize how they participated in the death ritual of their father or mother. In this respect they can be seen as functional means of continuing bonds in funeral culture, linking the past with the present, in particular when young children are involved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-17
Number of pages17
Issue number215
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • children
  • objects
  • funerary photography
  • death ritual
  • continuing bonds


Dive into the research topics of 'When Children Participate in the Death Ritual of a Parent: Funerary Photographs as Mnemonic Objects'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this