When grandfather suddenly dies: Children learn to deal with death in Südwestkirchhof – Potsdam-Mittelmark

Stahnsdorf – A butterfly made of pearls adorns a tomb in the Südwestkirchhof Stahnsdorf. The deceased, who was buried under the pearl jewelry, entered it himself with his wife while he was alive. For cemetery manager Olaf Ihlefeldt, the mill fits well in a cemetery. “First caterpillar, then cocoon, then butterfly – it’s a cycle. First life, then death and then resurrection. It goes on,” he says.

For Ihlefeldt, a devout Christian, it is important to show that death and burial are not just about grief. The cemetery is a memorial. He creates a connection between heaven and earth. “It happens automatically. You do not have to do anything about it.”

It is a special need for Ihlefeld that children also come into contact with death, burial and parting. Therefore, he offers tours for young people and adults at the 206-hectare cemetery – it is more than 200 football pitches, Stahnsdorfer is one of the largest cemeteries in Germany – as well as special for children and their parents.

Do not exclude children at funerals

One of the people who took part in the tour in the area southwest of Berlin on Saturday was Stefan Heimann with his son Jan. The nine-year-old was not particularly enthusiastic about the idea of ​​spending the afternoon in a cemetery. says Heimann. Also, he initially considered whether death and burial were the right topics for a child. The father means yes. He also participated in the trip with his daughter. Death and goodbye are a part of life.

During the tour, Olaf Ihlefeldt (right) also shows the inside of a mausoleum and goes down into the crypt.Photo: Andreas Klaer

Ihlefeldt knows that many parents are skeptical about confronting their children with death. For example, at funerals. Many then asked themselves: Am I taking my child to the funeral? Ihlefeldt says: “Absolutely.” From about five years of age, children have an understanding of life and death. “And they have questions.” It is not good to keep them away from the subject or to exclude them from funerals. On the contrary: “By talking to children about death and saying goodbye, you involve them. If a family member or pet then dies, they are not suddenly confronted with death, but can prepare for it. ” Life is limited.

Establish a connection with the dead

Ihlefeldt stops at a grave with lots of colorful flowers and asks the group: “Why do you think it is so colorful here at the grave? We do it for ourselves. We can lay a flower down. We build a connection to the dead on the graves, we can be guests here and think of the dead. We often feel better afterwards. ”

Film director Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau’s grave, to the left and right of it, are stones for his brothers.Photo: EG

Sybille Hintze follows Ihlefeldt with her daughter-in-law, granddaughter and great-granddaughter along the graves and crypts through the forest area. “It used to be different for us. Children should not go to the cemetery,” said the 83-year-old. Someone said to her, “It’s a crazy idea” when she talked about the children’s journey. many years ago. “Heart attack. It happened suddenly. ”

Her son, then eight years old, was attached to grandfather. For a long time she had not noticed how the boy walked around in his grandfather’s flat cap. “I was so busy, I had to keep it all running.” Suddenly scales fell from her eyes: “Oh dear God. The child misses the grandfather.” Today, dealing with death is different. “You handle it more freely.” Hintze thinks that’s a good thing.

Südwestkirchhof is one of the largest cemeteries in Germany.Photo: EG

More and more school classes are coming to the guided tours

The Hintzers have a special connection to the place, they know the winding forest paths across the fenced area, where deer often get lost if the doors are open for too long. Hintze’s husband was buried here under a tree. Granddaughter Sandra Urban, 40, and third generation on the trip say they all chose the tree – including their two children. She is not religious, but thinks it is important to educate children about life and death. “The children saw Grandpa very ill. We talked about it all the time. It was everyday for us.” One can safely trust children with the subject.

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But what is the best way to solve it? Ihlefeldt advises: “Quite simply and with ease. It’s best when parents talk about death. Then they can bring their children with them: do you have any questions? ” You can use bridges for this in everyday life. There are also books and movies that explain the subject well. Meanwhile, more and more school classes are coming to the tours. “Interest is growing.” With the children’s groups, he makes sure that the groups do not get too big and that the children are about the same age. “The approach to the subject is somewhat different depending on age,” says Ihlefeldt.

The next guided tour for children will take place on June 11th. And then after the summer holidays from October always the second Saturday of the month. Dates are on the website www.suedwestkirchhof.de.

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