Death is an awkward topic, one that most of us try to avoid talking and thinking about at all costs, even though we are all certain to be confronted by it at least a few times in our lives. This lack of communication, acceptance and preparedness can make the grieving process even harder than it already is, as we stumble about in confusion about what to do and how to feel.
Children, sometimes unable to grasp the very concept of death, can be even more affected by the process of losing a loved one. However, their curious and non-judgmental minds, unaffected by the stigma that we as a society have built around the issue, give an opportunity for things like death, grief, funerals, cremation and such to be talked about openly and honestly, and so prepare them better for events later in life.
Bestattungsmuseum, the Funeral Museum in Vienna’s famous central cemetery, decided to help their younger visitors to better understand difficult issues by introducing LEGO kits based on somber funeral scenes.
“We established the first product made of LEGO components in 2016,” museum spokesperson Dr. Florian Keusch said. “First it was a historical tram, which brought dead bodies to the Viennese central cemetery and was used in Vienna between the first and second world wars. This tram was for collectors, and then we made a truck and a historical hearse.”
The cemetery, which is one of the largest in the world with over 330,000 graves and tombs spread over 590 acres, houses the graves of many famous names such as Beethoven and Strauss. However, despite their quiet reverence for the dead in their beautiful surrounds, they are also very much focused on the well-being of the living, too.
“In 2018 my team and I were thinking about new products made of LEGO components. We had a few questions from grieving customers like: “Can I take our children with us to the funeral of our grandfather?” or “my child is grieving, what can I do?” and so on.” Dr. Keusch explained. “So we were brainstorming, how we can help children to overcome their grief. We have developed the crematoria, the cemetery with an excavator, the mourning family with a female and a male dead body and a skeleton and a historical horse buggy.”
“We have integrated the Wiener Landesverband für Psychotherapie (Viennese Association of Psychotherapists) and ensured that the new products made of LEGO components were useful for therapy with children, and for parents with children, who were suffering from their loss. With these products, they can describe the process and the children can process their grief.”
News about the (slightly morbid) LEGO sets has gained worldwide attention, which Dr. Keusch has described as overwhelmingly positive. “0.00001 percent of people were disgusted, because they have only read the headline “LEGO crematoria” and didn’t get the intentions behind these products,” he told us.
“They were made by an Austrian company – we created the design together with them and they produced the packaging, the manual and they organized the bricks and put it together in the box. It is not an official LEGO product, so we call it, for example, ‘crematoria made of LEGO components.’”
There are now three new sets available, with prices ranging from 50 to 90 euros. You can choose from a full cemetery with tombstones, tombs, excavators and cemetery personnel; there is also a crematorium in which a casket can be inserted.
If you are more interested in role-playing the process you can find a funeral parade and a grieving family, which includes a father, mother, child, a deceased person and also a decomposed skeleton.
Would you buy one of these for your child? Do you think it is an effective and sensitive way to teach children about the realities of death? Let us know what you think in the comments!