Kissing Grandma (Dead).

So goes an old morbid joke.

Anyways, there was an old practice, now completely discarded as far as I know, where children were forced to kiss Grandma in the coffin.

Does anyone know what I am talking about? And why did they have to do such a thing? I seem to remember hearing some place it was a kind of moral lesson. But I forget the details. And again, I have to ask, why?

Thank you in advance for your kindly and civil replies:)


I’ve never seen it as a forced issue. In what culture? Fundy Christian, southern Baptist, RC, Mormon, Islamic, reformed Jewish?

I do recall my dad kissing my mom on the forehead as she laid in her coffin.

I’m pretty sure there wan’t any custom of forcing kids to kiss grandma in the coffin.
There is a custom of kissing/practice of kissing the dead either immediately after death or at the funeral. But whether parents didn’t care whether their kids kissed grandma ( or grandpa or Uncle Joe ) or they encouraged it or they forced the kids to do it was not a matter of custom. That was a choice on the parent’s part.

I’ve never heard that “Mommy mommy” jokes phrased that way (doesn’t really make too much sense to me–it’s usually “mommy, mommy, I don’t want to see/go visit grandma!”

Anyhow–as to the OP. I don’t ever remember being forced to do so, but I do remember kissing the forehead of my grandmother as a kid, and my grandfather as an adult, during the wake after they passed away. This was a common sign of respect at Catholic wakes in my Polish-American family. I don’t recall anyone being forced to do so, child or adult. If you chose to show your respect in this manner great. Some just prayed next to the body. Some briefly touched the shoulder or hand. Some just sat in their chairs in quiet reflection. There was no way you must do it. When I was a kid, I believe I did it because I saw many of the close adults do it, so I wanted to be like them.

As a small child my mother had me kiss my dead great-grandmother’s forehead during her funeral. I’ve never done it since and personally I find open casket funerals morbid and disgusting.

And I find them really helpful in terms of processing the loss, and I wish people would stop saying how morbid and disgusting they find the practice.

Death is hard to deal with. Let people do what they need to do (well, okay, I draw the line at exhumation for another kiss, but let people keep their traditional funerary practices).

I could understand that if they WANTED to do it. But FORCING someone to kiss a corpse?

“Let people do what they need to do”, fine. But we’re talking about someone deciding for a child, as if they’re too young to even be asked, and have no voice in decisions made about their lives (pet peeve, I was raised by very controlling parents).
The open-casket funerals I’ve been at, it was off to the side and if someone wanted to walk over (and do whatever they felt they needed to) they could. But no one who would be creeped out by a dead body* needed to look down into the coffin let alone touch it.
*And let’s be honest - it’s not even close to “Grandpa” by the time they embalm and add a coating, and paint the fleshtones and cheeks. An actual body I could’ve handled as a kid. But the Mediocre Wax Museum versions I’ve seen? That would’ve come up in therapy years later, or at least kept me awake at night for a while.

So you want people to stop having those opinions, or just to stop expressing them?

I don’t see anything wrong with open caskets and viewing from a discreet distance, but I don’t want to get up close and personal with an embalmed corpse. That’s my opinion. But we seem to be straying into IMHO territory and away from the OP. My answer to that is that I am not aware of any such tradition in my little corner of the world.

I was referring to alphaboi867’s second sentence, not the first.

“Forcing” a child to do something has a lot of room for interpretation. Childrearing involves making them do a lot of things they don’t want to do: eat, put on warm clothes, wash. But going too far is abuse.

I don’t see the harm in training children how the culture deals with dead bodies, even if that’s kissing the corpse, but obviously if the individual child is showing signs that pushing them to do so would be traumatizing, don’t do it. Depends on the age of the child and a lot of other factors, so I’d land somewhere between “always” and “never.” I don’t think anyone is going to defend “always,” though some people will push for “never.”

Apparently Christian. That’s all I know. FYI I was raised R.C. But the joke makes me think it was a universal practice.


The first funeral I attended was that of my great-grandmother when I was 13. I shed tears during the service, but when the time came to “say goodbye” I approached the coffin, which was set front and center in the chapel surrounded by an impressive amount of floral displays, with my grandma. As I looked down at the first deceased face I was to encounter in life I was confused because she neither looked quite like herself nor did she look what I thought death looked like. Suddenly my grandma was urging me to “kiss her goodbye” and I froze. My aunt was apparently keeping an eye on me as she suddenly appeared and put her arm around me, told me that I didn’t have to kiss her, and she lead me out of the chapel. I was not exactly a child, but if I had been forced, and I did everything I could to please my grandma, I believe that I would have been traumatized. Most of my family is not particularly religious, but for the most part, we lean toward RC.

I have never asked any of my children to kiss a deceased relative.

I don’t know if this is a “cultural” thing as much as it is “some families do it, others don’t.”

When my late mother’s sister died, one of the other sisters took photos of her in the coffin and sent copies to me, my sisters and various cousins who didn’t attend the funeral. My sisters and I were horrified, but some of our cousins appreciated a last look at our aunt.

I couldn’t agree with you more. When my m.i.l, died not that long ago, we were forced to throw dirt on her coffin; I KNEW she was dead, I didn’t need reminding (I was in my 40’s at the time). I think it’s disgusting and barbaric and I did it only to avoid a scene.

I want to remember loved ones as warm and alive. I don’t want my last tactile memory to be that of kissing a corpse. It’s something I never have had the slightest desire to do.

Nah, open casket funerals are not a universal practice, let alone kissing grandma.

I’m from an anglican background - no way do we ever have open casket funerals.

IME, open casket funerals are the exception, but usually there’s a ‘viewing,’ usually the evening before the funeral, that is open to anyone who wishes to pay their respects.

Ghastly custom, IMHO, on multiple levels. First, why should anyone besides close family members even have the option of seeing the corpse? Second, if you’re a close family member, you’ve got to spend this evening chatting up more distant relatives and friends of the deceased. Swell, huh?

To me, the key thing about the corpse is that it isn’t the person anymore. That person is either somewhere else, or nowhere anymore, depending on your belief system. But they’re no longer inhabiting that body, and to me, there’s something fundamentally revulsive about prettying up the body as if they’re still there. They’re not, they’re gone, and while I know nobody’s actually pretending otherwise, that’s still what it feels like to me.

I don’t want to be looking at this thing that looks like, but is fundamentally not, the person I cared about. Just creeps me out.

ETA: Thank goodness none of my grandparents died until I was in my twenties, and my great-grandparents died when I was too young to remember. So no appalling childhood experiences having to do with funerals and viewings.

You might remember it as the big revelation at the end of “The Three Faces of Eve”. As a child, Eve (Joanne Woodward) is forced by her mom to kiss her dead grandmother “so you won’t miss her so much”. The trauma is what splits her into three distinct personalities.

“The Three Faces of Eve” explains alot. My family was into kissing the dead. When I was 5 my great grandma died and at the funeral I was made to kiss the corpse. My dad was holding me and as I was being lowered towards her I saw mottling on her neck and jawline. The next thing I knew water was being splashed on my face because I passed out. I had nightmares about this for a long time. Over 30 years later I still feel anxious even thinking about this. I avoid going to any funeral or viewing unless I determine that I will be perceived as a complete asshole for not attending. Funny thing is that I have been a volunteer firefighter and paramedic for over 15 years. I have seen just about every manner of death and dying under the sun. My duties have included inspecting morgues and funeral homes. No problems with any of that, but I would rather have a root canal than go to a funeral.

yes, my aunt was forced to before the funeral of her grandma as a child and shes never forgotten it …that was in the mid-50s midwest…

Very small universe, then.