Should Paris have spoken?

by
EULOGY CONTROVERSY
Should Paris have spoken?
July 11, 2009 Print Ready Email Article

HER WORDS touched many hearts but at what cost to her own?

Click to see larger image
TO SPEAK OR NOT TO SPEAK? Michael Jackson’s daughter, Paris, on stage during the memorial service for her father on Tuesday. PICTURE: AP

Paris Jackson’s now famous 20-second farewell to dad Michael Jackson was painful to watch and it has stirred controversy.

Should a grieving child’s raw emotions be exposed to millions?

Therapists told the New York Daily News that it was an important part of the healing process for the 11-year-old.

‘When you’re going through the grieving process, if everybody else is talking but you don’t get to say how you feel, it can hurt you inside,’ said parenting expert Meri Wallace.

As Paris broke down, her older brother Prince Michael reached over to join the hug.

‘It’s an intuitive bond,’ said family therapist Michelle Ascher Dunn.

‘No one told them to do this. As she was talking, they reached out for each other. You could see that Michael Jackson took care of them as a family unit.’

Children’s bereavement charity Winston’s Wish told the Sun that it believes that children should be given an informed choice – and not be forced into attending or staying at home.

‘There’s no right or wrong answer to whether a child should attend a funeral,’ said Mr Brendan McIntyre, family services manager at the charity.

‘What is important is that they have information that helps them decide – but our 16 years of experience shows most children do choose to go.

‘A child’s vivid imagination often makes up what they don’t know. Including and talking to children allows them to feel in control of something that can be scary.’

But it is important to be sure the child wants to go through with it and for someone to keep an eye on the child, the charity said

Said Mr McIntyre: ‘The death of a parent or sibling is one of the most fundamental losses a child will ever face. Involving children in saying goodbye is important.’

But Paris’s haunting words – ‘I just wanted to say, ever since I was born, Daddy has been the best father you could ever imagine. I just wanted to say I love him so much’ – has upset some.

Exploited?

Some experts and blogs questioned whether a child should publicly eulogise a beloved parent, reported the Globe and Mail.

‘Having her grieve in front of the entire world felt incredibly exploitative,’ MsJessica Grose wrote on the blog DoubleX.

The bigger concern is the long-term impact of the exposure and media attention.

‘Being on stage may change her life in a way that is beyond even the loss of her father,’ said Prof Carl Corter of Toronto’s Ontario Institute for Studies in Education.

Child psychologist Linda Blair said the Jackson family made a ‘bad judgement’ in allowing Paris to speak to millions of people.

Ms Blair said: ‘To be thrust into the limelight as Paris was is potentially very traumatic. This is a girl who has been shielded from the media her whole life. When a child is in shock, as Paris still will be from her father’s death, the most important thing is to keep everything as normal as possible.

‘But the opposite has happened here.’

Reports have also emerged that Jackson’s siblings argued about his daughter speaking.

The Chicago Sun Times newspaper reported: ‘At the end of the service, there was a bit of a disagreement within the assembled Jackson siblings on stage.

‘While Janet, LaToya and Marlon felt it important for Michael’s only daughter to say a few words, some of the others – including Randy and Jermaine – weren’t so sure.’

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