31 answers

Am I Wrong Not to Take My 3 Year Old to My Grandmother's Funeral?

My grandmother recently had a stroke and just took a turn for the worse this week. As of yesterday her kidneys were failing and the doctors don't expect her to make it much longer. I am not super close with this grandmother, but I do love her and it's still hard to say goodbye. My concern at the moment is whether or not I should take my 3 year old daughter to the funeral. She is at a very inquisitive age and would ask a lot of questions. I think it's probably just too young to expose her to death. She may also get upset at seeing others cry. Have any of you had to make a decision like this?

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So What Happened?™

Thank you guys for all of the feedback. I really love this site. Right now my grandmother is still hanging on but she will most likely pass any day now. The doctors are saying it won't be very long. Please help me pray for a peaceful and painless death. I don't think I will bring my daughter. I don't think I'm so much worried about her experiencing death, because I would explain it in simple terms and she does already know about it a little bit. I think I'm more worried about the possibility of her having a tantrum or meltdown of some type. It just seems like it will be less stress for me to leave her with a sitter and be able to go and grieve with my family and just not have to be anxious about whether she is going to behave or not. She's so unpredictable. =) If she was less temperamental I'm sure I wouldn't even question what I was going to do... I'd just bring her. I was just feeling a little guilty thinking maybe I was doing the wrong thing by not taking her... like maybe my grandmother would want her there, but at the same time, I think she would understand me not bringing her too. Thanks again for all of your advice and warm wishes.

Featured Answers

Hi, S. here. I would just like to tell you I am almostin the same situation. My mother in law, who is very close to my heart is in the hospital and not doing well. The subject of her passing and I told my family that I would not be taking my 5 year old and my 2 year old because I want them to remember her when she was alive and not in a casket. I feel this is the best decision for me and my children for the simple reason that I don't want them to go through something that tramatic at a young age. I will sit down with them and explain that Grandma is no longer here with us, she has went to heaven and she will always be there to watch over them. I hope this helps some. S.

Don't take her. Funerals are not the place for children, especially a 3 year old. Just find a babysitter and leave her comfortably at home.

Jana,
Do not take her. She is too young to even comprehend what is going on. My father in law passed away when my son and my nephew were both that age. I did not take any of my kids (3,2,1) to the services. My nephew went to everything and he had dreams about seeing grampa in the coffin and going to the ground. My kids had dreams of grandpa when he was alive. You do not want the lasting memory of her great grandmother to be of her dead. If she will remember, make it be a good memory. I am sorry that you are going through such a difficult moment, but you do not need the added stress of taking her. Good luck.
G.

More Answers

We took our 3 year old daughter to her great grandmas funeral. We explained that there would be sad people and that grandma had died. She then told me she wanted to draw grandma a picture to make her feel better, so we let her. I was relieved that she really didnt get it, and we didnt let her view the body. Then, after the funeral she said she wanted to go see grandma and we repeated to her that we couldnt see grandma b/c she had died. Her response? "AGAIN?" It was a funny moment at a sad time. She was fine, not at all phased by the situation.

Dear J.:
How about you explain to her what to expect (black clothes, crying, service, etc.) and ask her?

If you brief her that you may be crying and that it is a special service to remember your grandmother, she will tell you whether she wants to go. Death is natural, especially for really old people. However, make it clear that she cannot be obnoxious or leave early, if she chooses to go. If you depict it as a boring event (which it will be for a 3-year-old), she does not feel left out, but is likely to decline.

Regards,
W.

My father in law passed away just a couple months ago. My son had just turned three. My biggest fear with him being there is that it was an open casket. I was afraid he would see his grandpa and want him, and that was a can of worms I just was not willing to open. Now I am not trying to offend anyone but, I think that the idea that a 3 year old is actually capable of understanding the concept of death and going to a funeral to help them say goodbye is just rediculous! We sat my son down and explained to him that grandpa had died and he said he understood, but he still asks when he gets to see him. He sees him in a picture and talks about him in the present. Childrens minds dont work like a grown person, they, fortunately, do not really understand the concept of death. My son knows grandpa is "gone" but he thinks died means he went on vacation or is just someplace else. I dont believe that taking him to the funeral would have made it easier on him or helped him to understand. The funeral didnt do a whole lot for the rest of us who were close to him, I dont know what anyone could expect it to do for a small child. One of the greatest things about children is their innocence, and I personally think that by trying to make them understand what has happened will only make that innocence fade sooner.

My son is almost 2. I have taken him to two funerals this past year and one last night. I thought of you. I was a bit concerned about him as well but I realized that there is not a real concept of death at that age. If had been someone in my family I don't know what I would have done but how they adjust to these things is all up to us.
When my mother died my brother decided to keep the youngest one away because of the distraction. That is what worked for them but I have found that when I take my son that everyone truly appreciates the reminder of joy and life.
So taking babies to these things has to feel right for you. If you feel that having children see you grieve will affect them negatively then that would be something to consider.
Best wishes and God Bless you for you loss.

Hi J.,

I don't think you're wrong--but I would say that I don't think it would hurt her to go either. My daughter was only 10 months at my Mom's funeral, so she was clueless, but my brother's daughter was 4. I would suggest reading a book on the subject--I don't know a specific one to suggest but I bet a Christian book store or any book store probably has something that would help. Just be prepared ahead of time with your answers to the different possible questions she may ask. Keep it simple and on her age level. This may be an excellent opportunity to teach her about death without scaring her.

S.

It's not too early to expose your daughter to death, you ust wouldn't want to expose her in the same way as, say, a yr old. It would probably be helpful to go to the bookstore or library and get some books for both yourself and her. There are books with advice on have to talk about it and books to read with her that can help approach and explain at her level. Death is sad but it is a natural part of the life cycle and you could explain to her that your grandmather lived a long time and shared a lot of love with her family and friends. Even if she doesn't go to the funeral she will wonnder why you are sad and if she saw your grandmother will probably wonder why she doesn't get to see her anymore. My grandmother died when I was 3 and my family was very close to her. They did not keep that information from me and quite frankly I don't remember that time in my life.

Best of luck with your decision

Every kid is different. I think it has a lot to do with temperament and personality. I have just gone through this with my son so I can tell you what worked for me and you could see if any of it relates to your situation.
My grandfather just passed away a week ago at the age of 99. My son just turned six and I was very ambivilent about what to tell him because he has had a terrible fear of death. It started last year, out of nowhere - there had been no deaths in his life - and it was heartbreaking to see him so sad and afraid. It would go away and then resurface every few months. We would talk about heaven and God and all that and nothing seemed to make him feel any better until we started talking about how my grandmother wants to come back as a cat in her next life. He seemed to like the idea of people coming back again as something they like. Anyway, he hasn't talked about it lately and I didn't want to bring it up if it was going to set him off again, but I also didn't want him to feel like I had kept something from him when he eventually did find out. I told him that my grandfather's body had just gotten too old and worn out and that his body died, but now he's in heaven and he feels much better to not be old anymore. I told him that we were going to a party to celebrate what a long and happy life he had and to celebrate how lucky we all were to know him. I emphasized that even though some people were a little sad because they would miss him, that everyone was still ok and that my father (who lived with my grandfather) was still living in that house and was still going about his daily life and that everything was still going on just as it always had and always would.
My son seems to have taken it in stride. He hasn't been upset. One thing that helped I think was that we had a private burial (which I did not bring him to) a few days before the memorial service so there was no casket and no grave for him to ponder over at the service. To him, it was just a church service and a party.
At three, your daughter might still be too young to even be able to grasp the death part of it. I would imagine that it would be upsetting for her to see you and other people she loves visibly upset. I don't know. I can tell you that a year ago, I would not have taken my son to a funeral with the fears he was having. Two years ago, it might not have been a problem though because he hadn't reached that stage yet. I don't know if any of this helps, but good luck and trust in your judgement as her mother.

Hi J., Answer to your question...NO (my opinion) Age three is sooooo young and your daughter will most likely never remember your grandmother or the fact that she never went to the funeral. My daughter was super young too when we went to a funeral, but we did not take her. Funerals are really no place for children that young. If there is going to be a dinner for the family type gathering afterward, I would say let her go to that. She will be an uplift for the older folks and love the attention...and if there are other children at the meal, she could play with them. I feel like funerals are a sad part of life and it's not necessary for them to see or feel this at that time. A short story of mine...One year ago, my stepdad passed away. At the time, my daughter was five going on six and VERY close to Pawpaw! She saw him at the funeral home (open casket) and she went to the graveside service. It all depends on the maturity of the child too. With my daughter, this helped her to bring closure to the person she is soooo close to. You see, at the age of six, they know so much already. We just can't ice over it and not talk about what happened and where he is. They have to see and know! I sure hope this helps with your struggle. And I am so sorry for your loss. :-( I hope all goes as well as to be expected. God Bless!! Deborah

I have had to make several decisions about whether or not to take my childern to funerals in the last few years and have found it seems to make it a little easier on the children to be able to say goodbye. I have a 13 yr. old girl who lost a grandparent when she was around 3. I did not want her to go to the funeral but got talked into it. It was the better decision. She did well and seemed to have an easier time letting go. Recenty my sister-in-law passed away from cancer and her daughter, 4, and cousins 4 and under all went to the funeral but they made the decision to stay in the waiting area during the funeral. One parent volunteered to stay with them. This seemed to work well also. If your daughter has any relationship with this grandmother I would encourage you to take her and let her decide what she is comfortable with.

J.,

First of all, I am sorry that you are losing your grandmother. It makes for a difficult time.

Regarding your daughter, I don't think she is too young to be exposed to "death." She will see that bugs die, flowers die, etc. and if she ever sees your grandma for visits, you can't hide the fact that she died. Nor should you. You need to at least tell her in a way that she won't assume you or she or anyone else is going to die right away just because grandma did. If you are a religious person, teach her your beliefs about the afterlife.

My oldest two children are 5 and 3 and they are very comfortable with the concept. They know what funerals, caskets and cemetaries are. Because I am a Christian, they understand about heaven and the resurrection. When they ask me if I am going to die, I say "Of course, that is how we get back home to heaven. But it probably won't happen until you are so very old - probably a grandparent. Then I will go to heaven first and wait for you to come, just like I waited for you to come to me before you were born. Then when you come to heaven we can be together forever as a family with Jesus." They are fine with that because I tell them like it is a fact of life, because it is. If I would try to hide the truth or lie, they would eventually see through it and death could be a very scary thing.

Regarding the funeral, if your daughter hardly knows your grandma, she really doesn't need to attend the funeral. You can tell her that you are going to a (long, sitting quietly) meeting where everyone remembers grandma and it is a time for you to accept that she is gone. You are going to say goodbye even though she is already gone and mostly grown ups will be there. Tell her she would be happier playing with toys and being noisy.

If your daughter was very close to your grandma, she should go to at least part of the services and be well preped in advance for what she sees and hears. You may decide to have her skip the viewing or if the services will be long, skip another part. She WILL have lots of questions and that is okay. Answer them honestly with a short and simple answer she can understand. If it is hard to keep answering because you're in mourning, have your husband help you. If you are concerned about what she might say at the service, (I attended a graveside service once where a three year old kept pointing to the casket and saying "does everyone know there is a dead body in here?") explain to her that questions need to wait until the funeral is over and it is just the two of you. Or if it can't wait, she needs to whisper in your ear. If she is unable to follow those kind of instructions, it would be best not to have her come.

She is bound to notice the mourning or the crying if she attends the funeral. Tell her that even grown ups cry when they are sad and that it is okay. Everyone feels sad for a while when someone dies, but eventually the sad feelings get less and less as we keep living.

Last of all, keep your grandmother's memory alive with your daughter. My husband lost his grandfather when my two oldest children were very young. We have pictures of my kids with their great-grandpa in their room. We talk about how they used to sit on his lap when they were babies. We named our youngest after his great-grandpa and all the kids understand that. My oldest daughter had a good cry when he died and then she was fine. She likes when we talk about him and it honors his memory to do it.

Best wishes,
S.

Jana,
Do not take her. She is too young to even comprehend what is going on. My father in law passed away when my son and my nephew were both that age. I did not take any of my kids (3,2,1) to the services. My nephew went to everything and he had dreams about seeing grampa in the coffin and going to the ground. My kids had dreams of grandpa when he was alive. You do not want the lasting memory of her great grandmother to be of her dead. If she will remember, make it be a good memory. I am sorry that you are going through such a difficult moment, but you do not need the added stress of taking her. Good luck.
G.

My children wre 4 and 6 when my husbands grandmother died. We called the funeral home and they did a tour for the boys ahead of time. It was wonderful because they could ask all the questions they wanted and we did not have to be embarased in front of the family. The gentleman who took them around answered honestly but kept the more delicate portions from them. We then explained the procedures for the funeral itself and explained that people would be sad so they knew what might happen. The day of the funeral the boys knew what to expect and it went smoothly.

Good Luck

J.- I have had to deal with this more than once unfortunatly. I didn't have a choice but to take my daughter to the first one and I had to take both of my children to the second. My daughter was very young for the first, but she was 2 for the second one. She was still very aware of what was going on. I will be honest with you, She handled it fine. She asked a few questions, we answered them honestly. And that was the end!! Also, She probably won't remember a thing about it!! My grandfather died when I was 6 yrs old. I do not remember anything about his funeral. It wasn't until I was in high school that my grandmother and I were talking about it and she told me I was there. And my grandpa and I were REALLY close!! So whatever you decide, I think your daughter will be fine!!! Good Luck and I'm sorry for your loss!!!

Hello. I have a four year old and a 3 year old. Their great great grandparents died and I was in the same position. I didn't know whether introducing them to the concept of death was too soon. So I consulted with my pediatrician, mother-in-law and searched on the web. The jist of what I found was that if you keep it simple. Children at this age don't have a long attention span so a lengthy discussion won't be absorbed. I took both my girls to the wake, walked them up to the casket, said "gramma is sleeping". The question came of "why doesn't she wake up" and I merely said "there's two kinds of sleeping, one when we go to bed to rest our bodies and the other we sleep to be with god and gramma is sleeping to be with god". My daughters understood and had no more questions. I asked them to say goodbye and we'll see her in our dreamdates (another thing I did). The rest of the visit was fine because they went to play with cousins.

If you keep it simple it should be fine. Good luck.

Hi, S. here. I would just like to tell you I am almostin the same situation. My mother in law, who is very close to my heart is in the hospital and not doing well. The subject of her passing and I told my family that I would not be taking my 5 year old and my 2 year old because I want them to remember her when she was alive and not in a casket. I feel this is the best decision for me and my children for the simple reason that I don't want them to go through something that tramatic at a young age. I will sit down with them and explain that Grandma is no longer here with us, she has went to heaven and she will always be there to watch over them. I hope this helps some. S.

J.

I agree that you should NOT take your daughter to the funeral. She is too young and very impressionable. You don't want her remembering her great-grandmother that way. Even if she didn't know her real well or at all. People tend to think that little kids aren't smart or that they don't have good memories. They do! My 5 year old son remembers things that I don't and some of the things he remembers are things that I wish he wouldn't. Don't put your precious child through that. Think of her and don't worry about what other people might say. You are looking out for her best interest.

I hope I could help at least a little. Best wishes!

M. B
Married, mother of 4: 17, 15, 11, & 5. Live in Converse, stay a home mom & have MS.

Don't take her. Funerals are not the place for children, especially a 3 year old. Just find a babysitter and leave her comfortably at home.

J.,

I will echo much of what has been said, it is very personal. I have unfortunately had to make this same decison 4 times in the last year. I had NEVER experienced a death in my family unitl this year, then starting last August I lost My father, my aunt in Jan, my father-in-law in April and then my grandmother in July. Each of them had a different relationship with my sons (6 year old and 1 1/2 year old) The only funeral they did not go to was my aunts, that was more of a schedule conflict and they were not very close to her. I found out that we are one of the only cultures that views death as something to shield our kids from. Other cultures advocate that children at some point will understand that with life comes death. And they are open about it. If you do take her, you are right that she will probably ask questions, but you just answer them at her level. Not to technical, just like you would for any other situation.

I hope you are at peace with what ever decision you make. My prayers are with you and your family during this difficult time.

Blessings to you from Him,
whom I serve,

M. "The Photo Chic"

No you are not wrong each person feels differently about this subject. There is no right or wrong here. My father passed away when my daughter was 3 and my son was 8. They both did just fine. We talked about grandpa's passing before we went to the funeral home. She didn't completely understand at first. But I just explained we would no longer get to see grandpa, he had to leave and be with God. But that it was ok because he still sees us. They might get a little upset because people are crying and it is ok. This is part of life and unfortunately something they have to learn to deal with. What ever you decide is the right thing for you and your child. Blessings to Your Family

I didnt take either one of my children to my grandfather's funeral and we were very close. The funeral was a lovely chance for us to say goodbye for us, for some of my cousins, it eas a difficult time keeping their children quiet.

You are not wrong at all if that is your preference. I have a different perspective on the matter. Death is the other side of the coin of life, you can't have one without the other. You can keep your explanations at her age level. There are many books you can get through your public library that are age appropriate. Also remember that just because she asks a question she does not need a full detail answer. You can tell her that grandma's spirit is with the angels and that her body is no longer working.

Remember that you can't protect your children from the hard things in life. Our job is to help them learn to work through the tough spots.

My grandmother died 3 years ago when my son was in kindergarten and my granddaughter was 2 and 1/2. To this day when we see butterflies (because my grandmother loved them and celebrated them} we blow kisses to take to heaven. Each year on her birthday we float a balloon with her birthday card to heaven. You can make each memory moment positive if YOU have the positive attitude first. Don't shy away from death. Let her see you sad but tell her it only lasts for a little while. Tell her you see some of your grandmother in her and that it makes you happy. My son and granddaughter are not afraid of going to heaven because they know that Nanny is waiting for them even if it takes a long time before they gets there. Your response to death will determine her response.

I am so sorry you are losing your grandmother even though you aren't close, you will feel the loss. Let your daughter see you work through that and if she wants to comfort you like you do when she is sad let her and it's important to let her see that her presence makes it better. One other important thing is to let her know that grandma's body does not hurt. Many kids fear death because they fear pain.

I will pray for you and your daughter and that grandma's journey to heaven will be a positive learning experience for you and your daughter.
C.

When my father passed away in march I took both my kids (Nate 3 and Elle 1) Nate was just begining to grasp that Grandpa wasnt there he was in heven. We had that talk because it was a long battal with cancer and would visit him in the hospital. It was also comforting to my mother to have the kids there. Death and mourning are a part of life, and your family may appreciate the sense of new life that little children bring. My condolences either way.

Personally, I would NOT take any of my children (ages 2, 5, and 7) to a funeral. I still have some traumatic memories about my grandmothers funeral and I was much older than 3... I just think funeral are no place for children.

J., I have no advice. However, I do have a story tell you. My uncle died not too long ago. I felt obligated to be there and took my 3 year old daughter to the funeral. I was very concerned too. Amazingly, things turned out o.k. She saw people crying, she even saw my uncle in the casket. She looked at him and said "I don't know why everyone is crying. He is just sleeping and will soon wake up with Jesus". One thing you need to understand, I NEVER told her that. This is something that just came out of her mouth. Everyone that heard that comment smiled and it became a topic...because we all are Christians, the comment made by a 3 year old girl seemed to make so much sense. Then my daughter played with all the little children at the funeral and laughed and she had a great time. She did ask questions, but didn't give it too much importance. So go with your instinct. Good luck.

J.,
Just adding my two cents. Yes, it is a very personal decision, but since you're asking for opinions - I'm a firm believer in honesty with my children. And there's nothing more honest about life, than death. I think it's extremely important for children to see what death is about, and how others around them handle it. It's an unpleasant business, but so are many of the great lessons in life. And as far as your child being a child in the middle of a funeral - I would bet that most people would welcome the contrast. Your daughter is full of life - young, energetic, and full of questions. Of course we should be respectful when we're mourning someone we love, but I believe there is also room for momentary relief from the pain. I think that's why God made children the way they are - to remind us that life goes on.

And yes - I have taken my two young children to my grandpa's funeral. We avoided the open casket, and they handled the rest of it as children do - with curiosity, and even empathy.

My condolences to you and your family.
Sincerely,
M. B

My son was also 3 when my husband's grandmother died, and we took him to the funeral. He wasn't too inquisitive, though. He was 4 when my father died, and I also took him to that funeral. I think at that age, they are still open to everything and don't see death in capital letters as we sometimes do. I also think that it is important for them to know why everyone else around them is sad and crying, and to know that there is a time for everything, and this is a time for mourning a loved one. So I don't think you would do your child any harm in taking her to the funeral.
That said, what is more important is whether you are comfortable with taking a young child to such an event. My greatest concern was always whether my son would be sufficiently well-behaved not to disturb everyone else's mourning. As it turned out, there never was a problem (the somber mood everyone is in gets to them, too). But do expect some questions and be ready to answer them as honestly as you can. What killed me during my dad's funeral was when my son asked me whether grand-dad would get to blow out all the candles on his coffin.
I wish you and your family a lot of strength in the time ahead!
M.

J., i have a three year old who went to her Mimi's ( her great grandma) funeral over the summer. She did fine. Mimi had been in the hospital so she knew she was ill, and when she passed we explained she was happy in heaven. She still talks about Mimi. I also have an older son - he's 8. When he was little I had a stillbirth. We had a funeral, but I did not have him go cause I though he would be scared. Well now that he is older we talked about what happened and tells me he wishes he could have said good bye...every child is different, and every family handles death differently. some mourn it, and others celebrate it. Whichever choice you make will be fine, just don't feel pressured that either are wrong. Take care..

I think that it is a personal matter. However, I didn't go to my Great-grandmothers funeral (8yrs old) and I wish I could have...I was somewhat close to her. I chose not to take my toddler (about 4 yrs)to her Great-grandfather's (my husband at the time's grandfather)funeral because she wasn't close to him, really didn't know him and I didn't feel like she should be there (because it would cause too many questions that I didn't feel she needed to experience yet).

On the other hand when my grandfather passed away, I brought both of my children (daughter then 7yrs and son 4yrs) to his funeral. I did this time because they were very close to him and he was very much involved in their lives from the time they were born. I felt they should be there to feel and be with the family. They were able to understand a little more that PawPaw was gone. It eased some of the confusion. My son even asked the awkward questions at the funeral and touched him at the viewing. I feel like I made the right decision both times. My other grandfather (their great-grandfather) passed away 8 mos before him and my grandmother didn't have a funeral. The children were somewhat close to him and were as expected upset when they heard he passed. But I had numerous questins to answer and situatins to deal with because his passing I feel was confusing probably due to the fact they had nothing to let clearly help them understand that he was not coming back.

My step mother passed away two years ago and I chose not to bring my children to that funeral for numerous reasons and they were 9yrs and 6yrs. My daughter was a little upset because I didn't let her go at the time. In the end she really didn't want to go for the right reasons and I feel like I made the right decision for that one too.

It is ultimately your decision. Don't over think it and I believe that every situation is different. You will make the right decision for your daughter.

Good luck, I am sorry about your loss.

I have a three year old. The only thing you can count on with this age is that you have no control over what they may do next, and you don't know how they will act and respond to new situations. Your already know that you daughter has tantrums, that you have had trouble controlling. People at funerals are grieving. Her possible "learning experiece" should not impinge on others' grief. It is inappropriate to take her. But I think you already knew that.

Is a VERY personal decision, and I think you should go with your gut. However, children are humans living the human experience, and it's just reality. If you're going to be very overcome, perhaps it's best if she wasn't there - she might be frightened by your grief. But she may not. If she's inquisitive, it may very well be a good learning experience. If you're a religious person, it can be a good opportunity to teach her what you value in that area.

There are those who will say it's wrong to take her, and probably few who will say it's wrong NOT to take her. Think it through, but don't sweat it. You'll make the right decision for you and for your daughter.

For the record, I have taken my son to two funerals since he's been about three, and he's fine with it. He too is inquisitive and wicked bright. Best of luck, and I know you'll make the right choice.

Maybe my family is different than everyone else's. Sure, everyone grieves at these funerals, but everyone loves having children around--- it reminds us that life goes on and brings a smile to people's faces. You should grieve but you need to keep things in perspective and children do that for you. I had 3 funerals back to back in November and December of last year--- granted my daughter was only a year old, but she definitely threw temper tantrums and she had older cousins your daughter's age and they made it bearable for people. Everyone knows how kids are so they don't mind the tantrums, at least no one I know ever does, they understand. As I said, it always makes them smile... NOW for how your child will react, I agree that she won't really understand. In fact, one of the funerals I attended was for my 22 year old cousin who died, leaving behind a 3 year old boy. He was there the entire time and said his daddy was sleeping. He enjoyed seeing all of his family members and they enjoyed seeing him. I think you should bring her-- also it will help you to keep life in perspective as well. That is just my opinion....

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