Should young children attend a funeral?

on Tuesday, 16 July 2013. Posted in N21 Experts

Madeline Antoniazzi of Harrison Funeral Home gives her advice on taking children to a funeral

 

Having worked in the funeral business for more than fifteen years, one of the questions I am regularly asked is whether it is appropriate for young children to attend a funeral. In most instances this will be in relation to the death of a grandparent, but sadly on occasion it can be the funeral of a parent, a sibling, cousin or other person who has played an important part in their young lives.

 

It is a very natural reaction to want to protect our young children from the pain of a death in the family, but is this always a good thing? They may see their parents and other family members struggling to control their grief and may not understand why, which can worry them. It can sometimes be the case that the battle to continue normal family life is actually making it even more stressful for the parents.

 

I have spoken to many adults who have told me that they regretted not being at the funeral of a grandparent or some else they were close to when they were a child, being denied the opportunity to say goodbye to grannie or granddad.

 

Perhaps the death of a loved one is the perfect opportunity to embrace the subject of life and death, which has become such a taboo in modern day society; that it is important to say 'good bye' to the person who has died, to celebrate their life and show that we loved them., regardless of the religious beliefs of the family.

 

Should children be allowed to view the body of a close relative? This is something that not all adults are comfortable with. My answer would be that you know how you feel and how your children are likely to respond. It could be an opportunity to show them that the person is at rest and we are always at hand to support you and your children in our funeral home, whatever you decide.

 

Parents worry that if they take their children to a funeral they will have bad dreams, becoming anxious that someone else will die or even start to worry about their own mortality; but this unlikely to result in long term psychological problems, when they have the support of a loving family. From the reading I have done on the subject, child psychologists and bereavement councillors advise that it can be beneficial to encourage the child to talk about the happy times with their lost grandparent, draw pictures and write stories, maybe put together a memory box of little keepsakes and photographs, which they will appreciate in years to come.

 

Only recently a girl of 9 decided she didn't want to go to her grandparent's funeral although her parents gave her the option. So, Mark our funeral director made her a little posie from the funeral flowers for her to keep. A small gesture which I'm told made her smile.

 

It is always wise to discuss taking your child to a funeral with the chief mourners and other family members. If necessary, explain your reasons for wanting your child to be present. It is important to prepare your child before the day, explain what is going to happen, about the coffin, that there may be tears and sadness, but that this is nothing to worry about. In my experience, children respond to the solemnity of the occasion and behave well, although it is worth having a few distractions on hand and if necessary, have someone who can take the child out of the church or crematorium.

 

The presence of a child at a funeral can be an important and positive reminder of the 'circle of life', that we live on through future generations.

 

Please get in touch if you would like advice on this or any other matter relating to a funeral. 

 

Madeline's contact details are here

 

 

Having worked in the funeral business for more than fifteen years, one of the questions I am regularly asked is whether it is appropriate for young children to attend a funeral. In most instances this will be in relation to the death of a grandparent, but sadly on occasion it can be the funeral of a parent, a sibling, cousin or other person who has played an important part in their young lives.

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