Should children go to funerals?
This is a question I’ve been asked about a few times over.
Thing is, there is no right or wrong answer. The only thing I ask is that a parent asks him or herself, “Why should my child not attend this funeral especially if they were knew the person well?” What is it that they would like to protect their child from?
Like most unfortunate episodes in life, if this experience is handled properly for the child, then it will be an opportunity for him or her to say goodbye to his/her loved one.
My daughter is now 9 years old. If any of my family or close friends were to pass away, I would definitely take her to the funeral because like most rituals, there’s something about funerals, why they happen and how they help.
From the moment a death occurs, a grieving journey is started and unless there’s some sort of ritual, it can continue for a long time along with some negative emotions such as anger and hurt.
Here are some tips to preparing your child to attend a funeral:
- Spend sometime speaking to them about the process. What will happen on the day, when the funeral will be, who will be there, how long it will take, where it will be and why it’s happening – are some of the information that you might want to give them.
- If you are unable to be attend to them at the funeral because you know you will be too distraught to do so, have a designated and trusted adult to help you with them. This person may sit with them, walk with them and just be present for them to lean on and be with. It doesn’t mean that they have to sit far away from you, they can be next to you if you wish.
Helen Mackinnon trains people in how to deal with death. She always starts by asking if any of them ever went to a funeral when they were primary school age. “A few hands usually go up. But when I ask who remembers wanting to go to a funeral but not being allowed to, a forest of hands always shoot up,” she says.
There’s no doubt that funerals can be harrowing for children, but Mackinnon, of Winston’s Wish, the child bereavement charity, says no one there has ever come across someone who regretted going to a funeral as a child.
From the Guardian Newspaper
- Let them know that the ceremony will be full of people who will be very upset about the loss and they are all coming to say goodbye. They might see a lot of adults crying and that you will be crying too. It’s ok for children to see parents cry and being upset. It allows them to do the same – it gives them some sort of permission which in the long run, is one of the healthiest things you can give your child.
- Encourage your children to talk about what has happened and to ask questions. Give them as much age appropriate information as possible while acknowledging their pain and even their confusion in what is going on.
- Involving them in the funeral arrangements can help them feel more part of it which in the long run, may help them cope with the journey. They could help choose flowers and songs to be sung.
As with most challenging experiences in your child’s life, the death or loss of a loved one is a very important occurrence, but what is even more important is how it’s handled.
Attending the funeral could be just the start of a long grieving journey but without this farewell ritual, the journey may be even longer and harder to bear.
If you have any concerns about your child please do get in touch by calling me on 07850 85 60 66 or emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org