It’s apt to say that funerals are difficult for everyone involved. No matter the circumstances surrounding the death, grief affects everyone, and funerals are an important part of the grieving process. However, there is one group often excluded from this process and that is children. While some may say that it’s too much for a child to attend a funeral, there are many reasons why it would be important. Below, we will touch on a few things to consider when bringing a child to a funeral.
What is the Relationship to the Deceased?
This is one of the most important factors in making the decision about whether a child should attend a funeral. Children process and recognize more than we realize, especially when it comes to loss. If the deceased was someone very close to the child, such as a parent, sibling, or grandparent, it may be imperative to their grief journey to attend the funeral. As a ritual that involves close friends and family, excluding the child may make them feel as though they don’t matter to the deceased, or their relationship wasn’t important.
What Type of Services will be Held?
Another factor to consider is what type of services are being held. Will there be a visitation and church service or is it a simple graveside service? Each of these services differ in what will take place and what may be present. This can give the child options if they don’t feel ready to be present for everything. Give the child as much information as you can about what will happen at each event. By being open and honest about the day’s schedule and what to expect, this might help to ease the anxiety they feel about the funeral. It will also help the parent or caregiver gauge what the child can handle. Maybe they’re not ready for an open casket viewing, but could attend the church service or graveside service.
Who Will be at the Funeral?
The saying goes “It takes a village to raise a child.” While it might not be a village, having additional support when bringing a child to a funeral can help to ease the stress on the parent and the child. Knowing that there is a trusted relative or friend close by who can take them to another area if they get overwhelmed or just need a moment away from everything. This can be especially helpful if the deceased is a parent, sibling, or other close relative where their parent or caregiver may not be able to step away. Having familiar faces will also be helpful to the child in making them feel more comfortable in a foreign situation.
Consider the Child’s Age and Behavior
All children of all ages experience loss and while a baby may just sleep through an entire funeral, a toddler may not. Parents and caregivers know their children and will be the best judge of potential behavior at a funeral. A child who can sit still or occupy themselves quietly is less likely to be a distraction at a funeral. If you have a child who is in a particularly rambunctious stage, a funeral might not be a good fit for them. The same can be said about a child’s age. Younger children will understand less of what’s going on and may ask more questions, while an older child can take in their surroundings and make inferences about the situation.
At some point, we all experience death. While our instinct may be to shelter our children, there are benefits to letting them be involved in the rituals and experiences surrounding death. By having an honest and open conversation about what to expect, children can be more prepared for the services. Allowing them to be involved gives them a chance to say goodbye, begin to process their emotions around the loss, and honor their loved one in whatever way they can. What are your thoughts? Did you attend a funeral at a young age? How did that help you process your grief? Let us know in the comments section below.