This is a question that we are often asked and many parents ask themselves when the time comes to attend a funeral, and I personally don’t think there is any right or wrong answer.
If I think back to every funeral, I’ve ever attended I can’t remember one where there were no children present. I attended my first funeral at 6 months old for my Great Grandfather, not that I can remember it!
Parents never want to make the wrong decision for their children and if there is the opportunity to spare their children from any heartache that’s an opportunity any parent would take. Lots of emotions are present at a funeral. Every funeral is different, every family is different and therefore the emotions present are all different. Some people choose to have more of a celebration of life rather than mourning a loss. So, do we expose our children to the heightened emotions and the outward expression of grief that usually comes along with a funeral?
Is there an age where children should attend a funeral? Personally, I don’t think age is the most important thing to take into consideration. Funerals and death is potentially one of the most difficult events for children to understand and process. As much as a parent or loved one tries to prepare and explain it, depending on their age and stage of conceptual development it may be literally impossible for them to grasp. Each child will grieve differently, at different times and in different ways just like adults. Often the reality and finality of the death isn’t realised until the child develops and grows older. Typically, young children don’t seem to have a fear of the deceased like adults think they do. Its very common for parents to have the assumption that their child will be scared if there is a viewing or open casket/coffin, or the thought that a loved one is in a casket or coffin would be upsetting. For older children, siting them down and having a conversation about the funeral that is to take place and giving them that choice if they want to attend or not. There are studies that have been done which say that older children who were not allowed to attend a funeral feel like they didn’t get a chance to say goodbye and that can affect their grieving. On the other had children who were forced to attend may feel resentful that they didn’t have a choice.
My Great Grandmother died when I was 10. I was very close with her, she taught me how to knit and she made the best pasties ever. When it was time for her funeral, I could attend the service however I was not allowed to go to the viewing. I was very upset that I didn’t get to go to the viewing, and I remember arguing with my mother about it before she went. To this day I still regret not being able to go to the viewing and be able to say goodbye properly, I didn’t feel I got to really do that at the service. I felt like there was no closure.
Every child is different, every family is different. There really is no definitive answer as to when a child is or isn’t old enough to attend a funeral. What would you do? Have you let your child attend a funeral or have you not allowed them to go?
If you have questions about how to comfort children at a funeral or anything funeral related, why not get in touch with us at 1300 043 522 or firstname.lastname@example.org and let us answer any questions you may have.
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