Should Kids Attend a Funeral?

November 11, 2009
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image Today’s question comes not from a reader but from personal experience: Should children attend a funeral or memorial service? I’m grieved to report that my dad died last week. (That’s him with my kids in July, in the foto below.) As I?d lost my mother not two years before, the subject of funerals and children has been very much on my mind.

I’m always surprised when I hear about others’ beliefs about what’s “proper” or “safe” or “appropriate.” Seems to me there are way too many myths about “protecting” little ones, tweens, and teens from the realities of life ? and death.

6 myths about kids and loss:

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– “Kids don?t need “closure” the way adults do.” Of course they do, especially if they had any kind of relationship with the grandparent, even if it was a long-distance relationship where they saw the person just once or twice a year.

– “Kids might get scared.” There’s nothing “scary” about a funeral or memorial service, which are a celebration of a life. There was an open casket at my mother’s visitation in the funeral home, and 12 of her 14 grandchildren were there, the oldest 15 and the youngest ages 2 and 4. They displayed a healthy interest and curiosity. The experience was an opportunity to raise and answer questions about death. Nobody suffered nightmares over seeing Grandma honored!

“Kids might get upset seeing adults crying.” To the contrary, it’s healthy for them to see the grownups around them displaying the full range of human emotion, especially under appropriate circumstances.

– “Kids are a distraction for the grieving adults.” In fact, children are a comfort and a welcome diversion for grieving adults.

– “Kids don’t really care or notice.” Do they notice when you get a new sofa or haircut? Do they notice when Grandma’s pet dies? Kids notice everything. And they care more than we give them credit for. Include them as you can, rather than “protecting” them.

– “It’s too long to expect kids to sit still.”

Depending on your faith or traditions, funeral services can be short or long. My parents were Catholic; events included six hours of visitation, a mass, a military burial at a national cemetery, and a dinner. Obviously the littlest kids weren’t expected to receive guests for six hours at the funeral home as their parents were. But there’s no reason a young child can’t sit through a service or a meal; and you can always make plans for someone to whisk away a cranky baby or toddler as needed.

We shield kids too much from death, when it’s a perfectly natural (if difficult) part of life.

Of course I’m open to hearing another point of view; did you have a different experience? –Paula Spencer, WD “Momfidence” columnist

Source: The Daily WD

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