Should my 5-year-old be allowed to attend a funeral?

Pam - posted on 06/09/2012 ( 5 moms have responded )




We are anticipating the death of a family member sometime in the near future. At this point, my husband and I (who rarely argue or even disagree) are in complete disagreement over whether our five-year-old daughter should be included in calling hours and the funeral. HE believes that children should not be included and don't even need to know much about it. "Children should not be subjected to such a topic as death."

When our fish died two weeks ago he told me to "get rid of it, clean out the bowl, and don't even mention it to her. Hopefully she won't notice." When the previous fish died, he quickly ran to the pet store and replaced it so she wouldn't know the difference. (She DID notice, right away -- I just said the fish died and that was the end of it.)

*I* completely disagree with his line of thinking. To me, death is a part of life. Kids see it every day when we drive past a dead possum on the side of the road, or when they squish a bug. We kill spiders in the house all the time.

As for funeral homes, as long as it is a closed casket, I see no reason to not include her. I would hate for her to grow up and someday tell me, "You didn't let me say goodbye." I believe kids need to know when someone dies, not necessarily the reasons for it, but that it is a fact of life. She has already asked questions about death (my grandmother, who she never met but we talk about -- I was very close to her before her death in 2005) and where is she now? I just think children should not be shut out. Questions can always be answered truthfully without giving TOO much information.

I should mention that we are not religious in any way, so talk of Heaven is not an option in our home. Please don't suggest any form of religion.

Does anyone have any suggestions for how to handle this? Any NON-RELIGIOUS feedback would be incredible helpful. Thanks!


Kaitlin - posted on 06/09/2012




I think she should absolutely be allowed to attend, especially if it's a family member she knows. At 5, she could also, maybe, be allowed to make that decision? Ask her if she wants to go, tell her what the evening (or afternoon, whatever) would entail, and give her the option of staying home (or going to a friends' house or a sitter's) or coming? That's how *I* would handle it. Not sure about the questions though, we are religious so I'm not sure what I would say if we didn't have that foundation. Good luck.

Erin - posted on 06/09/2012




First of all, let me say I'm sorry if some "faith talk" gets into my response. I'll try to make it as non-religiouFs as I can, but my faith is part of who I am. I try not to force it on anyone though, because it's a personal choice to me.
Now, I think that you're right in helping your daughter understand that death is a part of life. Because I believe in heaven, I don't find death scary and I don't want my children to find it scary either. In 2010, my grandmother passed away. I took both of my boys (ages 2.5yo and 10mo at the time) to the funeral. They didn't go out to the cemetary with us because it was cold and snowy at the time. They even got to look at their great-grandmother in the casket. My oldest asked if Great-grandma was sleeping. We answered honestly that she had died. She wasn't really here anymore and that her body was just a shell. When he asked where she was, we said that she had gone to be with Jesus (because that's what we believe). Since your daughter has already asked questions about your grandmother and you've answered them, just repeat the answers for this family member who is really ill.
Next question - when does your husband think that your daughter needs to be informed about death? 10, 15, 18? You're right in that fact that it's a part of life. Unless he plans on her never watching any Disney movies, I think he needs to realize that it's impossible to shelter her from death completely. I say that because I can think of 3 Disney movies right away that have the death of a character as part of the storyline with no "resurrection" later. Lion King, Bambi, and Finding Nemo.
I hope this helps you. And once again, I'm sorry I couldn't completely leave the "faith talk" out.


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Dove - posted on 06/09/2012




For a toddler that might be disruptive or disturbed I probably wouldn't consider them attending the actual funeral, but for a 5 year old... I'd go by her comfort level. Death is a normal and natural part of life and children shouldn't be shielded from it, but introduced to it on a level that they can understand based on their age and maturity.

User - posted on 06/09/2012




I agree with you that chilldren should learn that death is a part of life. Having said that my children didn't go to my mum's funeral, who they were very close to. They were 4 and 7 at the time. The main reasons I didn't want them to go were that I didn't want the stress of watching them and making sure they were behaving appropriately and also there were a lot of people there who they didn't know, which would have been overwhelming for them.

A few days after the funeral I took them to visit her grave and they laid flowers on it. They have also made scrapbooks with photos of her, to help keep their precious memories of her alive.

S. - posted on 06/09/2012




My hb hate's anything to do with death and to me it's just part of life. I answer my kids straight if they ask, I say people die when there really really really old or if their sick and doctors can't make them better, I'm not religious either but right or wrong I do say that people go to heaven, I think if children can visualise something it's a bit easier to understand and how do I know. You could just be honest and say we don't know what happens after we die. As for the funeral thing, we was totally sheltered from death as kids and my oldest sister will never forgive my mother for not letting her attend my great nanna's funeral, I think if the kids close to the person then they shouldn't be aloud to go regardless of there age.

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