Toddlers and funerals?

Amber - posted on 12/30/2010 ( 16 moms have responded )

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In case you haven't read my other post let me fill you in.



My dad has brain cancer and we don't see him making it much longer. We have already made the arrangements and we are just waiting for him to pass. It's breaking my heart. He is home with us and we are taking care of him so she sees him sick.

My question is will her seeing him sick have long term effects? Will she be tramatized? And Do you think its a good idea for her to go to the funeral or has she already had to much?



She is 19mths. I'm so confused she was extremely close to my dad and loved him SO much. Her father is not in her life so my dad was kind of her "dad" because she didn't know any different. She loves him so much and I don't know what to do.

Please just someone tell me what you think would be a good idea...I just don't want my girlie to be haunted by this...Thank you!

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Karen - posted on 12/31/2010

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i want to start by saying i'm very sorry your family is going through this. i agree with callie that now is the time to start preparing her by talking alot. i would suggest that you go find some age appropriate books to read to her and answer all her questions honestly but keep it to her age level. simple is better right now. be aware of your wording to her as well (you don't want to tell her he passed because he was sick because this might make her fear becoming sick). as for the funeral, if you would like her to be present maybe consider taking her to the wake and not the funeral. (i have taken my son who is 15 months to two wakes so far). if she puts up a fuss or you think it's becoming too much you can leave with her and not be missing the very important funeral. i don't think it's ever too young to expose children to this (it's a part of life and imo the younger they have exposure and learn to express their feelings about it the better for them)

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Ashley - posted on 05/03/2012

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Here was my experience: We took both of our kids (3 and 1) to my father-in-laws funeral. It was good for my 3 year old and the 1 year old was indifferent (though he did say one or two interesting things).
We let our 3 year old lead what she wanted to do - like looking in the casket or not. She did start crying when we let her look in the casket one time. She still talks about her Grandpa, but the closure of the funeral was real for her as well as for us. Mostly, I let her lead the conversations and answered as simply as possible any questions she had. We had family there who were willing to take care of our kids so I could focus on my husband. Please make sure you have people there willing to take care of you and your daughter. If it gets to be too much maybe someone can take her out of the funeral.
Hugs - I am sorry you are facing this.

Abbie - posted on 01/01/2011

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Amber I am sorry to hear what you are going through, I have a brother in law who also has brain cancer, its horrible stuff.

My suggestion would be - is your dad on hospice? Or is there something like death readiness available through your hospital or county? I would also explain to her in a way that she will understand or try to understand. Don't tell her grandpa went to sleep........... that may scare her. I would just say Grandpa went to live with Jesus ( if you want to go the religious route) I wouldn't lye to her as she is only 19 months but who knows the effect this may have on her. So be honest with her but don't dwell any longer then needed on it. children are very able to understand and bounce back but they also dont' realize at that age that death is forever.

Again i am sorry to hear of what you are going through.

Callie - posted on 12/31/2010

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Amber, I'm very sorry for your loss. I hope your daughter starts feeling better. She may be fussy because she can sense what's going on. Do you have a trusted friend that would be willing to take her for a few hours to help relieve the stress for both you and your little girl? Maybe a friend to watch her during the funeral if you need? In this tough time remember that although he has passed he was still able to see his little girl as a mommy and was able to meet his granddaughter. I'm sure he was very proud. My thoughts are with you.

Amber - posted on 12/31/2010

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Thank you ladies for your advice and support. My dad passed away last night and its been hell ever since. my daughter hasn't been feeling good and she's been extremely fussy since she got up.

Thank you again

Lydia - posted on 12/31/2010

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The only early childhood memories I have is when my grandparents passed away. I remember my grandpa on his sickbed (they lived next door) and I know exactly how the room looked liked and when he died that we all went over there. It is not a bad memory. I didn't go to his funeral, I was 2 years old.
I also have memories from when my grandma died when I was 4 I think, but I only remember this one scene of my mum crying while she did the dishes... I didn't go to this funeral either. I did go to my other grandpa funeral much later when I was 14 and I have kind of strange memories of this and sometimes I wish I wouldn't have been there... Just some stories, maybe it'll help you decide what to do.

Laura - posted on 12/31/2010

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I'm so sorry for what you are going through--my mom died 2 years ago, at home, from cancer so I know how devistating this can be.



First, as with other suggestions so far, begin talking to your daughter about death and dying in terms she can understand. Do not be afraid to use those words, too! Too often parents (and society in general) try to sugar-coat this aspect of life with kids and that winds up being more confusing to them than just being honest, IMO. Let her ask questions and answer them as best you can, admitting that you "don't know" what some answers might be. Draw on your faith/religion, if you have one you practice, for guidance. Age appropriate books are another good way to approach this subject. Be a bit comforted in the fact that at her age long-term memories haven't really begun to form so she most likely won't remember this sad event personally. She will be impacted by the emotions of everyone at this moment--saddness, grief, depression, etc--but she won't have the lasting memories of those emotions. Small comfort, I know. And don't worry too much if she still asks for grandpa even after he passes on, this is normal as she tries to understand what has happened to him. Just remind her that grandpa has died and won't be back in person.



Since you are working with Hospice, use their services! Hopsice offers FREE grief counceling/group counceling and special counceling for youth. I think your daughter is too young to be fully impacted by this event, but it's worth asking about nonetheless. My dad attended a group specifically for those who lost spouses the same week my mom died and has developed some strong friendships (and dinner partners) out of it. Many of them still meet socially. I cannot emphasize enopugh the importance, to you, of using their grief services! Hopsice is wonderful!



As for the funeral question--I would treat it as any other service or function that you might attend with your daughter. Only you know her behavior and level of tolerence for sitting still through a service of this nature. If the funeral is at a church you can ask if they provide childcare. That way she might be able to come with you but not have to actually sit through the whole service. I wouldn't worry about the subject of this service with her--again, she will see people are sad, but she isn't going to be able to fully comprehend it's nature (death). Simply let her know that people are really sad because grandpa died. She can understand sadness as an emotion at her age and be able to relate to that.



Finally, here is a ceremony my family does once a year on the anniversary of my mom's death as a way of remembering and honoring her: We have a special meal with a place set at the table for her. We put a photo of her at that spot as well as a full place setting. When the meal is served, we put a bit of food on the plate for her and "invite" her to join us. Then we eat and tell stories about mom! This has been very therapuetic for all of us as it allows us to grieve specifically so that we aren't drowned in grief the rest of the year. My dad as come to really appreciate this special ritual as has my daughter who was very close to her grandma. Memories of loved ones, fortunately, don't leave when their bodies do! This special dinner has been very cathartic and has provided a safe way for everyone to express their emotions about mom's death. My dad told his Hopsice group therapist about this and the therapist now recommends it as a coping method. It really works at bringing peace...Again, I am sorry to hear about your situation and I hope your father finds peace after his journey in life--and you too! Blessings to your whole family!

Laura - posted on 12/31/2010

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hi really sorry to hear about your dad. my son died at the beginning of this year i have two girls one had just turned three at the time and the other was just under 1 we had our son cremated and both our daughter came to his service the oldest knows her little brother is now in heaven and makes the stars shine bright at night time im sure if u start to tell her what's happening she will be fine it hasn't done any harm to my girls but its your decision hope that this helps

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I know when my great nan my 2nd cousin who was only 2 didn't attend her funeral despite being close to her his mother arranged a special memorial for her son so he could say goodbye in his own way...it was just the two of them and it really helped him understand what happened his mum also made a photo album with photos of my great nan right from when she was a little girl to the last picture that was taken of her and my second cousin he's 5 now and when you ask him about the pictures he tells you that "she died because she had to watch over me cos she's my angel"

Alice - posted on 12/30/2010

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For me I think that she will definitely notice that he is no longer there. For the funeral part I think she is still young. My baby sister passed while I was around three, and I didn't remember it clearly until my dad talked to us about it.

[deleted account]

My opinion is that at 19 months she may be a little young to go to the funeral. Only that it will be a stressful environment and you will be busy dealing with your own grief to be able to give appropriate attention to your little girl. She won't know what is going on either and so she may be confused and upset by the general atmosphere that surrounds a funeral.
My sympathies are with you at this time, I'm sure that you will find the strength to get through it.

Amber - posted on 12/30/2010

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Thank you Callie! Your advice was great.

No I haven't started talking to her because I'm not sure what to say. This is the first time someone close to us is dying. I will have to speak with the hospice nurse when she comes tomorrow and see if there is someone I could ask about this. Thank you for your kind words it makes me feel better knowing that something good will come out of all this. I was the main caregiver for my dad.

What do you think about taking her to the funeral?

Callie - posted on 12/30/2010

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I'm sure since she's close with him that she'll have memories of this for the rest of her life. But I think she'll take something good out of it. She knows he's really sick and she sees you caring for him. I think that will help her know that you will always be there to care for her and that she can count on you. She probably won't understand exactly whats going on. Have you been preparing her that her grandpa isn't going to be around? I would start talking to her about it. Have you contacted a grief councilor? You might be able to contact one through the hospital that has been treating your father. They should have some great advice on how to talk to your daughter about her grandpa. Good luck, I hope you get some great advice to get you guys through this difficult time.

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