Funerals & small children

Esther - posted on 05/23/2011 ( 62 moms have responded )

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My husband's grandfather is likely to pass away in the next few weeks. My son, who is 3, has met him a handful of times and knows who he is although they are certainly not close (as we live in the US and all of our relatives live in Holland). My husband is close with his grandfather though. His family keeps the body of any deceased family member in the home until the time of the funeral so the coffin is right there in the livingroom. This is not something I'm used to as my family is all about the standard funeral home process. They tend to sit around the coffin all day every day until the day of the funeral and they are quite an emotional bunch of people. Personally, I'm not at all comfortable exposing my son to any of this. He's only 3 and doesn't even know what death is. He hasn't so much as encountered a dead squirrel. I think he should just stay home with my parents while we do the cocktail hour around the coffin and attend the funeral. I think my husband wants our son at the funeral though (I've tried to talk to him about it but he gets emotional and keeps putting off the discussion) although he can see the reason behind not taking him to the home-wake. What do you all think? Have you brought small children to a funeral service? Do you think it's appropriate?

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Esther - posted on 05/23/2011

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@ Sharon - not sure what makes you say I'm throwing off my husband's emotional needs. I will be at the wake, I will be at the funeral, I don't think it's my 3-year-old's job to be an emotional support for his father. That's the adult's job. I also didn't make it about me. My issue is making sure I do right by my son which I perceive to be my most important responsibility.

Dana - posted on 05/23/2011

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Hm, this would be a tough one. I'm glad that you both agree on leaving him out of the home wake though. That I definitely think is too much.

As far as the regular funeral. I would probably bring my child but, I wouldn't expect to stay for the burial (if there is one) or the chatting afterwards. I could see showing up to pay respect from the family as a whole though.



Maybe it's just too much for the hubby to talk about since it's slowly becoming a reality in the near future. I'm sure between now and then you'll get a better picture of where he's coming from or he'll not react with emotion and see your side of it too.



For the record, I didn't once think that you were throwing off your husband's emotional needs. I found that comment to be outlandish. So, sorry Sharon, that was out of line in my opinion, not to mention presumptuous.

LadyJane - posted on 05/25/2011

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I went to my first funeral at 3, and my mom had explained it to me beforehand of what happens and what to expect. My view on it was they were just asleep and would wake up in some other world, but I knew we would never see that person again in this world. It didn't scar me and while I wasn't one to sit perfectly still, I was rather well behaved considering my age.



Children do tend to understand more about death then their parents do, they're more open to the fact that it is a part of life rather than to fear it as they grow older. If, however, you know your child is going to throw a tantrum type of behavior or become rude, then either take them with you anyway, but have someone watch him outside the home/funeral away from the other mourners, or leave him at home with a non-going relative or a neighbor.



Also wanting to add, when my brother died my daughter was 5 and she attended both the viewing and the funeral, both being open casket and she had no issue with it. She didn't cry but she was sad, but again she knew that he was in a better place now than what he was. I have no issues in taking children, no matter how young, to a funeral and a viewing. Unless they have really horrible behaviors, then I see no problem with it.



Many children actually handle death much better then adults and seem to have a better handle on what happens, once you sit and let them know what's going on.

Cassie - posted on 05/23/2011

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That's a major problem with having young children there Joy. I just recently took my girls (Kiera is 2 1/2 and Emma is 11 months) to a viewing for my husband's Aunt. I had no choice but to take them with me because of the situation at hand. I explained to Kiera that where we were going, people were going to be sad and crying and that we needed to be quiet and extra nice to everyone there. I didn't explain anything else because I wasn't going to allow her close enough to see the body. Unfortunately, she took off running when we got there (she was excited to see her Mimi) and saw the body. Before I had the chance to explain anything to her, my MIL told her that the lady was sleeping. Kiera spent the rest of the night yelling at everyone to be quiet because her aunt was sleeping. It was really adorable but I'm not sure everyone appreciated it. I got her out of there as soon as I was able to...

Young children just don't understand nor should they have to...

~Jennifer - posted on 05/23/2011

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to be blunt: I think Lucas is way to young to sit in a room with a dead body, regardless of the relation to the deceased. Yours and your husband's presence should be more that sufficient.

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Mandy - posted on 05/25/2011

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I'm well aware of their "temperament". lol They are children and all children have the capability to throw a temper tantrum when they need a nap. All children (or at least the ones I've met) have the capability of being hyper and not wanting to sit still, no matter what is going on around them. Of course, these types of things aren't likely to happen every single time, but I'm just letting her know what "could" go wrong. With kids, you never can tell what's gonna go down. Yes, it 'can' make for a lighter atmosphere when people are making over the children and one of them says or does something cute or silly to distract everyone from the issue at hand, but to me, the negative outweighed the positive. I found that it was far too stressful to have to constantly remind them to behave. My little girl is headstrong like me (unfortunately), but at least she got it honest. I had no choice but to take them. That, or not go myself. I hope I don't have to go to another funeral for a looooooong, looooong time. Hopefully by then, the kids will be able to sit still and behave. I'm quite sure I'm not the first person to have their kids show their butts at a funeral home, and I won't be the last (sadly). Poor moms. The crap we gotta deal with!

Jayce - posted on 05/25/2011

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I took my son to my grandfather's funeral last summer. He'd only met his great-grampy a couple of times. I also took him to both of the viewings (granted at the first since he was getting restless my husband took him out of the church). He was very well behaved during the funeral, he fell asleep while we sang the first hymn. But if he hadn't my husband would have taken him out at the first since of trouble.

I don't see a problem with small children at a funeral (unless they're misbehaving). I know grampy would have wanted all of his family there. And having my son there was a help for my mom as well. She was very close to her dad and was having a hard time with his passing. my son was a distraction for her, he gave her something to be happy about and a reason to smile even as she was morning.

Elizabeth - posted on 05/25/2011

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i would take your son to the funeral i did my father n law passed away in 2006 and my lil one was only 3 but a mind of a less than one year old and did okay just he was confused he thought grandpa was sleeping he tried to jump on him and wake him up lol funny for me but for everybody my husband is very emotional when his dad passed and still this day he still gets depressed and cries i dnt know howmit feels to loose a parent but it makes me sad to see him or my kids sad

Lacye - posted on 05/25/2011

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My aunt passed away last August. My daughter was just a little over 1 year old. My baby girl was very close to my aunt but I refused to take her to the funeral. It didn't feel right to me to take her.

Sherri - posted on 05/25/2011

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Wow that sounds rough Mandy. Guess you really need to know your child's temperament because I will say I have taken my kids to several wakes/funerals since as early as 18mo's and we never encountered such behavior. However, they have also attended church since they were born and knew what was expected from them in such settings. Plus they were oohed and aahed over by people that haven't seen them in ages and they really lightened the mood and made it not such a sad event but a more uplifting one.

Mandy - posted on 05/25/2011

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I took my children to my grandma's, aunt's, friend's child's, and father's funerals. It was a complete disaster. In my opinion, a funeral (or wake) is NOT a good place to bring small children, not because of the whole death issue but because small children often prove that they CANNOT sit still and be quiet for any extended period of time.

I didn't have anyone to watch mine. Everyone I knew was going to be at said funerals.

At one, my daughter and her cousin were sitting together 'trying' to color quietly and they started arguing over crayons and one had a pack of candy and accidentally dumped it out all over the floor. In another setting, this may not have been all that big a deal, but in a quiet funeral home where all that can be heard is the quiet sobs of grieving family and peaceful music, this can quickly escalate into a nightmare.

At my aunt's funeral, my son couldn't understand why he couldn't get up and run down the aisles, so I spent the better half trying to keep him quiet and occupied and at one point, he started crying so loud that I had to get up and carry him out. Definitely a distraction to myself and others and interrupts the grieving process. I regret that I did not have those last moments to grieve quietly and recollect on memories of my passed loved one. Instead I was stressed to the max trying to play referee to kids who wanted to stand on the pews, fight over crayons, spill candy and just scream, cry, and throw fits in general.

The last straw was the last funeral I attended with my children which was for a friend of mine's passed child. After the funeral service when they had lowered the casket into the ground and everyone was standing around chatting quietly, the kids were running around playing and knocked over a large flower arrangement and I was mortified, as you can imagine. As of now, I will NO LONGER take my children to a funeral unless they are old enough to know how to behave when expected to sit still and be quiet. Until then, I don't care if I have to stand at the entrance to Walmart holding a sign that says 'Please babysit my kids for a couple of hours so that I can attend a funeral in peace'.

That being said, I apologized to my other family at the funerals of my family members for my children being loud and distracting, but they replied, "It's okay. You know grandma/Aunt Betty/daddy loved them and would be glad to know they're here." or, "I think she would have wanted them here.", etc.
On the other hand, if it's someone else's funeral that is not immediate family, I think it's more respectful to leave the kids out so that the family can grieve in peace. Taking small children to a place where people are expected to sit still and be quiet is a recipe for disaster!

Brittany - posted on 05/25/2011

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My Aunt, who I was very close to, died the week before my birthday this year (it was March). I have two children, a son that was 18 months at the time and a daughter that was barely a month. I left my daughter at home with my husband and I took my son with me. He's a very well-mannered little one and he stayed quiet through the funeral service and it really made me feel better to have him there to hold. I hugged him and squeezed him the entire time because I was purely distraught. It's basically the healing power of touch, it was a comforting thing in such a sad place.
I say, if you can trust your son to be somewhat quiet and respectful to the other mourners, go ahead and take him. If he's going to cry and be loud through the whole thing, it would probably be best to leave him at home.

Amy - posted on 05/25/2011

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First of all, so sorry to hear this. We went through three funerals this year. Too many for young ones, but they had to go with us.

Having kids there helped everyone else. No, my daughter - just turned 4 - and my son...almost 2 didn't really know what was going on. We believe in God, so we let her know their spirit was in heaven. We took both kids to the viewing/wake and to the funeral service. They actually did really well and we let them know ahead of time what they could and couldn't do.

It was my husband's one grandmother he was especially close to. He was pall bearer for both grandmothers this year. He said having my 4 year old daughter wipe his tears and say she loved him made him realize that life is for living and he was glad she was there for him like he's been there for her.

As far as appropriate-have to go by your own comfort level. It's up to you what you think you should do. Just live with no regrets.

User - posted on 05/25/2011

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I did not take my children to my mum's funeral, partly beause I didn't want the stress of watching out for their emotional responses, and worrying about how they were behaving. Normally, they are pretty good in public, but seeing all the adults they trust in tears etc may provoke a negative reaction in them.

We visited the grave shortly afterwards and talked loads about Grandma and how she wasn't in pain any more.

Jane - posted on 05/25/2011

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"Are all these viewing Catholic?"

Nope. My in-laws, for example, were a mix of Lutheran, Congregational and Buddhist. While it is typical for Catholic funerals to include a viewing, a rosary, and then a funeral, in our neck of the woods all different branches of Christianity have variations on this pattern. There might be visitation instead of a rosary, but there doesn't seem to be a standard. Most recently I went to a Methodist funeral that included a potlatch (small gifts given to everyone who attended) and a Christian funeral with an open casket. It seems to be up to each family. I know the funeral home asked me what I wanted for my husband's funeral and then did what I said exactly. I opted for a closed casket military ceremony, followed two weeks later by a memorial service in an independent Christian church.

[deleted account]

Amber, then you're right... I wouldn't have taken my kids to either as well! I've not heard of an open casket funeral AND a viewing. That would be traumatising to those who didn't go to the viewing to avoid the open casket thing.

Jodi - posted on 05/24/2011

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I wouldn't take a young child to a viewing..... :\

With regard to the funeral, I guess it would depend on whose it was, and the relationship they had with my child. My son has been to a funeral, but he was 12 at the time, that's very different. I chose not to take my daughter, who was 5 at the time. It really is a very personal choice.

I've actually never been to a funeral where the entire service was open casket....I've been to viewings, but never an open casket funeral. I don't think I'd take my child to one of those either.

Lady Heather - posted on 05/24/2011

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That kind of funeral service? I don't know a kid that age who would want to be there. We will take our daughter to my husband's grandma's funeral (she has days left at the moment :( ) but it won't be like that. She's been to two other funerals already and she's not even 2. But we don't do anything like that in our families. We cremate for one thing so it's not quite so ummm...in your face. It's more like a family get together and we all reminisce.

Your son is so young that he won't remember and is unlikely to care in the future that he didn't get to go. With older kids who will have real memories of the person and the event I think parents should take them unless they say they don't want to go. My parents decided for me that I wasn't going to attend my grandmother's funeral (I was 11) and I'm still pissed at them for it.

[deleted account]

I have a question about this viewing stuff that everyone seems to be exposed to. Are all these viewing Catholic? My step mother is Catholic, which is why they have these day long viewing (over like 3-5 days). I'm really just wondering if other religions/sects of Christianity do it too.

Penny - posted on 05/24/2011

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I had all 3 of my kids who at the time were 5,3 and 1yr at my FILs funeral and at the viewing the night before. My husband and I felt it would give them a better understanding of where their poppy was. Than us telling them he passed away and they never seeing him again. They had a chance to say goodbye to him and understand that No poppy isnt going to be waking up. My girls to this day are fine. They come up to my husband and I from time to time and tell us that they miss their poppy. They have even made a collage of photos of him with them n their lil brother on the wall behind their bedroom door. I think its just a personal thing, whatever it is you feel comfortable with subjecting your child too.

Jane - posted on 05/24/2011

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When given the choice I do not bring toddlers to a funeral. When the kids are old enough to understand what is going on I give them the choice to come with me or not. Generally they don't want to come, and we just remember the person at home amongst ourselves by looking at photos.



However, when my MIL died I wasn't given a choice. My in-laws all expected all of us to attend everything, the private viewing, the public viewing, the funeral, the cremation ceremony, the interment, and the memorial. The kids were ages 3 and 1, and I became an expert in sneaking out to play in the church yard or cemetery. Quite frankly, the kids had no idea what was going on and would have done much better to stay home.



It was a really long 5 days.



If your husband really, really wants your child at the funeral, then okay, but make sure you have things for him to do quietly and if possible, have an escape route.



However, I wouldn't take a small child to a viewing of any sort, in the living room or not.

Amber - posted on 05/24/2011

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My dads funeral was an open casket so either way it would have been bad news. If I knew then what I knew now I wouldn't have taken her to either.

[deleted account]

Amber, in the instance of someone close to the child passing away, I would have done the opposite. Take the child to the funeral (which is usually closed casket), but in no way to the viewing.

My husband's only just started losing family members. His mother's mother was the first to go about 3 years ago. It was the first death he'd ever experienced. They aren't a religious family, so why they had a viewing and then a church funeral, I'll never understand. In any case, my husband wasn't sure if he wanted to go to the viewing or not. Being an old hand at funerals, I explained to him (he was 27 at the time) what to expect at a viewing and what the viewing was for and that he didn't have to go if he didn't feel comfortable with it, because it could very well change the way he remembers his grandmother forever. In the end, he decided to accompany his cousin, because she wanted to go but was scared to go alone. Maybe she expected it was all an expensive practical joke, I'm not sure. After they came back from the funeral home, my husband said he NEVER should have gone and looked into the casket. Even his mother said that she made a mistake of going, because the only way she could remember her mother now was the way she looked in the casket.

[deleted account]

There are many cultures that do home vigils. They even go so far as to prepare the body themselves.

I was a kid at funerals and my boys have been to funerals. I think it's actually appropriate to take children to funerals for 2 reasons. 1) Like others have said, they bring lightness into a dark time and can actually bring comfort to some of those grieving and 2) because it is an opportunity to learn about death and the grieving process. However, given your husband's family's propensity for dramatics, if you take your son I think you would be totally right in limiting his exposure to the whole affair. Fighting is not healthy for a kid to see, especially the fighting that can happen at funerals.

In the end, I think it would help him to learn about the other end of life as well as see a bit of his culture. I could see taking him and making an appearance at the vigil, but not stay for long. It could also give you the opportunity to get away from having to sit there all day as well. The bigger problem would be his attention span and making sure he had someone who could remove him from a situation if he starts to get bored and disruptive.

If you do take him to any of these events, the most important thing is not only to prepare him by explaining what's going to happen, but more that you need to prepare YOUR reaction to things. He will be guided by your and your husband's reactions and emotions to the vigil and funeral. If you aren't freaking out about things, most likely he'll take it all in his stride.

Amber - posted on 05/23/2011

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When my dad passed away back in Dec, Him and my daughter were extremely close so I too had at of concern about her going to the funeral so instead I took her with us to the private viewing thinking it would help me decide rather to take my daughter to the funeral or not...NOPE! She flipped out didn't know what to think wanted to know if papal was coming back home with us! Needless to say I chose to keep her home and part of me wishes I never took her to the viewing. IMO it's totally up to you know one knows your son better then you and if you think he could make it through the funeral then take him but sitting around at the house with the body there is a little disturbing I think I might be a little freaked out myself (no offense), but that's only because it's something I'm not use to! Hope I helped a little!

Cassie - posted on 05/23/2011

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It really was quite funny. My husband's cousins, daughters of the deceased, really enjoyed her being there and said she gave light to a very hard, dark time. That was good enough for me! I don't care that I got some disapproving looks from some old prudes. ;)

Dana - posted on 05/23/2011

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I'd mark that as funny but, I don't think it's quite appropriate, Cassie. ;)

Sherri - posted on 05/23/2011

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I have never hidden death from my kids. They have been to wakes and funerals since they have been born. I think it is very important they know about it as it is a part of life. I will not shelter them from it.

[deleted account]

I'm not sure if I'd ever take Jacob (at this age) to a funeral. I'd be too worried that he'd be a distraction (noisy, not sitting still for that long) and it would take away from the other people who are there to grieve. Someone said earlier that they think a 3 year old should know about death already. Really?? The way I see it, my son (a 3 year old) has his entire life to learn, understand and process death. He doesn't know what it means yet and I'm good with that. I don't feel the need to burst his bubble just yet.

Stifler's - posted on 05/23/2011

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I took my 9 month old to a funeral. He spent most of the funeral outside with his grandmother because he wanted to cry and play and babble loudly. I wouldn't take a 3 year old to a house with a coffin for him to pull flowers off and stuff. If your husband insists he go I would insist that he is to be the one keeping him out of mischief!

[deleted account]

Esther, I don't think there's a right or wrong to the situation. As has been said a million times about every issue regarding parenting, you know Lucas better than anyone. If you think it would be too traumatic for him to go, or if you just don't feel in your gut that it is the right thing to do, then don't have him there. I understand that it's tradition in Bjorn's family, but like you said earlier, your priority is being the best parent to Lucas as possible. And I think it's good that you and Bjorn are discussing it now, even if it's not something he really wants to talk about. Death is never a comfortable conversation when it comes to the people we love. Just know that whatever you decide, have confidence in the fact that you are Lucas's mother...don't doubt your decision, whether you take him or not.....you're a fantastic mom, one of my role models and I know that you'll do what's right for Lucas.

Krista - posted on 05/23/2011

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Keep in mind, though, that Sam isn't yet two. So he didn't even notice my grandmother's body lying there. With Lucas it would likely be different.

But, if it would bring Bjorn a lot of comfort to have Lucas at the funeral, then it might be worth trying, as long as Bjorn fully understands that you're NOT going to traumatize Lucas, and that if he starts to get upset or too bored, you'll be removing him from the room.

~♥Little Miss - posted on 05/23/2011

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I don't mean to bash on other cultures traditions, but having the deceased dead body in your home so you can mourn for a week is.....strange. I can see why people would be over dramatic about that...I would be too!

I don't see having children at a funeral a problem...but the drama that sounds like it may happen at the grandfathers...I mean all the drama that is happening NOW and he has NOT passed away yet! I don't think children need to be exposed to that. He is only gonna learn how to dramatically grieve. I don't know....it just does not sound like a place for a child. If you do end up bringing them, having your parents their as an alternate is a great idea!

Krista - posted on 05/23/2011

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It's a tough call. The coffin-side vigil would be a definite no. The funeral? It depends.

When my grandmother died, I took Sam with me up to my mom's place, and he attended the wakes and the funeral with me.

HOWEVER, I made sure that people understood that I might have to take him out, and that I couldn't promise that he'd behave. As well, I enlisted my two young nephews (13 and 10) to take him out and amuse him when he got bored.

So if Bjorn really wants Lucas at the funeral, it may be worthwhile talking to some younger relatives to see if they'd be willing to take on this role. That way, if Lucas is bored or starting to get upset, they can take him to another room to colour or play a quiet game. I know my nephews actually appreciated having something to keep them occupied during this time, as they were quite bored during the wakes.

And at the funeral, Sam started fussing halfway through, so I took him down to the church basement so that he could run around and blow off some steam. So yes, I missed part of my grandmother's funeral, but I expected that to happen. And I made sure that my mother knew ahead of time that this might happen, so she was understanding of it as well.

Sometimes it's not a bad thing to have little kids at those things -- I know having Sam there REALLY helped to cheer my mom up.

Esther - posted on 05/23/2011

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@ Mary - yes, she was embalmed and they had rented some airconditioners (AC isn't typical in Holland so they didn't have it in the home) but after a week, things were definitely starting to look a little "off".

Rosie - posted on 05/23/2011

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i recently took my 3 year ld to my grandfathers funeral. i didn't let him see the body though, i didn't even want to see that. he was perfectly fine, had to go pee once during the service and the rest of the time was wonderful. he never asked a question, nor did he seem to be traumatised to see his mother cry. i was crying for a few days beforehand though, he was probably used to it. i think it's a normal thing to see actually. kids are resilient, and don't really think about death the same way we do. it's not going to hurt him to see what happens when people die.
i personally wouldn't let my child see a dead body though until they are older, so the whole coffin in the living room thing i wouldn't do. but the funeral? yeah, i would. :) good luck with whatever you decide!

[deleted account]

In my opinion its up to the parents. A few months ago when my hubby's dad past away, my sister babysit our three boys b/c their attention span is short and they get really fussy.

Mary - posted on 05/23/2011

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Esther - please, please tell me she was at least embalmed?!

A week...ugh...that just seems unnecessarily painful to drag it out that long. When my ex's father died, they had a viewing and service up in DE, where my ex had grown up, and his parents had lived for over 30 years. However, despite having lived and raised a family there for that long, they always thought of themselves as Virginians, where my ex-FIL was born and raised, and still had a fair number of cousins/relatives (but no immediate family). The man died on a Saturday morning, was laid out in DE on a Monday. They then had the body transported over 6 hrs to just south of the Shenandoah Valley area (a huge ordeal because of crossing state lines and what not). He was laid out, again, in VA, on Thursday, and buried on Friday. It was brutal, and tortuous for all of us, particularly my MIL. Almost a full freaking week to bury him.

Katie - posted on 05/23/2011

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My opinion would definitely be no to Lucas attending anything,vigil or otherwise. When my sister's baby died in Jan 2010,we were all so traumatised and devastated at the time, it wasn't even a discussion about whether or not Erona should come,she just came and that was that. Do I regret that? Totally, 100%. As does my Mom,and we have often talked about the effect and impact it had on my poor girl ever since. Seeing Olivia laid out in her cot,the crying,shock and horror of it changed my daughter ever since. She is not the same and never will be. Then there was the church service and cremation to deal with too. Too much for me,a grown adult,let alone a young child.....but we didn't think of it and hindsight is a great thing,as they say. Do what your gut feeling tells you and go with that,but I think you are FANTASTIC to address the issue now,rather than in the moment when grief will overpower any correct decision making process. I wish more than anything I could turn the clocks back and didn't bring Erona to Dublin for those traumatic 4 days,but I can't. The death happened so suddenly-grief,shock and heartbreak came first on the agenda. When I think back it pains me so much that she went through all that,too young,far too young. All of us were just lost in a sea of sadness and disbelief,everyone that she was so used to seeing happy,smiling,in good spirits were devastated. I will NEVER know what this did to her. And just to sum up once again,she is not the same child.

Esther - posted on 05/23/2011

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No, it's a Bjorn's family thing ;) With his grandmother they did it for a full week. In August. It wasn't pretty.

Mary - posted on 05/23/2011

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Well, Esther - I have no great suggestions - other than ask your parents to go with you, and have them prepared to get Lucas the hell out of there if the in-laws start putting on a show. I think it's reasonable to bring him into the house for a "visit", but, at 3, there's no way any reasonable person can think he's going to sit around a coffin all day holding a vigil. (I'm fascinated that they chose to have the body in the home like that - is that a Dutch thing?)

Dana - posted on 05/23/2011

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Oh lord, that would not be good then! I guess if you had your parents there to help and oversee, they could quickly remove him if it got out of hand. I think Bjorn's a smart man and wouldn't want to subject Lucas to any insanity either. That's why I think right now, he's just running on emotion and trying to process it all. There are many facets to this mess.

Mary - posted on 05/23/2011

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Well, yes - I guess I was answering the general "Do small children belong at funerals" question, and not really addressing Esther's in-law's somewhat unique (to me) situation. I have to say, I'm good with bringing my daughter to funerals (we've been to a few viewings since my mom's), but I would be hesitant to take her to one if I suspected that there would be a whole lotta wailing and carrying on that might freak me out, let alone her! I have been to one or two viewings of the family member of a co-worker that was very culturally different from my own, and where huge displays of emotion were the expected norm. That's not something I'd do with a toddler in tow.


I also wanted to add that as far as the child's behavior...Lucas is 3, so, imo, there should be no huge expectations for him to sit quietly and behave for prolonged periods of time. I'm fascinated by what some people's unrealistic expectations are of toddlers in situations like that.

Esther - posted on 05/23/2011

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That's most definitely a likelihood Dana. Not to mention further emotional flare-ups between Bjorn's mom and her sister (they are occurring on a daily basis already). I wouldn't be nearly as concerned if it was someone in my family that passed away. As Becky said, in my family funerals tend to be more of a celebration of their life. Of course people get emotional, but they don't get dramatic and there is also a lot of laughter etc. The viewings are also more "structured" so to speak. It's at a funeral home, it's for a set period of time etc. It's not sitting one foot from an open casket 24 hours a day. I just worry that it's all going to be too much for a little boy. Especially since he tends to be a rather sensitive kid anyway. We had to leave Gnomeo & Julliet because he didn't like the gnomes arguing. I can't imagine how he would feel to see his grandmother in some kind of hysterical argument with his great-aunt.

Dana - posted on 05/23/2011

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See your family sounds great, Mary! Not all families are. I really question Esther's sentence of "They tend to sit around the coffin all day every day until the day of the funeral and they are quite an emotional bunch of people."
If there's a chance that some insane inlaw is going to sob all over my child for the dramatic effect, I'd be hesitant to bring my child into that mess.

Mary - posted on 05/23/2011

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I grew up going to funerals. It was normal, on both sides of my family, for children of all ages to be in attendance. We went to the viewings. We went to the church services. We went to the burials. It never scared me or freaked me out, but maybe that's because of how my family handled death. Yes, people were sad, and people cried, but no one was overly hysterical or dramatic. My mom always talked to us about it beforehand, and told us what to expect. They took us up to the casket, and we knelt and said a prayer for the deceased (although, as a toddler, I think I was probably just checking things out - lots of flowers to look at and all!). I was 3 when my mother's father died; although I'm quite sure I was there, I have absolutely no memory of it.

IMO, death is a part of life that we all must face at some point in our lives. I don't think that sheltering a child from this reality does them any favors in the long run. Death does not have to be scary. It is often heartbreaking, but it should not be feared. I'm grateful to have grown up attending the funerals of those I have loved throughout my life. It made it so much easier to get through those really difficult losses in my life, such as that of my grandparents and my own mother, since I had no hang-ups or issues about funerals.

Molly was 18 months old when my own mother died, my nephew 5, and my niece 7. They were all present at the viewings, funeral mass, and burial. It was a huge comfort to everyone to have them there. With Molly, my in-laws were kind enough to come down and help us with her. Molly came to the afternoon viewing, but was only there for about an hour of it. She toddled around, looked at the flowers, played with toys we had brought, and was a real sport about everyone cooing and gushing over her. My in-laws then took her home, so she could nap. They met us for dinner in between, and returned for about a 1/2 hour of the evening viewing, and then took her home to put her to bed. For the church service, she walked in with us, and sat in the pew for about the first 15 minutes of the service. My MIL then took her out into the lobby, where they walked around, had a snack, and played until it was over. She was with me at the cemetery for that brief little service, and then, because it was a beautiful spring day, she ran around in the grass amongst the graves. There is not a doubt in my mind that my mother was smiling down on her little mini-me, laughing and dancing at her burial, reminding us all that life goes on, and that she was very much with us as we said good-bye.

Becky - posted on 05/23/2011

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We took our oldest to a funeral when he was about 17 months old. It was my dad's cousin and all my family was going, so we really didn't have any choice, as we didn't have anyone to leave him with. It wasn't open casket, in fact, I don't think there was even a casket there, and, while it was emotional, it was more a celebration of his life than a super-sad occassion. And afterwards, it was really kind of just like a family reunion, with a sad overtone. I don't think it impacted our son at all. But, he was only 17 months, so I can see a huge difference between taking him then and taking him now when he's 3 and very curious.
I really think it depends a lot on your child's personality and the family dynamics. With my family, I would be comfortable bringing the boys to a funeral, because, like I said, it's more a celebration of life, and our family is very close and supportive. With dh's family, I'm not so sure. They tend to have a little more tension and tendency to fight at things like this. So I'm not sure I'd take the boys unless it was a very close family member - grandparent, aunt, uncle, etc. With a family who was prone to get over-emotional and hysterical, yeah, I can see why you'd be uncomfortable bringing him. I definitely think you're right to not bring him to the vigil. And I think that if your husband really wants him there, having your parents there to look after him if he gets restless or the atmosphere gets too emotional or oppressive for him is a good plan.

Jenn - posted on 05/23/2011

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I think you have to take into consideration how the individual child is. Is your child the type to sit still for long periods of time, or not? Do you have a child who has a tendency to run and scream out in public? Those answers could help to determine what might or might not work for your family. I don't think it's ever inappropriate to take a child to a funeral, unless the child will be overly disruptive. My son has been to 2 funerals, and there wasn't ever a problem, so it can work if it's what you and your family want.

Dana - posted on 05/23/2011

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Ah, that's a good idea Esther. That's much better than having to cut out early.

Desiree - posted on 05/23/2011

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Esther not a problem. I do wish you peace during this very trying time. And if it helps any, The pain never goes away it only eases with time. (someone said this to me 12 years ago when I lost my sister, It seems to help when I remember)

Esther - posted on 05/23/2011

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Thanks for correcting me on the right terminology Desiree, I wasn't sure what the right word was. Vigil sounds right (this is where my non-English roots show).

Bjorn's family is not religious at all. His grandfather is actually a staunch atheist. They just have the open coffin in the livingroom and they sit next to it all day every day (and make little touch-ups to the family member that passed away) until the day of the funeral (the kids sleep there too, which I DEFINITELY will not do, nor will my husband). On the day of the funeral there is just a non-religious service and then he will be cremated.

Esther - posted on 05/23/2011

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Yes, my husband definitely does not want to talk about it yet because it makes it too concrete for him. His family is just so emotionally unstable that I'd like to have things settled between us (and preferably communicated to his mother) before his grandfather actually passes away. His mom is so hysterical that she's already driven her only sister to the point of not ever wanting to speak to her again. We've had lots of drama with her in the past and I'd like to prevent that from happening again, out of consideration for my husband's emotional needs (!). Anyway, when I did approach Bjorn about it, he seemed open to discussing it and wasn't offended by me bringing it up, he just wasn't ready to think about it so I didn't push it. I'll just try to gently keep broaching the subject with him. My plan B for the funeral is to ask my parents to attend (they also attended the funeral for his grandmother) so they could take Lucas away/outside if it becomes too much. I don't think Bjorn and I will have any chance of stepping outside and/or leaving since his family is so small and we will most definitely be expected to be there every step of the way.

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