Should children go to funerals?

Katherine - posted on 10/10/2010 ( 38 moms have responded )

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Someone was talking about this in another group. It peaked my interest, because I always wonder, "Should I take my daughter to so and so's funeral?" Is it appropriate?
I don't think it is until they have a good understanding of the concept of death.

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Stifler's - posted on 10/10/2010

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I think yes. Death is part of life. Making death into a huge deal and telling lies about it to children won't help them in the long run.

Mary - posted on 10/14/2010

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I think I disagree with a lot of you, other than Loureen. Death is part of our reality, and depending on your views of an afterlife, is not necessarily a bad thing (especially if it preceeded by a long and painful illness). Sheilding children from it until they reach a certain age only makes it that much scarier and traumatic when they DO finally confront it...and eventually, they all will have to learn to deal with it.

I grew up in a family where children were always present at viewings, reagardless of age. My parents always did take us up to the casket, where we knelt and said a prayer. We did, with the guidance and support of my parents, look and touch the body. It was not even remotely disturbing or upsetting...perhaps because my sister and I were well prepared, and there was no underlying fear or tension from my parents. If anything, it was more of a curiosity. I remember attending the viewings of many older, extended family members as a child. It was never a traumatic experience. We were taught early on that a funeral is both to support those grieving, as well as a celebration of the life of whomever had passed. I remember, between the ages of perhaps 5 and 12 sort of dreading viewings, because it meant I had to get dressed up, and it was sort of boring if my parents talked too long, but it was never a disturbing event. As I aged, my concept of death evolved from thinking of the deceased as "sleeping" in that casket, to an understanding of the permanence of it. I do, at the age of about 9, remember crying and being sad about the death of an uncle I was close with...but it wasn't because I was scared about the prospect of the funeral, but rather that I finally understood that death meant that he was gone from life forever.

When my mother died suddenly 6 months ago, my then 18 month old, as well as my niece and nephew who were 7 and 5 were present at both the viewing and funeral mass. During the viewing, my daughter was there for the first hour, and then my MIL took her home for a nap. My sister's kids were there for both the afternoon and evening viewings. We took them up to the casket in the beginning, and my sister talked to them about Grandma being in heaven, and what that meant to them. They were mostly curious, and the older one a little sad, but nothing over the top (they had been to several viewings over the years). Once they got antsy, there were friends there with their own children who watched over the kids in those "break rooms" all funeral homes seem to have with water/coffee/tea/tissues, and the kids colored and played with toys brought from home.

All three were also at the funeral itself; my daughter went in with us, and when she got too antsy in the pew after about 10 minutes, my MIL took her out into the church lobby and entertained her for the remainder of the service. My niece and nephew remained throughout the mass (but again, they attend church somewhat regularly, so they knew what to expect, and how to behave). Having them there was a comfort to us all. I could not imagine excluding them .

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I was taken to a visitation/funeral service when I was very young, still in kindergarten. It apparently affected me in such a negative way that I had to go to the doctor to get an EKG and had to wear a heart monitor for a full day and night to make sure I didn't have some kind of health problem. It apparently put me through a lot of stress. I remember the service and having to wear the monitor in school, but not much else. It scared my parents much more than me, probably.

I have never been able to handle funerals, though, and I won't be taking my child to one. I don't want to see my loved ones after they've died, and I don't think it's right for a child to either. What memories they do have of someone in life should not be marred by the image of that same person lying cold and lifeless in a casket.

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I think it all depends. It's hard to say because children can have so many different responses to death. I was 7 when I went to my first funeral. It was my half-sister's grandfather. He passed of a blood cell rupture in his brain. From that night on, I had HORRIBLE nightmares about death. It TERRIFIED me.

I'm not saying this happens to all kids, just my experience. I wasn't ready for that, so it definitely depends on the child. I think, maybe, if I had started with the death of a pet or something...LOL.

Charlie - posted on 10/11/2010

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Sorry i know im going on and straying a little from topic but i also wanted to say with my Aussie grandfather i was told he had died and that was it , i never saw him again , i went to his funeral but i never got to see his face ever again , i would have liked to , i feel like i didnt get the same closure i got from Tongan grandpa , which is hard because my Aussie grandfather was someone i loved dearly and looked up too , i would have given anything to see him one more time even in death .

Ok i will shut up now since im now crying LOL im such an emo .

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Leslie - posted on 10/13/2010

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Only close family members should a child go in my opinion. Babies/ Toddlers should really not go, they are too noisy, and can't sit still, however if they were close to the person that died then yes. I don't think that ANY child under 12 should go to a viewing. Seeing the dead should be left to ones who understand that it is just a body. A younger child may try and 'wake' them up and cause a sean. I don't know if I would want my boys at any funeral. My husbands uncle just passed away and we left the boys with my mother.

C. - posted on 10/13/2010

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It depends.. My sisters brought their kids to funerals before.. But they were out of state and they didn't have a sitter, either.



I don't have a problem with it so long as the child isn't a distraction for the attendees. If the child becomes a distraction, I think the parents should quietly slip out until the service is over. And I agree with Sara H.. Children need closure, too.

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I went to funerals as a child. I would take my daughter if it was a close relative. If it was a distanced relationship with the person, then I would give it a thought first.

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I was lucky enough as a child to attend first-hand (literally) the funerals of many of my animals. I held a mouse, a rabbit, a duck, and a finch in my arms as they died. I walked in on my pet pig being shot in the head to be taken away by the neighbors. I've found plenty of my pet rodents dead for countless reasons in their cages, mostly of natural causes. So death has never been hard to accept. But unless I'm there at the time of death, I don't want to see the person or creature afterward. When my uncle died this past May and my grandpa this past August, I did not attend their funerals because I didn't want to see their urns (they were cremated). That was the same as a casket to me. My family did not have actual funerals for them, just little services that we held in the dining room. But I stayed away because I don't want to be in that situation. It's a form of denial, I know, but I also know they're dead and aren't coming back. I just deal with it differently from my parents, who are still taking it rather hard.

But that's a lot for a child to take in, and where I come from funerals have a lot of negative energy about them. I don't think it's good for a child to be near the dead, in my culture anyway.

Michelle - posted on 10/12/2010

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For me it would depend on how well my daughter knew the person (and her age). When my grandfather passed away she was only 3 months old so we took her to a sitter's while we went to everything. She will be two in December so for right now unless it someone close (like my other grandfather- who would want her there with bells on!) then she would stay with someone else.

Kimberly - posted on 10/11/2010

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I was in 4th grade the first time I was taken to a funeral. It was my great uncle's funeral and I remember standing at the open casket with my mother looking at him. I let out a big gasp and my mother jumped and said, "WHAT!?" I answered, "Who's going to pay for the Girl Scout cookies now??!" He had placed an order with me a couple of weeks before. She was standing there wide eyed and said, "You fool! I thought you saw him move or something!"



At that age, I don't think I had a grasped the concept of death yet. But I think it depends on the kid and the parents as well as the relationship between the child and the deceased.

Stifler's - posted on 10/11/2010

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I took my baby to my partners uncle that i've never mets funeral but he's only like 8 months and spent most of the time outside with damo's mum. I wouldn't bother to take them to people they aren't related to/didn't knows funeral either but they should defs be allowed to go to family funerals and of close friends.

Charlie - posted on 10/11/2010

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Yeah i agree i wouldnt take my kids to a persons funeral they didnt really know only family or very close friends .

Rosie - posted on 10/11/2010

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i think it's ok if it's someone they knew well, and/or family. of course i wouldn't make them if they didn't want too. but i think it's important for them to say goodbye to someone they loved.

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My partners granddad died we took my 5year old and one year old..i had the one year old in the church for a bit..she was to energetic and loud.My five year old was fine and held her dads hand and took care of him for me..she took it well and it was a wonderful celebration of his life.My baby before my partners grandad was brought to the church was waiting outside and when the family came out after there last good byes, they were crying etc and my daughter said hi..she kept saying it..they all burst out laughing and said only a child can lift your spirit at a time like this..i was saying stop and ready to walk away until the told me no& then said that.I would only take them to close family funerals.All the great grand children from in there 20s down to under a year were all fantastic and gave there great grandad a wonderful send off..the cried and i found there grieving hard to watch but the will grow from this and we were all prod of them..there great grandad was a very special and very important man to them all.

Dana - posted on 10/11/2010

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Krista, that is creepy. I've been to many open casket funerals but, no one is eating at the moment. Everyone usually goes to the funeral, then the burial, then to someone's house for food and drinks.
I actually don't mind an open casket. Prior to my friend dying I was indifferent but, with my friend, his death was sudden. We had just seen him alive, 10 minutes later he was dead. It was surreal, and not having an open casket to see him made it hard to actually have closure.

As far as children being at funerals, I think it all depends on who it is and how old they are. One year and younger, that's fine. Between the ages of 1 1/2 and 3-4 (depending on the child) it's risky. Of course if it's a family member or close friend and they loved the happiness of children and family being together, then it's appropriate. At no point do I think it's appropriate for the child to view the body. Unless they are at an age where they fully understand and they want to.

Desiree - posted on 10/11/2010

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Katherine, as a mom that was the most difficult descision to make. There is no right or wrong way to deal with it and as I found out its actually better to explain it to them and for them to go so that they can get closure. No I am not talking about a child under the age of 7. Although children understand alot more than we give them credit for. in the last 18 months I have lost 3 family members. And my children went to all 3 funerals i found they coped better for it.
I sing at a number of Funerals for my church and find that there are always children at these. They seem to handle it quite well. I wouldn't take a child to a funeral of a friend or aquantinace but definatly to that of a family member.

Charlie - posted on 10/11/2010

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unfourtunately ive been to far too many funerals , i had lost 6 friends alone before i finished high school :(

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same here Emma i was always told what had happened. Age appropriate of course. I have been to a few funerals 2 have been viewings. With the 1st it was my great grandmother and i was 13ish and i chose not to see her. With the 2nd it was my husbands grandmother and she had died very suddenly ( still not sure but something like an aneurism spl?) I did go and view her. It was excellent for me because i got closure that day. She was a beautiful person who i didn't get to know very well but wish i had of had more time to.
All funeral ceremony's i have been to have been closed casket but it was onyl those 2 that i can remember that had viewings before hand.

Stifler's - posted on 10/11/2010

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I've been to 3 funerals in my whole life, none open casket and didn't go to the viewing of any but my uncle was an undertaker and used to let us tour the funeral home and see the corpses in the cold room and the transfer vehicles and explain the embalming process. There was no censorship in my family, no "grandpa's just sleeping".

Becky - posted on 10/10/2010

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Ahhh, Krista, that's quite the mental picture you paint!
I've only been to one funeral since I had kids, and we took Cole, who was 1 1/2 at the time. It was a family funeral, out of town, and all the family went, so we really had no choice, other than for one of us to miss the funeral. Actually, everyone in the family who had kids had them there. We all sat where we could leave easily if one of them had started acting up. Cole was too young to have any idea what was going on, for him, it was no different from going to church, so I didn't see any issue with it. Now, if it had been open casket, or there had been a viewing, we would not have attended that. (usually here, the open casket is beforehand and the casket is closed when the service starts, so we would've just waited until the casket was closed to go in.) I would take my children to the funeral of a family member. I think it's important for them to have the opportunity to say goodbye. For someone they weren't well acquainted with, then no, I wouldn't.

Charlie - posted on 10/10/2010

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Thats just it , in Tonga death isn't seen as a bad or scary thing its just accepted as part of life , at the funeral while many say goodbye in the house it is a huge feast outside and a celebration , the body isnt something to be scared of or something to hide , to them its something to be cared for until they are in their final resting place .

And there is lots of wailing ( they let it all out ) and everyone sings these amazing songs , all of their voices are so powerful that to some may have seemed sad even a bit full on but for me as a child i found it really uplifting and special that these people had so much emotion to show for my family .

When i say a funeral prosession in my first post i mean the body leaves the morgue on the back of a highly decorated truck in the open and drives at walking speed everyone walks the whole way behind it singing with us with the family riding with the body on the back , it is such a moving experience , for me im glad i got to kiss my grandpa goodbye , i sat there for hours holding his hand at the funeral ( they are not in a casket but laid on a bed in a decorated room ) and i wouldnt have wanted it any other way :)

Krista - posted on 10/10/2010

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The way you describe it, it actually sounds really nice and meaningful, Loureen. I guess I just think of the ones I've been to, which basically wind up being like a cocktail party (sans cocktails), with a stiff laying in the corner of the room.

It is NOT easy to enjoy an egg-salad sandwich with a corpse present, I've discovered.

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My son has had the unfortunate experience of loosing 10 loved ones in the last 3 years of his life. We have a big family....well, we *had* a big family.....so it is somewhat expected, but it still seems a bit much.

I only take him to the Funeral (and Graveside Service) if the departed is someone he was very close to, but I do usually take him with me for the family receiving, visitation / viewing, and Celebration of life.

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I was at my grandmothers funeral on Friday. I did not take my children. Mind you they aren't old enough and they didn't know her due to a family feud that has only gotten worse. My daughter understand death due to living in the country and her poppy having had to put one of their cows out of it's misery. My daughter wasn't there but she loved that cow so i had to explain it to her cause she just kept asking where it was.
But i personally don't think children who can't sit still or don't understand should be there.

Jenni - posted on 10/10/2010

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I recently took my 2 year old son and 5 month old daughter to my uncle's funeral. I wasn't entirely sure about it, mostly out of respect for my family. It is a serious affair and I wasn't sure if my son doing typical 2 year old behaviour would be appropriate. Also it was open casket and I wasn't sure how curious my son would be about it. All of my family seemed happy to see my kids. My son was on his best behaviour. Considering we had to sit for an hour and a half before the priest arrived (he was late). My son did start telling off a funeral worker when the service began for shutting the doors. :/ But I got him to calm down and sit quietly with me for the rest of the service. I don't think he could comprehend anything that was going on at his age. We went to the burial and again he was well-behaved. So basically at his age that was my concern in bringing him and my daughter.

If they were older I think it is important to teach them about death. The younger they are, I believe the easier the concept is to accept. I remember going to my uncle's funeral when I was around 5 years old. I didn't find the experience tramatic (it was open casket as well). I just had a hard time understanding why my cousins (it was their dad) weren't interested in playing. It was sad. But that's what funerals are. I don't believe in sheltering my kids from death, it is a part of life. My son already knows when an insect is dead. Does he fully comprehend what that means? Probably not. But he will in time and it will be less of a blow when he does fully understand death. He'll age appropriately learn to accept it as part of life.

Nikki - posted on 10/10/2010

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Loureen, I love how you discuss your culture, it seems very loving and open. Off Topic!!

I don't have a problem with children at funerals, I think it is important children get the opportunity to say good bye to a loved one. I think the death talk is an important one to have with children from a relatively early age.

Jodi - posted on 10/10/2010

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I'd cope Loureen :) Probably just wouldn't like it very much. I guess it is a cultural thing. In our culture I think we have a tendency to avoid discussing or thinking about death in a way.

Jodi - posted on 10/10/2010

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I am not a fan of open casket funerals either. In the case of my ex FIL, there was not an open casket funeral, they had a viewing for close family the night before. I also found that macabre, and I'll be honest, it really disturbed me. I was already in the room when he passed, I really didn't want to be at the viewing too, but I was supporting my ex-husband (he wasn't an ex then). But a viewing for those who wish to be there is a better time for the open casket, than the funeral.

Krista - posted on 10/10/2010

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I am all for closed casket, and (no offence to anyone who practices this) but I don't think folks ought to make kids kiss the body goodbye.



I agree completely. Mind you, I find open casket to be incredibly macabre anyway. I mean, I've been to a few of them, and you've always got some people who are devastated, and then other who are basically just there to support the family. So then you get two people who run into each other who haven't seen each other in a long while, (I know my husband's huge family only ever all gets together at weddings and funerals), and they're catching up. It's just really damn weird to be making small talk with someone with a corpse lying just a dozen or so yards away.



As far as kids at funerals, I'd say it depends on the age of the child and the overall feel of the funeral. And if a child is old enough to know what's what and does not want to go to that funeral, they should never be FORCED to go -- I've seen that happen, and I think it's awful.

Charlie - posted on 10/10/2010

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Yes absolutely if and when they choose too ( never against their will ), i went to a fair few funerals as a child ( large family someone is always dying or sick ) i slept at the morgue with my grandpa as is allowed in Tongan custom when i was 10 my sister did also and she was 6 , they have a funeral prosession where the body is layed out in the open for all to say goodbye to , we as his grandchildren sat around his body to thank the people who came there were some children only 4 years old , i think it was a wonderful way for us to say goodbye , my sister and i think about his funeral warmly , we remember the good , the friends he had who came , the family who were all there for each other , the singing .
I think with enough explaination a child can cope with a funeral ,Whenever possible, children should be offered choices about going to the hospital, viewing the body, attending the funeral, etc.

I think death is something that should be explained in simple terms at first but never avoided , its a fact of life this is why when a pet dies for a young child its a great way to start to explain death and not just wrap it up in cotton candy .

I often find with children , when a kindy animal would die or even when i lost my baby ( they knew i had a baby ) they were far more understanding and encouraging than most adults .

Jodi - posted on 10/10/2010

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I really think it depends on the age of the child and who it is who died. My son went to his first funeral this year. He was 12 at the time, and it was a friend of mine who died of breast cancer, her son was my son's best friend in primary school. They are still mates (they just go to different schools now). He needed closure. I think, to this day, he still struggles to understand why his mate's mum (who was younger than me) had to die. But he did need to say his own goodbye.

I've never faced the issue with close family with my kids. But I do think close family is ok. I agree with Sara that children need closure too. Really, it is one of those things you weigh up as you need to. Sometimes there are circumstances where you are not at a funeral for closure, but to pay your respects. I think as children get older, that is important too.

Cassie - posted on 10/10/2010

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I think it really depends on the family and the deceased (the manner in which they died).

When my MIL's mother passed away last year, we knew it was coming. The funeral was close family and it was more a time of thinking about her life than mourning her death. I took Kiera to that (she was one at the time).

Two weeks ago, my aunt passed away suddenly and unexpectedly. The entire family was devastated and heartbroken. I did not think it was appropriate for Kiera to attend that funeral. It would have been unfair to the rest of the family and unfair to Kiera. She would have been scared of all the crying and would have acted like a two year old normally would which is not appropriate for a funeral.

I really think it depends on the child, family, and the overall feel of the funeral.

JuLeah - posted on 10/10/2010

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Depends on the kid and how well they knew the person. My friend took her youngest, age 4. But the funeral was for the little girls father, my friends husband. To leave her at home when all the rest of the family was there would have been worse. It is good she went.

I am all for closed casket, and (no offence to anyone who practices this) but I don't think folks ought to make kids kiss the body goodbye.

If you wait until the person has a good understanding of the concept of death, well .... I am not sure I would even get to go :)

[deleted account]

I think if the child could possibly be a distraction, then no. I'm referring to toddlers that can't sit through a solemn service.

But other than that, I don't take issue with children at funerals. Especially if it is a loved one. Children need closure too.

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