A complex subject is whether children should attend funerals of loved ones. Obviously the age and level of understanding of children needs to be taken into account, but I believe children do sense when they think something is wrong and their imaginations are often worse than the truth. I think it is so individual but that it is so important that nobody, however young, feels they are left out. I think it is important that children do not feel as they grow up that they had been excluded from the funeral. I believe, however young, a child will be going through a grieving process and therefore need to know that they are supported and can ask questions, that are often so difficult to answer, and there are certainly lots around a death of a loved one and funerals. What are other people’s experiences and thoughts.
Thanks for starting this thread which I think is a really important issue. Personally I think it’s important that children are allowed to attend the funeral and any wakes/family gatherings following the death of a loved one. They are incredibly perceptive and I think they need to know what is going on otherwise they will start “filling in the blanks” themselves. My father died when my oldest son was two and we had my dad back at the house in an open coffin so friends and family who wanted to could come and pay their respects. This is very common in the part of the country where I come from. We brought my son in and explained to him what was happening and he look at my dad and said “Grandpa is going to heaven in hes boat” as that’s what he thought the coffin was. He also attended dads funeral and after he understood that dad was no longer with us and accepted that, while he did miss him. He was also happy to talk about him and often talked about his boat journey to heaven. I think we underestimate the ability of children to understand grief and bereavement and I think it is more harmful to block them out of everything even if the intention is to protect them.
Of course I appreciate this is my view and experience and others may have different opinions.
All the best,
I agree with you Peter. My children have attended funerals since they were small, as we have seen it as something that should be shared as a family.
I can still feel the anger I felt at being kept from my Grandad’s funeral 57yrs ago as a 7 year old. I didn’t understand what was going on (we were more innocent in those days) but I knew everybody was going to say goodbye to him. The first funeral I went to was a double funeral for two schoolmates killed in a train crash at the age of 10.
More recently, when my mother-in-law died, we were waiting to go in behind the coffin and my 4 yr old grandson burst into tears because he couldn’t carry the coffin with his grandad, two uncles and father! We found him a special job, and the smile on his face while holding his mum’s hand while she did a reading was lovely.
A couple of years ago our 3 yr old granddaughter looked at my huband and myself and suddenly pointed and said “One day you two are going to DIE”. It started off a good conversation, especially as a couple of her parents’ friends had recently died, and were only in their forties.
Having children at funerals reminds us that life continues and is often a comfort to those who are grieving
Thanks Peter @Dyslexicprof and @Pisces56, so interesting to hear personal perspectives and experiences. Personally I think you have both shown that often the important thing is that a child feels they are part of the process and they feel supported and secure that they can say what they want to know and ask those so awkward questions. Also as @Pisces56 shows times and thoughts have changed since we were young, but what that means is that we can show the effects in hindsight on us now. I am sure others might have different perspectives as there is not right or wrong and all situations are individual.
You all raised some really good points! @Pisces56 hearing you talk about your experience with your grandfather, I think there is a lot of truth in people having experiences like these earlier on in their life, and still feeling the impact of it as an adult.
I wonder what people’s thoughts are on how a child can be supported through such an experience? For example, things like;
- talking through with a child what they can expect to happen during a funeral
- encouraging them (if they feel comfortable) to have say in the funeral, such as; picking a song to play
- having a little plan in place, just in case, they feel they’d prefer to leave at any point during the funeral
it would be really interesting to hear peoples’ thoughts
Nothing to do with Cancer but my son (he’s 32) still brings up the subject of us not taking him to his Great Auntie Peggy’s funeral when he was about 8. At the time we thought he wouldn’t understand, but obviously it meant a lot to him. GA Peggy used to be around quite a lot in his life as she was the only remaining member of that branch of the family tree & she stayed with us & attended birthdays & Christmas’. We now realise that we made the wrong call.
Hi @Corfu80, what a dilemma isn’t it, as a parent I can look back at many different occasions when I would now do things differently. I think we must remember we did the best that we could as a parent with the tools that we had. I certainly wasn’t given a manual when my son was born. My tools were my own upbringing experiences. Times and thinking have also changed, We also did everything out of love and maternal feelings of protecting. At that time children did not usually attend funerals and feelings and emotions were not considered. I have actually apologised to my son over a couple of things. I have found it helps to talk about the person, reminisce, and ask my son for his memories and perhaps any questions he might have. By the way GA Peggy sounds a very special person.
I agree @Erica it can be very tricky can’t it? @Corfu80 that sounds like it was such a difficult time for you, and yes ditto to Erica. GA sounds like such a special person! it also sounds like you are being very tough on yourself, as I’m sure you were only trying to do what you felt was best at the time- and every child is different.
@Erica @Corfu80 do you find talking through past experiences like this helps you?
Hi @SuBloodcancerUK and @Corfu80 the one thing I found about talking honestly with my son and saying how I might do things differently now has meant we are closer and just 2 people talking, not so much mother and son, well he is 46 yrs old !!!
My children and myself have a pretty good relationship, and have usually been able to talk through most things. We had a nightmare time with middle child, and he is the one I owed the most apologies to. Bless him, he gave me a hug and said that he had turned out alright though, and I am proud of the people my children have become.
The most difficult funeral was for a former colleague, who had looked after my youngest when I used to pop into school to help with music after I had ‘retired’ (ha ha!) I was undergoing chemotherapy at the time, and I could see he was struggling, but he said that he really wanted to be there. He is having a tricky time at work as two people on his team have taken sick leave because they are unable to understand their job. He said to my husband that they should try being a teenager with a mother who could be dying from cancer, then they would know what stress was. He was amazing during my illness, but eventually broke down in the middle of an A level exam, and was sent home “because you need to give your mum a hug”.
I also read last week of a man who is terminally ill and is having his wake before he dies at a local pub, and then his close family can say a quiet goodbye. What a great idea, if we were in that situation