Should Children Attend Funerals?

DSC01179_2Dinny S.* writes “should you bring children to a wake or service?”

Today, experts agree that the healthiest approach is to include children in funeral rituals. Dr. Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, a noted psychiatrist, says “if they are old enough to love, they are old enough to grieve.” While some want to protect children from the harsh reality of death, denying children an opportunity to be part of remembering and saying goodbye shuts them out of an event that can help them grow. A child’s fantasies about death and burial can also be dispelled by the reality of the funeral service which will help him or her develop a healthy and realistic attitude about death. How children grieve and participate in the rituals of your family will help determine how they will face future sorrows.

What to Expect
It will be important to explain your family’s rituals around death: who will be there, what they will be doing, where and when this will take place and how people might act or feel. Explain that they might see tears, straight faces and laughter. It may help to explain that a funeral is a time to:

  • express sadness because someone has died
  • honor the person who died and celebrate his or her life
  • help comfort and support each other
  • remember that life goes on

It would be helpful to describe how the room is set up and where the person who died will be—in a casket (open or closed) or cremated—and how that person will look (use of make-up) and feel (cold) if the child were to touch the person who died. Explain the purpose of each ritual.

There are certain terms like casket and visitation that you may want to explain to your children and older children may want to know what to say. Providing as much age-appropriate, factual information up front will help arm children with the understanding they’ll need to face the event that may be new to them. Avoid phrases like “sleeping,” “passed away” and “lost.”

To learn more about children and funerals click here.

One thought on “Should Children Attend Funerals?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *