Just last week, my husband's beloved aunt died. We didn't think twice about loading up our children and driving 3 1/2 hours to her wake and funeral service. When we got there, I wondered, â??Where are the other kids?â??
Growing up, funerals were a part of life. In my small hometown of Monroe City, Mo., they were rather massive affairs. In many cases, they served as a family reunion of sorts, complete with pictures after the dinner. A funeral brought together relatives who didn't often get to see each other. When the services involved a younger person or an unexpected death, the events were much more somber, but even better attended.I was shocked when my college roommate told me she had never been to a funeral. I didn't realize that was even an option. However, many parents choose not to expose their children to death or the possible trauma of seeing a body in a coffin. There is no single right or wrong answer. It all has to do with your child's temperament and his or her wishes. You know your child best. If your young one is going to be loud or disruptive to the other mourners, that child is probably best left at home or at least out of earshot. That's the easiest scenario though. Things get much more complicated after a child's out of the toddler years. In researching the subject, I came across parents who say it is absolutely inappropriate for a child to attend a funeral. Many had bad experiences themselves and came away afraid and confused. Other parents were just as emphatic that children need to go to funerals. They say kids need to see that people die and it's OK to be sad about it. Others argue that children need closure just like an adult does. Feel free to share your opinion here or on our Facebook page. You can also take our poll. What do the experts say? My research didn't turn up many â??experts,â?? mostly just parents with an opinion. But on the websites with a more professional bent, like bereavementadvice.org, the answer seems to be, â??Let your child decide.â?? However, your child needs some information before making the decision:*Prepare your child for what they might see.*Advise them that people will be sad.*Be honest in answering the child's questions. For instance, don't try to put your child off by saying something like, â??Grandma's sleeping.â?? That could give your child the impression that he too will â??fall asleepâ?? and not wake up. Here is a link that offers some sound advice for talking with children about death. At the risk of sounding insensitive, I've always believed in the value of warm-up funerals. In other words, taking your children to funerals of people that they weren't all that close to. Our funeral last week is a good example. Our children's elderly great aunt died after a lengthy illness. The kids only saw her once a year. My thought has always been that those sort of funerals will help prepare our kids when someone close to them dies. In retrospect, that's pretty well preposterous. No amount of funerals for elderly relatives could have prepared my 9-year-old brother for the death of our 21-year-old sister. Dozens of funerals in my lifetime did not make burying Grandpa any easier. However, my children do understand the circle of life and the sadness of death. They've also found that in time, death can be something to celebrate. They are learning that there comes a day when thinking of your deceased loved one makes you smile, instead of making you cry. Take care~Sarah D.