Should your child attend a funeral?

Yes! Your Child Should Attend the Funeral.

One Perspective on Child Grief Recovery

A funeral is a very important part in child grief recovery.

One of the most disenfranchised griefs is that of a child. Adults do not always treat children’s grief as a serious and legitimate concern and in many cases discount their needs. One such discounting is preventing the child from saying a final “goodbye”. Well intentioned adults frequently leave children at home during a funeral. This may even the case when the person who died was a primary caregiver to the child. It is important for a child to attend the funeral of a loved one for their grief recovery, but you might want to consider a few things.

First, the child benefits from being told what a funeral is about and what he or she will see. A child should not be taken off guard or surprised to see the coffin or a body in the coffin if a viewing is occuring. Instead a child should be prepared and helped to understand what a funeral is and what the rituals are for. In-depth answers are not always sufficient, but providing answers in concrete and clear language so as to avoid confusion within the mind of the child is crucial. Letting a child know that the funeral can be a chance to say “goodbye” and that crying and mourning there is alright. One can also explain the religious significance of the rituals during this time.

Second, if possible, try to include the child in the funeral rituals. If the child would like to read a poem or say a short “goodbye”, making this possible can be incredibly beneficial. If the child is shy, maybe simply lighting a candle for the deceased can offer an outlet for his or her grief.

Finally, when the child attends the funeral be prepared for a variety of emotions. Whatever emotion, being accepting of the child’s way of mourning is also valuable and important. One thing to remember is that children mourn in doses. With this in mind, do not be surprised to see the child behave quite normal and play with various cousins. If the child’s behaviour becomes disturbing or inappropriate, you can let the child know about the certain ways they are expected to behave. This does not prevent mourning but helps the child understand the expected and appropriate behaviour. The child should be told that other people are sad and such behaviour might be uncomfortable for others.

If your child is well behaved, be sure to include taking him or her to funerals of other distant relatives. This can teach the child what a funeral is about and how to behave and act. It can also teach the child about death and better prepare the child for the death of a close loved one.

Ultimately, not taking a child to a loved one’s funeral can be the worst thing an adult can do. This mistake can greatly harm the grieving process of the child.

(Information for this article was found in “Companioning the Grieving Child” by Alan Wolfelt, PhD)

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