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The One With Children At A Funeral


My boys adoptive grandfather died recently.  The boys hadn’t known him very well, but the man visited him regularly.  Every week or two, the man would take one or other of the kids when he popped round to his dads to say hello and see how he was.

The man was quite close to his dad as they’d worked together for many years when he was younger, and this was my kids first experience of a death and funeral so it was never going to be easy.   He’d been ill for several months after a minor operation that led to a massive stroke that evening, and his body just couldn’t cope with the onslaught of infection after infection.   The kids saw more of him in his 3 months in hospital than they ever had during the rest of their lives.

We hummed and hawed about letting middler come to the funeral as he is around the toddler stage mentally although he is 12 in years.  In the end, the teen and the 11 year old wanted to go and it wasn’t practical to leave the middle child out and say he couldn’t go.  He had a sniffle when I told him his grandfather had died, but it was obvious that he really didn’t understand.

Littlest wanted to lay a rose on the coffin when he walked in, so all three of them took one to do it with.  Their dad helped them and middler carried a teddy bear as a squishy toy to keep his hands busy while the service was going on. Littlest and eldest both found the service difficult and seeing their dad look upset.  It took the mans mind off the funeral by putting his arms around the kids and making sure they were ok.

I sat next to middler beside the door on the front row, just to make sure we could do a quick exit if he decided to start shouting or being aggressive.  Thankfully he sat and squeezed his teddy and spent a long time looking around the room at the rows of people.  With the coffin, he really didn’t understand what was going on, but he did know it was to say goodbye.

I didn’t see the point in having him miss out on it as he’d only have felt aggrieved at not being included in what was happening.  I think it’s important for children around the ages of mine to have some exposure to a natural part of the life process.  In generations gone by, our deceased family members would rest at home and the bodies cleansed and readied by their families.   From the time that I was young, as a society, we had more or less begun to rely on intermediaries to take some of the work out of the process and our children are often not involved in death until they are adults.

I gave my boys the choice and they chose to go.  If they’d said they didn’t want to go, I’d not have made them do it.  I would doubt if I would take a very young child under 5 to a funeral unless I was very sure that it was appropriate, but I would give older children a choice for a close family member or friend.

I know that lots of people would see middler coming as inappropriate, but I don’t want his first experience of a funeral to be without us there as his guide.  People probably did wonder why this perfectly normal looking and gangly 12 year old was hanging onto a teddy for dear life, but that’s their problem.   One person mentioned to my brother-in-law that middler didn’t look as if he had anything wrong with him and looked so well.  It is hard for people to understand how brain injuries can affect how children learn, live and cope.  He did begin to lose it a little at the wake when he saw tables loaded with teas/coffees and sandwiches as he thought it would be a party, but he actually did himself proud.

The funeral director came up to us afterwards and said the boys did really well.  They looked smart, confident and respectful and I am glad it all went without any incidents.

I am proud of my wee boys as they did so well and I’m glad I didn’t listen to those who said kids shouldn’t be at funerals.

8 thoughts on “The One With Children At A Funeral

  1. My children have unfortunately had to say goodbye to 3 great grandparents. The first time my son as only 3 and my daughter 6 but having no one to leave them with they came along. They distracted their gramps very well when he got distracted and helped cheer everyone up at the wake. The following year at my granny’s funeral (who my daughter was very attached too) they didn’t come to the cremation but did come to the thanksgiving service. Last year they came to the whole thing. They need to say goodbye and as long as they can sit still and quiet for the solemn bits then they should be allowed to go

  2. My StepMum died in August & my husband & I decided to let the older children decide if they wanted to go to her funeral.

    My eldest Son, 14, declared straight away that he was going & even asked if he could do a reading. My Daughter, 10, & middle Son, 9, chose not to attend as they didn’t want to see their Grandad upset.

    I respected each of their decisions as did my Dad & the rest of the family.

    My Son did us all proud on the day & read a beautiful poem on behalf of the 7 grandchildren.

    Sadly one day we must all die & as much as we want to protect our children at some point we have to let them experience this final journey & if that can be with their parent by their side to protect them then surely this is the best way.

    1. That’s it exactly. Death is part of life and at least this way, they chose to go and with us there, they were supported all the way through. Thanks for commenting x

  3. I agree with you, for close family it is an opportunity for them to remember and say goodbye. I also think they tend to lighten things a bit for everyone at the funeral , the whole “cirle of life” thing. Well done to your boys.

    1. Thanks. People do tend to smile at children afterwards and it’s good to see family members they might only see rarely. I think it’s important for children to be involved so they know why their close family might be upset. I worry that it does more damage by excluding them when they are at an age to know what is happening. A little like their grief isn’t as important as the adults as they are left out of it if they don’t have the choice.

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