In one of my prior posts, I wrote about children and their attendance at funerals. After a recent death of a loved one, I have been thinking more about considerations that parents must take into account when making decisions about the attendance of their younger child. What are some specifics that you can tell your child? What about a backup plan? In the next 3 posts, I would like to define and discuss three of the many rituals that cultures conduct to say goodbye to their loved ones— visitations, funerals, and memorials.
Sometimes as parents, we haven’t a choice of trying to “ease” our child in to the world of funerals and memorials. The death of a grandparent, parent, sibling, or a close friend may be the first experience our children have with death. It is important to give our children all of the information— to explain what will happen during each step— so that our kids can better make the decision to attend or ask us to make other arrangements.
Of course, you must take into account the age and developmental level of your child. Their depth of understanding will vary throughout their development and you know them best.
Let’s begin with visitations.
Viewings are usually held for one or two evenings prior to the day of a funeral. There are set hours that the family will be present to receive condolences. The body is most often present, whether the casket is open or closed is specific to the family or the deceased’s wishes.
People who would like to pay their respects may attend at any time during the set hours and stay as long as they wish. . This means that you can limit the time spent at the funeral home with your child. Your child may also stay away from the casket, yet be in the area with the family. There are often adjoining rooms that your child can access, so that he can distance himself if overwhelmed. Some funeral homes even have a playroom for children.
Items to discuss with your child:
• What happens during a visit to a funeral home?
• Who may attend?
• Will other children be present?
• How long do you plan to stay during the visit?
• What might they see or hear?
• Can they go straight to the play area and bypass the main area?
• What if you get there and they change their mind about going in?
• Is there someone who will be able to stay with your child while you pay your respects?
Help your child make the decision whether or not they wish to attend. Don’t put undue pressure on them to decide one way or another. Try not to ask leading questions such as “You really don’t want to go to the funeral home do you?”
And remember, don’t beat yourself up if plans change and things don’t work out the way you had planned.
Coming Soon: Attending Funerals