Funerals and Kids – When to Start Bringing Them?
The moment will arrive – if it hasn’t already – when you have to attend a funeral. You may have been to plenty before, but it’s different this time.
This time you have a baby or small child, perhaps more than one, and you’re faced with what can be a difficult question – should we bring them along?
It’s easy to wrestle with this in your mind, be it the potential for noise, awkwardness, or possibly most concerning: should the child even witness this at all?
But having been to more funerals than I can remember, I’ll contend that it’s important for your child to be a part of them. While particularly tragic funerals might involve some extra thought, perhaps from a professional, it’s different for the funeral of an older relative or friend.
It’s ultimately up to you to decide what’s best for you and your child, but here’s a few reasons why bringing them just might be a good thing for everyone.
It allows them to see the circle of life. Dying is as natural as being born, all a very ordinary part of life. Death isn’t easy, but it’s normal. The topic comes to light in nearly every Disney movie, so let them see that those movies reflect real life. All of it will help discuss some of the deeper issues your child might have – why does Uncle John have to die? Will I die? Will I see them again?
It teaches kids that it’s OK to cry. Children don’t necessarily need to be protected from these emotions, and neither is it necessary to shield them from seeing you cry. They’ll soon realize that the more you love someone the more it will hurt, and tears are an important part of the healing process, just like when a boo-boo happens. Parents need to learn to guide children through these expected emotions, not avoid it at all costs.
It helps the mourners to smile. After days filled with sadness, it gives those who grieve a moment of hope to see a cute, precious baby or smiling toddler. More often than not they may even want to hold that precious child, which is therapy in itself. Words can be hard to come by at times like this, so the presence of a child and that hope may be all you need to give.
It connects them to family. For better or for worse, funerals can be like family reunions. While it’s much more fun to gather under better circumstances, it still affords your child a chance to get to know their aunts, uncles, and cousins that they might not see enough. I want our kids to know that their family is more than just the ones under our own roof. If you have a baby, it allows your relatives to meet him/her, maybe even for the first time. And even if you see your extended family regularly, letting your kids see that their fun-loving uncle can show remarkable strength under adversity and display raw emotion, and not just as a guy who spoils them.
It better prepares them for future funerals. I know plenty of people who avoid funeral homes because of the discomfort. They don’t want to see that open casket. They want to remember them in life, not in death. Hey, no one likes funerals, but it can be important to show respect and ease the pain of those who grieve. Once you learn how to dress, how to act, and what to say at a funeral, you’ll be that much more prepared to handle them as you grow. I’m not saying death gets easier, just that you’ll have down the overall routine, which affords you more time to focus on your emotions.
I want them to see we’re here to help one another. If the meaning of life is to serve one another, then what better place to do that than at a funeral? This isn’t much different than a wedding vow – to love others in good times and in bad.
Funerals aren’t just for the sake of the departed soul, they’re also for us – to cry, say goodbye, and put closure on a life that we might like to emulate. They help us to carry on with life and carry that person’s spirit inside us.
Kids can benefit from all of that, too.