Should children attend a grandparent’s funeral?
BY KAREN L. RANCOURT
A young dad recently wanted my advice whether his six-year-old daughter should attend his mother’s funeral. I offered him four main considerations.
Some parents of young children do not want their young children to attend a funeral because the service is highly ritualized and has little meaning for a child.
Many parents do not want their children exposed to religious doctrine because they fear it can result in young children having fears about life and death, or the doctrine is contrary to what they want their young children exposed to.
Another consideration is that parents may not want their young children to attend any part of a service or funeral that takes place at a cemetery, as the lowering of a casket into the ground or the burying of an urn or the scattering of ashes can be a terrifying experience for a young child.
Some funerals focus on people sharing their memories of and stories about the deceased and include lots of laughter as well as tears.
Many parents want their young children to experience this type of funeral or memorial service, especially if those speaking about the deceased are people known to the child.
A parent might ask the child if he/she would like to be present when Grandma’s family and friends tell stories about her. Let the child know that some people will cry when they think about how much they loved Grandma and how much they will miss her, but stories that make us cry and laugh are an important part of honoring and remembering someone.
A relative or friend can bring young children to just those aspects of the funeral that personalize the deceased, and not have them present for the parts that are religious and/or ritualized. I have had parents tell me that they feel such relief to know that they don’t have to commit their young children to an entire funeral or service.
Although dying grandparents may express their opinion as to whether a grandchild should attend their funeral, the final decision rests with the parents.
After his mother died, I heard from the young dad who had asked for my advice. He said he and his wife decided that his daughter should spend the day of Grandma’s funeral with her best friend’s family. He said that if their daughter had been a few years older they would probably have included her for the eulogies.
Difficult decisions, such as these, will vary from one family to another.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR – KAREN RANCOURT, Ph.D.
Karen L. Rancourt, Ph.D., writes an advice column for parents and grandparents at Mommybites.com and is the author of Ask Dr. Gramma Karen, Volume II: Savvy Advice to Help Soothe Parent-Grandparent Conflicts.