Children and Funerals

The Victorians excluded women and children from funerals, but those days are long gone. Many people feel that children should be incorporated into the family grieving process, and that attending a funeral will help them to understand the magnitude of the event and the emotional impact it has had on everyone.

But beware; children are naturally curious, and have no inhibitions about asking searching questions. They will be interested in the whole process of cremation and burial, and you will need to be prepared to answer them clearly and openly. Try not to react angrily when they ask questions that you regard as tactless and inappropriate - it would be wrong to expect children to have assimilated the diplomatic evasions about death that adults eventually acquire.

More philosophical questions about the nature of death can be very challenging for newly-bereaved parents. If you are not religious (in which case the answer is relatively straightforward), you will need to revert to talk of natural cycles, beginnings and endings, and living on in memories. Much of this will go over your children's heads, but they may come back to it in the following months.

Children - if they are willing - may even participate in funerals. They may want to say a few words about their grandparent etc., or read a poem. But it is absolutely vital to ensure that they are completely willing to do this, and do not feel coerced into 'performing'.

If you are taking children to a funeral, describe what will happen to them beforehand. Explain to them that they will have to stay very quiet, and not fidget. Ensure that they know what to expect and how to behave.

On the other hand, you may feel strongly that bringing your children to a funeral is not appropriate, and this is entirely your choice. Talk to your children, and if they are very upset, or frightened, do not force them to attend. If you feel that you cannot cope with their presence at a very difficult time, then do not bring them. It goes without saying that funerals are not really appropriate for very young children, who will not understand what is going on, and may not know how to behave, which is upsetting for everyone.

If you are attending a funeral with a very small baby, ensure that you sit at the end of the pew, preferably towards the rear of the church/chapel, even if you are one of the chief mourners (although in these circumstances it would be wise to entrust the baby to someone else). It is imperative that, if the baby begins to cry, you can make a rapid exit.

There is no longer any rigid social code about children and funerals. The expectation is that you will do what feels right both for the children, and for yourself.

See Bereavement

 

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