9

Would you take a 3 and a half year old girl to the funeral of her great-granddad?

She knows about death and heaven...
Death belongs to life, right?

On the other hand, I don't want to overstrain her...

Edit: I would like to share my experience with you after everything has happened:

One day before the funeral I took her and explained very clearly what we are going to do, why and what will happen. Children have a very clear language. So I explained that he died, that means we will never be able to visit him, talk to him again or even see him anymore. We were going to say goodbye to him. He will be inside of a box that is going to be put under the earth. People are going to be very sad for a while. She accepted all of this easily. So I was not absolutely sure about the grade of understanding, but since I know her and she is pretty smart, I was sure there should not be anymore suprises for her in what is going to happen. So we took her with us. Inside of the church she was pretty calm and curious. Never frightened or something. Sometimes a bit simpering. Lateron during the funeral the same. She dropped some flowers into the grave and said bye. That's it.

I am sure her presence was helpful for some of the relatives although I cared that she was not instrumented for anyone to feel better at any time. She decided herself who to talk to and where to go.

Lateron she explained her little sister that gran-grandad has "decended in a box and is now gone". That's it. Maybe she will remember this experience in future, maybe not, but I am very sure she will defenitely not remember it as something very scary.

The benefit is that she was a part of the process and I am sure she will never wonder where he is and why he is not there anymore because she simply knows what happened and was a part of the process to say goodbye. I am happy about the decision.

Thank you for your attention and suggestions.

  • 1
    I took mine to a funeral. about that age. They didn't seem to have a problem handling it. I'd say you know the mannerisms of your kid and the details of the funeral so you may be able to imagine how it will seem to her. – Kai Qing Oct 8 '15 at 22:02
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    Magier, welcome to the site! Sorry for your loss and for having to post a first question like this. Take care of your little girl and of yourself! – Stephie Oct 9 '15 at 15:31
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    My grandfather died when I was three. I still wish my parents had taken me to the funeral. We all have to say goodbye. I think it would be a good idea to go together – Ed Heal Oct 9 '15 at 17:31
6

This actually depends entirely on your culture, and your child.

In many cultures, kids are kept very segregated from the deceased. In others, they may be a core part of the family group at an open casket wake. And in others, they may help care for the body as it lies in rest prior to being buried etc.

I have taken my kids to funerals of their great-grandparents, as I see it as a useful part of grieving and closure, but this may be entirely different to your experience. It helped them understand, in a way that pets dying hadn't really prepared them for.

I really don't think you should bring a child to "help other grieving attendees" though. They should be there for their own closure and grieving, not as a tool to help others!

  • Although I think there can't be any right answer I like this one the Most. I think I will Talk to her and See if she might be ready and interested. If so I will offer her to say goodbye as everyone else does. – Magier Oct 9 '15 at 21:06
6

For a funeral, basically the same rules as for other social events apply. So answer the following questions and decide accordingly:

  • Can the child do what is expected of him?
    Would the child be able to behave in a way that would be considered appropriate or would the situation demand some action (or non-action) from the child that would be too much, e.g. sitting quietly for a long time or refraining from running around.

  • Would the presence of the child disrupt the event?
    Is the child likely to be a distraction for other participants, cause too much commotion or misbehave beyond an acceptable degree? Or would other relatives find her presence comforting?

  • Would the presence of the child be good for you as a parent?
    In this special case: is the child's presence something that gives you strengt and joy and reminds you of the continuity of your family line even at a time of loss, or would it be a stress factor, distract you from grieving and just be too much for you at that moment?

You know the inner dynamics of your family, your state of mind, the tone of the upcoming event and your child much better that we do. So decide for yourself. (Don't forget the books, toys etc. to keep her from being bored if you take her.)

If you take her, talk about what's happening, comfort her and be prepared to answer her questions. In my opinion and experience there is nothing about death that a child can't handle if explained properly and in an age-appropriate way. As you said yourself - death is part of life. You might have to explain why you or other family members are crying, why the body / the casket is here when you told her that Granddad is in heaven etc., but I think you can handle it.

But please, don't go the "Granddad is sleeping" route - it is deeply disturbing for a child to see a casket with the "sleeping" family member being interred1. You might also want to mention that Graddad was really, really old in case she asks whether you are about to die. (Suggested answer: "When people have lived a long life and are very old, they are ready to die because they are done with living." - that's how my then 5yo put it once.)


1 I witnessed someone do this once when I was a child myself and still remember the other child's confusion and fear.

2

I would like to share my experience with you after everything has happened:

One day before the funeral I took her and explained very clearly what we are going to do, why and what will happen. Children have a very clear language. So I explained that he died, that means we will never be able to visit him, talk to him again or even see him anymore. We were going to say goodbye to him. He will be inside of a box that is going to be put under the earth. People are going to be very sad for a while. She accepted all of this easily. So I was not absolutely sure about the grade of understanding, but since I know her and she is pretty smart, I was sure there should not be anymore suprises for her in what is going to happen. So we took her with us. Inside of the church she was pretty calm and curious. Never frightened or something. Sometimes a bit simpering. Lateron during the funeral the same. She dropped some flowers into the grave and said bye. That's it.

I am sure her presence was helpful for some of the relatives although I cared that she was not instrumented for anyone to feel better at any time. She decided herself who to talk to and where to go.

Lateron she explained her little sister that gran-grandad has "decended in a box and is now gone". That's it. Maybe she will remember this experience in future, maybe not, but I am very sure she will defenitely not remember it as something very scary.

The benefit is that she was a part of the process and I am sure she will never wonder where he is and why he is not there anymore because she simply knows what happened and was a part of the process to say goodbye. I am happy about the decision.

Thank you for your attention and suggestions.

  • And we simply love hearing how things turned out, thanks for sharing with us! – Stephie Oct 13 '15 at 9:59
  • @Stephie Actually, it's OK to answer one's own question :) – Acire Oct 13 '15 at 10:05
  • @Stephie: I personally think it is better pleaced as an answer. Anyways I added it to Q. Please decide yourself about which part to keep/remove. TY – Magier Oct 13 '15 at 10:06

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