Monthly Archives: July 2015

Another word about funerals, and children…

Last post I talked about the value of considering a funeral or memorial service for your pet or working animal, and mentioned that this can be a beneficial part of the grieving process for young children. Interestingly, the following week I read the article linked at the bottom of this post, which talks about the psychological benefits of having children attend the funerals of human loved ones. And so I’m sharing this as well, because it rings just as true.

Children, for their lack of experience in the world, can be very fragile. They are also, however, less emotionally composed of the grey areas which fill up the thoughts of most adults. Once they understand something, they can be surprisingly pragmatic and sensitive. The key is to help them understand.

My great-grandmother passed away when I was quite young. In those days, it was considered too traumatic and confronting for a child to be presented with death in such an intimate way. For this and possibly other reasons the kids of the family were not allowed to go to her funeral. These days of course I understand that it was simply not the “done thing”. I do remember, though, being old enough then to understand that we were being excluded, and that that was something to be sad about.

Flash forward to a funeral I attended in the last few years, where the grandchildren, all early-primary or younger, not only attended but participated. The eldest grandson carried his grandfather’s photo to the graveside, his sister and their young brothers placed pictures they had drawn for him in the grave. They all understood what was happening, and although grieving they carried themselves as well as could be expected. It was important to them, and in the end a healing thing, to be able to say goodbye.

These are, of course, examples that do not apply to everyone. Some children are far too confronted by death up to a much later age to be expected to cope with a funeral. Some children are simply not yet able to understand what is happening, and become overwhelmed and disoriented by the distress around them.

However, it is well worthwhile to consider children in the planning of the funeral. Rather than applying a general “children should not go to funerals”, ask “should MY children go to funerals?” – how will it affect the unique people that they are? Will the experience help them? Can they help themselves by being involved?

Here is a link to the original article, for you to make up your own mind.


Honouring a Furry Friend

A pet is, for most people, a treasured member of the family. They often eat, sleep and play alongside the rest of the household, contributing their presence and unique perspective as much as any human being. Even larger animals who cannot live within the house can form a bond with the humans who interact with them in ways that cannot be denied.

Why, then, is the way in which an animal is treated when they pass away different from the way in which we treat humans? For some who lose a pet, especially if they have had to make the difficult decision to have their loved one euthanised, there may be a certain closure in the simplicity of allowing the vet to “take care of things”. This is understandable, and there’s certainly a place for it.

However, there are growing opportunities for a family to come together and grieve for their pet in ways which are closer to a human memorial or funeral. Many pet crematoriums and cemeteries are now offering owners the chance to visit, and even be present at, the burial or cremation of their pet. Sometimes this can be helpful to children, especially if they have previously experienced the passing of a human friend or relative – it shows them they are allowed to mourn their pet, that others are sad (and needing cuddles) too and that death is a part of life even for animals.

When it’s time to say farewell to a treasured animal friend it may help to have someone gather your thoughts and put them together, perhaps organise ways in which tributes can be made. There may be a poem to read, a song to sing, pictures and keepsakes to display. The animal may have been of service to the community, a sporting hero or a prize-winner, and there may be some outside the family who would like the opportunity to pay their respects.

A memorial service for a pet or working animal could be held in the backyard, their favourite park (subject to Council approval) or in any another place where they contributed or were valued just for being there.

Among the multitude of readings that can be used in the celebration of a pet is a variation on the Rainbow Bridge story. Essentially the Rainbow Bridge is the place where pets who have passed wait for their humans to join them at a later time. Needless to say it’s a place where they have everything they need – their heaven.

You may need tissues for this fortnight’s video!