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.