Our Tip of the Month
Alan D. Wolfelt, PhD, an expert on bereavement, has said that anyone who is old enough to love is also old enough to grieve. He is an advocate of bringing a child to a funeral service or a memorial service if the child wishes to attend. There are some steps that you, the adult, can take to make the child’s presence easier for both of you.
First, explain to the child what the funeral service will be like. If there will be an open casket, prepare the child for that. When bringing a child to a funeral, it’s also important to explain that he or she will have to sit quietly while different people talk about the person who has died. Finally, tell the child that some people will feel sad or cry because they miss their loved one. Make sure the child knows that it’s okay for him or her to cry as well.
Once you’ve had this discussion, ask the child if they want to go to the service. Bringing a child to a funeral when that child doesn’t want to go is usually a bad idea. It’s better to let the child stay home and find some other way to honor the person who has died.
If you are bringing a young child to a funeral, it might be the better part of valor to take along a babysitter who can take the child outside or into another room if the child becomes loud or upset. Don’t feel angry or embarrassed if your child does need to leave the room. Kids often have a low tolerance for sitting still for long periods of time. Besides, it can be hard for some adults to sit through funerals, too.
After the funeral, check in with the child. Ask them about any feelings the funeral may have brought up. What did he or she like and dislike about the service? You might want to ask if there is anything else the child would like to do to memorialize the person who has died.
If you are bringing a child to a funeral, there are several steps you can take to make the experience more meaningful for the child. Children grieve, too, and attending their loved one’s funeral can help ease their pain and help them move through their grief.
Are you wondering how to explain death to a young child? Check out our review of “When Dinosaurs Die,” a picture book that explores death and grief in terms children can understand.