Attending the Funeral
Many parents question whether or not children should attend funerals. Funerals help many people to accept the reality of a death and to honor the life of the one who has died. Funerals are also occasions where people mourn together. Attending a funeral or visiting the funeral home can also be helpful to children. Here are some points to consider:
Explain to the child what happens at a funeral or visitation. As with any new experience, a child will need an explanation and extra preparation and support if he or she participates.
Ask if the child is interested in going to the funeral home. Encourage (but do not force) the visitation. Even for adults, going to a funeral home can be stressful.
Take the child to the funeral home without other visitors present. This allows the child to feel comfortable and ask questions. The child can also make a better decision about whether or not to attend the funeral.
Parents can help a grieving child by finding ways that the child can remember and feel connected to the person who died. This help is especially important when a death is sudden and unexpected. In these situations, a child has not had opportunities to prepare for the death and to find a way to say goodbye. If possible, the child should be given something that belonged to the person who died. Such a "memory object" affirms the child's relationship with the one who has died. Sharing memories and stories of times past helps a child continue to feel connected to the person who has died. Holidays, birthdays and anniversaries after a death can be sad days, but they are good times to help a child remember the person who is no longer present.