Appropriate Age to Attend Wake/Funeral? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 17 Old 07-07-2006, 08:20 AM - Thread Starter
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**posted in Grief & Loss also
My Nanny passed away yesterday morning. I am having a hard time as we were very close and she was my last grandparent. My three daughters were very much loved by her as well. The wake and funeral will be a big to-do as we come from an Irish-Catholic family.

My dd's are 12, 5 and 2. At what age would you feel comfortable bringing your child to a wake and funeral? I am more concerned about the wake because there will be an open casket and it will be a two-day wake. I feel my 12 y/o can handle it but I'm not sure about the little ones. My MIL is willing to help out all weekend but the thought of being away from my children at a time like this for that long breaks my heart. I want them close to me.

I've thought of keeping the little ones in the hallway but I'm not sure if that will be possible as I will be sitting with the family. I do not want to shelter them from death but my middle dd is extremely sensitive and I do not want to cause her nightmares, etc. either.

Any experience or opinons?

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#2 of 17 Old 07-07-2006, 08:36 AM
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I think it depends on who the funeral is for...
A Great-Aunt or friend that the child never met then I wouldn't bring them...
However, A close family member that the children knew, or close family friend that the children knew I think that it is not only appropriate but it is important for them to attend and see everything... whatever age they are... they understand in their own way, and they are able to grieve in their own way... it also makes it less unknown and less scary in the long run..

My ds was a very roudy 2yo and my other ds was 3 month old when my Dad died... Even though it has almost been 2 years, ds still remembers the funeral (open casket) and remembers touching his Pops and that he was cold... I am not sure that he understood death, but he understood that Pops wasn't there anymore... He was a little guy that didn't speak much but after touching him, when all the close family was saying our final goodbyes he said "bye-bye Pops, I love you" without anyone asking or whispering to him...
I really believe that seeing Pops gone was what helped him understand and he went through his own grieving process..

ETA... with your middle dd, I would let her guide what she is willing to see...(of course the same goes with the other kids too)

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#3 of 17 Old 07-07-2006, 08:37 AM
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Personally, I would take MIL up on her offer. Especially with the 2 younger ones. If you think the oldest can handle it, then bring her, but let the other 2 enjoy visiting their grandma. You would be able to focus on your other family members better if you are not chasing a 2 yr old and worrying about scaring your 5 yr old.

I am sorry for your loss.
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#4 of 17 Old 07-07-2006, 09:45 AM
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My dd is was not quite 6 when a close aunt died unexpectedly. When I told dd about it she cried and cried, she cried so hard she fell asleep. It was a very devestating loss. I debated on whether or not to take her and decided not to. I was glad I did b/c it was an open casket (I REALLY don't like them) and I was not expecting that) and I could barely keep myself together let alone worry about dd. DD stayed home w/her dad instead and I am glad she did b/c it was a very upsetting serivce and being that my dd is an EXTREMELY emotional child, it was better she remembered my aunt like she did.
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#5 of 17 Old 07-07-2006, 09:47 AM
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My DS is 3.5 and just attended his third funeral, all with open caskets. The first was when he was just 2 and it was for my grandmother who he had met a handful of times.

We did no prep for him (regarding seeing her body), just were very matter of fact about the whole thing. He asked why she was in the casket, etc. We answered according to our beliefs in a very matter of fact way: "THat's just her body. She was very old and died." We went on to talk more about it as he had questions. He had fun at the viewing and funeral and seemed totally unfazed by the whole thing. It also may depend on your belief system about death in general. My gma was 91, it was not a tragedy for our family that she died. But, he did see people crying and being sad. That led to other good discussions.

The one thing I would say is that if your younger two would get bored and restless at a 2 day wake you may want to plan for them to be there part of the time with you and part be gone with your MIL. DS got sleepy and cranky after about 3 hours at the viewing so we left before it was over.
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#6 of 17 Old 07-07-2006, 01:27 PM
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We have unfortunate experience in this area. My advice would be to let the older 2 to decide for themselves if they want to attend. Explain exactly what to expect, then let them choose to go or not. For the little one, it may be best to let her stay home OR, if she is sociable, people may be really happy to see her. We recently attended a funeral out of town for a dear relative, and since we were in a strange town all of our kids had to attend the funeral with us. Many, many people were happily diverted by my toddler. She flirted shamelessly with the Knights of Columbus and literally dozens of people commented with a smile about how cute she was. Little ones can be a happy reminder of the joy of life and a huge comfort to those who mourn.
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#7 of 17 Old 07-07-2006, 03:07 PM
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Children often handle death better than adults. Not all children--each child is different, of course. But many times they surprise us with their healthy response to death and funerals.

My gma died last year, when dd was 3 (almost 4). I took her to the funeral, with an open casket. It was a very small affair, with pretty much only my small family present. Dd handled it wonderfully, and I think it was of great benefit for her to go. Helping her to understand that death is part of life, and see how our family helps each other process the death of a loved one.

I am very sorry for your loss.
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#8 of 17 Old 07-07-2006, 04:02 PM
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We just had someone very close die. (My son is 4) So I've been reading up on this a lot. In "How Do we Tell the Children?" it said that children, just like adults need the closure of a funeral ceremony. However every child is different and the concept of death and forever are hard for adults let alone kids.

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#9 of 17 Old 07-07-2006, 05:17 PM
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I never thought about not taking my DS to a funeral/wake. Ds is 4 1/2 now.
Great-Great Grandma is 100 and sick. I know that we will be going to that funeral soon. I never thought about not taking him to that one. All of our family members love seeing him. I often spend a lot of time outside letting him run around. The worst that has happened is that he has gotten bored. During the actual service my DH or I usually end up taking him out and walking around with him because he can be loud or disruptive. Everyone has always understood. I have always been very matter-of-fact about death. I don't want him to think of death as scary.


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#10 of 17 Old 07-07-2006, 05:57 PM
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My ds is almost four, and he will be going to his grandma's funeral next week. This will be his third funeral and wake, all with open caskets. In both dh's and my families, everybody comes to funerals, no matter how young.

Dh's mom had been sick for quite some time. She was old and also had dementia, so we've had quite a few conversations with ds over the past year about all of this. The past few days we've talked openly with him about her death and about what to expect at the funeral. We're pretty comfortable with the subject. In fact, the day it happened, I had told ds. Later he went out to play with his friend, the friend mentioned he was going to his grandma's, and my ds matter-of-factly said, "Well, my grandma died while I was taking my nap." The friend's mom came down to my house a few minutes later to ask incredulously if that was really true.
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#11 of 17 Old 07-07-2006, 06:06 PM
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I just wanted to say I'm sorry for your loss.

I would probably talk to the older kids and see how they feel about it and whether they want to go. With the younger one, it would depend. If you think she would do okay and not tear the place up I say bring her. It might be nice for others to see her (everyone loves babies ).

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#12 of 17 Old 03-09-2008, 12:50 PM
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How well do you think the child should know someone for whom a funeral is for? In my case, it's my sister, but they've only met her briefly 3 times, were not close at all, and we will have to go in debt to pay for the plane fare for our whole family. I'm concerned that they think they'll lose me since she's my sister...... and so close to my age.
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#13 of 17 Old 03-09-2008, 12:58 PM
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I'm sorry for your loss. I lost my last grandparents (my grandmother) about 2 years ago and it still hurts.

As for taking the kids to the funeral, if it were me, I would take all of them. I grew up in an Irish Catholic family as well, and I went to ALL the funerals and the wakes. It was just part of life, as is dying and mourning. I believe that death should be normalized and that American culture has a hard time doing this. Sheltering children from death and mourning only contributes to our cultural denial of death. I think it's healthy for children to see people cry, to see people sad, and then to see people celebrate the life of the deceased at the wake. Mourning rituals are important for everyone, not just adults.
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#14 of 17 Old 03-18-2008, 02:16 PM
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I'm so sorry about your grandmother.

My son just attended his first funeral on Saturday. He's 3 and 2 months. He went to a home childcare until he was 2 and had been back there a few times since. The caregiver's husband, whom my son knew well because he worked at home, had been in and out of the hospital for many months with a hip replacement followed by complications, and then he died. Coincidentally, my son had asked about dying a few weeks earlier. I told him that the soul, "the part that really IS the person," comes out and goes to be with God when the body stops working. I told him how Jesus said there are many rooms in God's house and He will get our rooms ready for us.

When I learned that John had died, I told my son about it and explained that there would be a church service "to say thank you to God for making John to be with us, and to say please take good care of him and please help us remember him." My son wanted to go. He asked if John's wife and daughter were sad and talked about John getting their rooms in God's house ready for them.

We did not go to the "viewing" (I don't care for open caskets) but I think it was helpful to my son's comprehension to see John's body during the funeral. We whispered together about how that was just the empty body and John's "self" was already with God. (Afterward he said the body looked "weird" and pale, and I agreed and told him how I was thinking a lot about John's face when he was alive so that that's what I'll remember.) Everyone had a turn to walk up to the front, give condolences to the family, and view the body. My son was surprised to see John's wife crying (he hugged her) and even more surprised when I started crying as we returned to our seats. I explained that I felt bad for her because I knew how horrible I would feel if my own partner died. At the very end, when the casket was closed and John's wife had to follow it out the door, she really broke down and sobbed and wailed. My son has asked about this over and over since, and I have been explaining that although she DOES know that they'll be together in God's house someday, that seems like a long time from now and she misses him in her house now; it will take her a while to get used to not having him around and to learn a different way of loving him now that they're apart. Although she DOES know that his body was not really "him", the idea of never seeing his body again is very sad for her. My son seems to understand, but these big ideas are hard to get his head around, so he needs to talk about them a lot.

So...I guess I'd advise including your children as much as you can but getting people who are less devastated than you are to do most of the caretaking so that you can grieve and rest as you need to do. Could MIL bring the kids to the wake and take them home when they've had enough? Could she sit with them at the funeral? Then they'd be near you as much as possible, but you wouldn't be distracted with worrying over how they take it.

Dancing Mommy of 2: I would not take the kids to the funeral under the circumstances you describe. Maybe have them make sympathy cards for your sister's closest family.

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#15 of 17 Old 03-18-2008, 05:11 PM
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I am so so sorry for you loss
We have always taken our children to funerals, even open casket. They have been to a few over the years, it's never been an issue. Death is very much a part of life, unfortunately. The last funeral we went to was when my last dd was about 6 months old and someone approached us and said "it's nice to see a baby here, it reminds us that life goes on". She was right.

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#16 of 17 Old 03-18-2008, 10:18 PM
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My kids have always come to stuff like that. It's no big deal here, and they handle it fine.

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#17 of 17 Old 03-19-2008, 10:07 PM
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For me it would depend on who the deceased person was. For a family member, I would not hesitate to bring my children, no matter what age. It's important, IMO, to teach children that death is a part of life and to help them to understand it.

DS1 attended DH's grandmother's funeral with us at age 14 mos. Open casket wake, open casket funeral. He was too young to require any prep and had no clue what was going on. His presence was extremely comforting to my FIL.

DS1 and DS2 attended my cousin's funeral (no casket) at ages 4 (DS1) and 16 mos (DS2). They split their time between sitting with me in the church and walking outside with DH. While walking outside DS1 had some interesting discussions with DH about what a cemetary is. It was a good learning experience for him. Relatives appreciated having young children there (there were others besides my kids).

DS1 and DS2 attended my grandfather's funeral last year, as well. Open casket wake, closed casket funeral, and service at the cemetary, too. This provided opportunities for some very interesting discussions with DS1, who was 4.5. Again, family members were happy to have the kids there. DS1 sat quietly through the entire Catholic funeral mass. I did allow him to bring a couple of quiet activities because I knew it would be long.

In my experience, it can be very healthy for both the children and the other people at the funeral to have the children present. The kids should, of course, have an adult with them who is willing and able to answer questions honestly and to give them whatever support they need.

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