Learning how to grieve is an important part of growing up. However, if you have recently lost a loved one, you may be wondering if it is appropriate for your child to attend the funeral service. Below is a guide which will help you to decide if your child should attend and if they do, some strategies you can use to help them cope with their first funeral.
The psychological impact
While you may think that the trauma of attending a funeral will damage your child, psychological research suggests that sheltering your child from the impact of death can have a damaging effect on children. While you may think you are protecting your child by not allowing them to attend the funeral, you may, in fact, be fostering a fear of death. If a child cannot fully understand what has happened, they are likely to be confused and afraid.
The right age
There is no agreed age at which children are deemed able to attend funerals. Children develop at different speeds, so the easiest way to work out if your child is mature enough to participate in the funeral is to ask them.
You should explain that your loved one has gone away to a better place and that everyone will be saying goodbye. If you feel that your child is too sensitive or young to attend the funeral, you should not feel guilty about having a friend or other family member look after them at home during the service.
Making things easier for your child
If your child understands the concept of death and wishes to attend, you should do you best to make the experience as comfortable as possible. You should do the following:
- Talk to your child and make sure that they understand what will happen at the funeral. Knowing what to expect on the day will help to ease any anxiety your child feels.
- Ensure that your child is supervised during the funeral service. If you cannot spend the entire service with your child, you should designate another close family member to look after them and answer any questions they may have.
- Have an exit plan in place in case your child becomes extremely distressed. A child may not be able to cope with seeing the coffin or distressed family members, so you should be prepared to remove them from the memorial service.
Learning how to grieve is something we all have to do. By taking these steps, you can make sure your child is ready to attend a funeral and that they are fully supported if during the service. Ask a funeral director for more advice for the actual funeral.