When thinking of a Funeral most times adults are uncomfortable with the idea. No one is excited to attend a funeral and some even decline to attend because they do not want to be uncomfortable. As adults we can make that decision. For kids though, adults usually make the decision for them. But how do you make the best decision for the children in your life?
leave it up to the children.
Who are we as adults to decide how children should grieve? It is very important that children are allowed an outlet to grieve. Is the lost loved one someone close to them, probably, which is why we are even considering them attending or not. The childs' loss is no less important than that of an adult so we should allow them to decide if they'd like to attend the service or not.
If not now, then when?
As adults we feel the need to decide if a child is old enough to attend a funeral. Having children be part of the funeral allows them to have closure. They can see that although their loved one can no longer be with us in flesh, that they have many memories to keep them alive in their hearts and mind.
Lets put this into a much more simpler but very much related idea - when I was a child I had a cat who could not live inside. My Mom took him to a "farm" to live out her life. I did not go with my Mom to the farm. Did the cat actually go to the farm? I trust that my Mom told me the truth but we all know what going to the "farm" means on occasion. Because I didn't have closure - bringing the cat to the farm - I, as a child, always believe the cat was still living. But now as an adult know what going to the "farm" means and wonder if I held onto the idea of the cat being alive when she wasn't.
Same can hold true for a child that does not attend a loved ones funeral. If they cannot see their family saying goodbye to their loved one, will they truly believe that loved one is gone?
let them be part of the service.
Typically, as adults we share memories of our loved ones at funerals through many different ways - eulogies, poems, memory boards, photos or slideshows. Why can't children share their memories in a much more kid-friendly way? "Craft caskets" is one way to allow children to share memories in a method that we all know appeals to kids - drawing.
While researching this topic we came across this article that shows how beneficial allowing children to be part of funerals can be.
Our experience: 'The children decorated the coffin beautifully. My father had a work of art to sleep in' "Oh, hello!" my mother trilled to her neighbor. "The children are just decorating Nic's coffin!" To this day, I don't know if the woman over the garden fence turned tail due to the pure shock of those words, or whether she actually thought my father was in the white cardboard casket lying on the lawn. She really shouldn't have worried. My children – Grace, then four, and Barney, three – were having a whale of a time, slapping on handprints, using glitter to give the lid a touch of bling, and writing our names down the sides ("so Grandpa won't forget us"). Many people might be shocked by our decision to involve the grandchildren in such a hands-on manner, but I'd question why. Although my children were young, they were able to handle their grandpa's death very maturely. They had no false notions about his passing: they know once a person dies he is gone forever. But they also understand that they had had a wonderful relationship with that loved one, filled with experiences they would remember forever – even if their initial thoughts may have been a little raw and upsetting. Is that so wrong? Advertisement Decorating my father's coffin was not the end of my children's participation in our final farewells. I was also keen for them to come to his interment (he had specified that he didn't want a full funeral ceremony). This alone was a dramatic affair, so we did prepare them with some simple detail before the event, and – you know what? – they were unfazed. In the run-up to the small family service round the grave, I asked the children what they would like to wear: something Grandpa would have liked. Grace plumped for a beautiful party dress, while Barney watched the coffin being dropped into the hole dressed as a knight in shining armor. My father would have been in stitches. Also, when the hearse arrived at my mother's house, bearing the beautifully decorated coffin, Barney ran out to have a look. Following a nod of confirmation from me, the funeral director happily popped my small three-year-old into the back with the coffin. He checked out the space and was satisfied. As we proceeded through the town towards the cemetery, people turned their heads to see the colors and patterns radiating from the hearse. I had never felt more proud of my children. They had given my father a work of art to sleep in – something from which my mother, sister and I all drew comfort. A few months after their grandfather's interment, my son's eczema returned – a complaint he unfortunately inherited from my father – so I absent-mindedly laughed: "You are so like Grandpa!" Barney quickly replied: "You won't put me in his box, Mummy?" My heart sank. Had I left my son with vivid and traumatic memories by letting him see a coffin sinking into the ground? But after a few comforting words, reiterating why Grandpa had been buried, Barney seemed content. I had not made a mistake. Since my father's funeral, my children have been happy to chat about death – to anyone willing to listen. It hasn't stopped the panicky obligatory childhood sobs pleading with me and their father not to die – I think all children go through that stage. But maybe that's the point. I want my children to have a healthy understanding that death is inevitable and that it's OK to grieve however they want.
- Vikki Evans
Being sheltered as a child from death is what allows the stigma of death, dying and funerals to be scary when in fact they are a fact of life and something we will all encounter someday.
We need to remember that funerals are for the living, not the dead.