Question: I have 8-year-old twins and a 6-year-old. Their only remaining grandparent is in end stage cancer, with only a few more weeks left. We are Catholic and definitely won't have the kids go to the wake. What is your feeling about kids attending funerals (Mass and burial)? My husband thinks we should really consider it. I think there's no way I'll get through the event without sobbing, and how can they possibly handle it? Thanks.
From: Moxie, Jamaica Plain
There is no black or white / wrong or right answer here, but, like your husband, I would urge you to consider allowing the kids to attend.
Not that many years ago, children were kept from funerals and burials. The theory was that it was more than they could handle emotionally. That’s been debunked, though, as researchers and clinicians came to realize that those children felt they had been excluded from the family and cut off from their own grieving process.
These days, grief experts say that children do just fine being part of these sad events as long as:
* They know what to expect beforehand. For instance, tell them that some people may be very sad and crying, but that there may also be times when people will be laughing and telling funny stories about the person who died. Explain the seeming discrepancy by telling them that this is a time to remember all the wonderful things about the person, including the happy times.
* They are given choices. Do they want to attend or not? Do they want to write or read something for the service? To put something in the casket? No child of any age should be forced to attend or to participate.
* They have someone with them at all times, someone they know well who will be at their side to interpret what’s happening and to comfort them as needed. This person should not be a parent or anyone else who may be overcome with grief.
* They know they can leave at any time without feeling guilty.
For more reading, here's a column I've written about the issue.
The author is solely responsible for the content.