Barbara, We are the parents with 3 young boys ages 8,8 & 9. Our niece had a baby 5 months ago...she was born very sick and has just passed away. Our question is: should our young boys attend the funeral. They have no experience with death...but we have told them that their baby cousin has passed away. Thank you.
From: Lisa, San Antonio, TX
More and more, experts encourage parents to include children in funerals because it’s a way for the children to be part of the family. So my answer is yes, but with a few caveats:
1. That they have a choice: They should go because they want to do, each, individually, not for any other reason, like, for instance, that they think you want them to go, or that if one of them is going the other needs to...
2.That each child will have the support of an adult. Because this will not be a funeral of someone they knew personally and had a loving relationship with, it likely will not be traumatic for them in terms of a sense of personal loss. However, it could be traumatic to see aunts, uncles, grandparents & parents crying and upset. They likely have not seen this before in these adults they love. So each needs an adult “assigned” to them – someone they trust who will be able to be emotionally removed and available to them, to answer questions and be supportive if they get upset.
3. That they know beforehand what to expect, esp if this is an open coffin. Walk them through what the service will be like, who will speak, etc. Let them know it’s OK to leave at any time with this assigned adult.
4. That there’s conversation about how this baby died. Children expect old people to die, they don’t expect a baby to die. That alone is upsetting for them. Without an explanation, they will apply magical thinking to the death, often some outlandish reason that is ego-centric and/or has nothing to do with the truth. So they need an age appropriate, truthful explanation for why this happened, for instance, “Sometimes a baby gets sick when it is being born and no matter how hard the doctors try, they can’t make the baby better. This is very very very very very very very rare.” (Obviously you need to plug in the truth, but no matter what that might be, the very very very rare part is important.)
5. That you give them the chance to ask questions.
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