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Should children be allowed to attend a funeral?
Yes, children should be allowed to choose to attend a funeral. Attending a funeral can be a healing event and help bring closure for the child. It can help the child understand the finality of a death, gain an understanding of death and grief in a safe place, and see adults expressing big emotions and feel safe to express their big emotions. If the child chooses not to attend a funeral, it is important to provide them with a safe adult to spend the time with.
Ideas on how to give a child the choice to attend a funeral:
The child will need information first. In order to decide, they need to know what to expect.
- Describe the room itself
- Funeral directors can help with this and even show an empty casket to the child
- Describe each event
- Talk to them about how grief can look different for each person- crying, relief, anger
- Do not give the child an impossible choice to persuade them one way or another (going on vacation or a funeral; staying in a strange room with a stranger or attending).
- Try and answer all of their questions so that they feel comfortable with their options.
If they say no:
- Try to find a comfortable, familiar babysitter to take care of the child during the service.
If they say yes:
- Have someone to answer questions and guide them through the service
- Explain that their feelings or reactions are valid
- Consider bringing blank paper for them to draw on- children often process grief through art
- Consider having a child write a letter or draw a picture for the decedent ahead of time to help them process