Should we take our kids to the funeral?
That’s a sad question that most every parent will have to ask themselves at one time or another. We recently lost a dear family friend and my husband and I found ourselves asking this very question. Now that a few weeks have gone by and I’ve reflected a bit, I have come up with a few thoughts on the topic. Here goes:
Funerals are important for many reasons: they provide structure to our grief, they answer questions about the meaning of death and what happens after life, they give us the opportunity to grieve with (and support) others; and perhaps most importantly, they allow us to participate in a tradition that humans have been participating in for many, many years. And just doing something that our ancestors did can be comforting.
The other part about funerals, though is that they are sad, and often quiet, and can bring up lots of questions too. So, should we bring our kids along? A few things to consider:
- Kids can be a wonderful distraction from grief. Lively, healthy, happy children can be a lovely contrast to the pain of losing a loved one. But not always. Sometimes they are too much of a distraction, though – like my 3 year old would have been at the funeral – he didn’t join us. In this case, they might be best left at home.
- Funerals are part of life. We are all going to die. As hard as that is to write down, of course it is true. Shielding our children from that reality isn’t doing them any favors. Allowing them to witness others grieving, consoling, supporting, remembering and loving each other is.
- Life isn’t just about us. At the recent funeral I attended, I experienced the importance of tradition, history, culture, language, music and food in times of grief. Just like in times of celebration (weddings, births, baptisms), grieving families benefit from the familiarity of shared family and community traditions. Life isn’t all about us. It’s also about the many people who came before us, and all those who will come after us. And important lesson for all kids (and adults) to learn.
- Sometimes things are boring, long and uncomfortable. The funeral we attended was all in Greek (literally), was quite long, and we pretty much had no idea what was going on. But that wasn’t the point. The point was to sit quietly and respectfully as we remembered our deceased friend and showed his family our love and support. Just like life isn’t all about us, it also isn’t always instantly-gratifying. The sooner and better we learn that, the easier life will be.