Frequently I am asked if a child should go to the funeral home. I will never tell someone what to do but, below I will offer a few points for consideration.
- Future emotional development can be affected if a child is prevented from attending the funeral.
- Do not force a child to participate in a funeral if they do not want to participate.
- Age, psychological and emotional development will determine the degree of understanding a child has about death and loss.
- Sheltering a child from death and loss does not protect them; it sets the stage for the child to create their own scenario of what is happening, which can lead to other problems.
- Permitting a child to be with adults who are grieving gives the child permission to grieve too, to realize that others are sad and cry also.
How do children interpret their understanding of death and loss?
- Younger children are literal and may think they did something to cause the death.
- Saying grandpa went to sleep may cause a child to be afraid of going to sleep.
- Some professionals refer to the term “magical thinking”, where the child is seen as playing make believe when he or she mentions seeing the spirit of a deceased or hearing their voice. What do you think?
- Children will sometimes draw pictures or find a memento to leave in the casket
Children grieve too and may display signs of;
- emotional numbing
- being angry
- being more irritable and having explosive moments
- worried or fearful someone else will leave them
- sleeping difficulties
- regressive behaviors
- physical complaints such as stomach aches or headaches
- trying to be perfect
Death and loss are parts of life that most people will experience. The when and where a death occurs are out of our control but we do have a say in how we respond to the situations life presents. As adults we teach the younger generations how to deal with grief and loss, please choose wisely.
As always, I open the door to discussing different concerns.
All my best,
“Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net”