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Should we bring the children to the Funeral?
Funeral and Memorial Thoughts #3
In a previous blog I referred to memories of Christmas lunch with the Hayley family. The time we would spend chatting in the backyard at Maylands will always be precious times. I must confess, I am not so sure of my age in this time, but I am thinking I was perhaps under ten. I suppose still quite impressionable. I really did love Nana and Grandpa Hayley.
All of a sudden, and without warning, there started to be visits to Grandpa in hospital. I did not really understand what was happening, or the implications of these visits; I just know I was not allowed to visit myself. My parents were definitely protecting me; perhaps wanting me to remember Grandpa as he was. Then the news came that Grandpa had died. The funeral came and went, and again I was not allowed to go. I think in a corner of my memory I can remember Mum and Dad talking to me bout it, and suggesting it might be best.
I think at the time, I accepted the ‘wisdom’ of my parents. But every now and then I do wonder if this ‘wisdom’ was correct. I think back in the 1970s, the concept of grief was an emerging science, and so to try and avoid it where possible, to the point of protecting impressionable children, was perhaps the norm.
But here is the thing. I knew something was wrong. I did not matter how much my parents tried to hide Grandpa’s sickness and death, I knew things had changed. And put on top of that, the fact children are naturally curious, means it may become increasingly difficult to hide it. And as it turns out, when Mum died, all three or our children (all under 5) went to the funeral. There thoughts were read out as part of the eulogy. They were able to say goodbye to Grandpa, although he was unconscious, before he died. For us as a family, this certainly felt right.
Maybe times have shifted. We tend to expose our children to all experiences. Death is a part of life, we will all have to face at some stage. To find an acceptance of this fact, as opposed to it being scary, is probably a valuable lesson to learn as early as possible.
I know when I conduct a funeral or memorial, and there are grand-children or even great grand-children, to provide a way for them to be involved, whether they speak themselves or put a token of the coffin, or memorial table, can be a wonderful healing experience for all. Children do not have the filters we do as adults, and sometimes the things they come out with, can be rather insightful. In essence, talk with them, and give them the choice.
In this short video, Kimberley Widger, RN, PhD, CHPCN(C), Assistant Professor, Lawrence S. Bloomberg Faculty of Nursing, University of Toronto, talks about children attending funerals, how to support and involve them in the service. Each family is different, every child is different, and every grief journey is different, but in all of these ‘differences’ communication is so important.
Did my parents do the right thing with Grandpa? I suppose they decided within the expectations of the time. I still have fond memories of Grandpa and Nana, and those special times at Maylands. Maybe grief did take the right course, but that is just me.
The commentary in this blog is intended to be general in nature. It is just some observations from one fellow traveller in life to another. If anything in this blog raises issues for you, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or consult with a trusted medical professional.