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Kids and Funerals
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#1 ~~mumsie~~

Posted 12 January 2013 - 07:34 PM

Hi all.

DD (4.5yo) has recently grasped concept of mortality and is quite upset at even the mention of the word 'death'.

We have had some very bad news this week that my aunt won't be with us for much longer - possibly a few days at best.

Does anyone have any experience with young kids and funerals, or any thoughts on how I can approach the topic with DD? (I have explained that mummy's aunty is very sick, and we are all worried, but have left it there).

Thank you.


(As an aside, cancer can go get effed sad.gif My aunt is only 45, and has two children - 17 and 18yo)

#2 ednaboo

Posted 12 January 2013 - 07:47 PM

I'm sorry to hear about your aunty.  My children lost their infant cousin when they were 3 and 4mo.  When it was time to tell the 3yo I was told him the truth in an age appropriate way.  He dealt with it really well.  He attended the funeral too.  I wouldn't over think it - just be honest and age appropriate and it will be OK.  Hope that helps.

#3 libbylu

Posted 12 January 2013 - 07:47 PM

First, I am very sorry to hear about your aunt, that is very sad news at such a young age.

I believe there are so few ceremonies and rituals left in society today that bring family and community together and I think it is important to involve children in these rituals, both happy and sad, as much as is possible and practical.

But each parent must make their own decision about whether taking their child to a funeral is good or not, depending on the circumstances.  We chose to take our just turned 5 year old to his great grandmothers funeral.  He sat with DH up the back and DH had to take him out, so missed most of it (which I am sure he wasn't bothered about) not because DS was upset, but because he just couldn't cope with the expectation of sitting still and quietly - there was quite a delay in getting started and he was over it by the time it did.
I think there is no point taking kids under the age of 3 or 4 as they really can't understand what is happening.  But by age 4 it can be an important learning experience, depending on the situation and the child.  A great aunt is probably a good introduction to funerals as she is likely not too close.  I do think it is helpful to have an adult who is close to the child that can take the child outside if it becomes to much for them and isn't bothered about missing parts of the service.


#4 Chelli

Posted 12 January 2013 - 07:48 PM

Firstly, I sorry to hear that your Aunty is so unwell, especially at such a young age.

Last year we had a staff member from DD's school pass away from cancer and my 9yo then attended her first funeral. There is some great literature out there for kids to help them understand death and dying. Beginnings and endings with lifetimes in between is one that comes to mind.

With the funeral, explain with as much detail as you can about what will happen, that there will be a lot of sad people there and explain that it is ok if he doesn't want to go, it is ok if he cries, and that it is normal if he feels confused, angry or not sad at all.

If you have someone offer some support, a practical way they may do this is attend the funeral with you, but to offer to take your DS out if he is overwhelmed or decides he doesn't want to be there any more.

My thoughts are with you all.

#5 ~~mumsie~~

Posted 12 January 2013 - 08:02 PM

Thank you all for the replies so far - some great suggestions have been given.

We are a very big family (mum is one of 7 kids - it is one of her sisters who is sick), and we are all extremely close. I am the eldest of the nieces and nephews and stayed with my aunt every school holidays as a teenager to help when her kids were toddlers.

The worst thing is that she has beaten cancer twice before sad.gif

I will try and find that book - thank you very much Chelli!

DD's father and I are separated, but it may be a good suggestion to get him to bring her to the service, so that he may take her outside if needed - I am the eldest of 4 kids, and my my brothers are still quite young themselves, so I will be trying to support them and my younger sister also.

This sucks so much sad.gif

Edited by ~~mumsie~~, 12 January 2013 - 08:05 PM.


#6 Feral Madam Mim

Posted 12 January 2013 - 09:30 PM

We took DS1 to my Pops funeral, but gave him the choice, I would just explain it as simply as possible, and if she would like to come to the funeral she can but if she doesn't want to then I wouldn't force her. I guess some discussion on cancer would probably help aswell, so she knows it's not something she has to worry about happening to her as she's nice and healthy.

#7 SeaPrincess

Posted 12 January 2013 - 10:13 PM

So sorry to hear of your aunt's illness, it's far too young.

I was 4 when I attended my first funeral, which was my brother's. Honestly, I don't remember much about it, and I definitely wasn't taken out at any point.  Back then, we did attend church regularly, so church wasn't new to me.  I think this is really important:
QUOTE (mad madam mim @ 12/01/2013, 07:30 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
I guess some discussion on cancer would probably help aswell, so she knows it's not something she has to worry about happening to her as she's nice and healthy.

My brother was 3, what I saw was that he got sick, went to hospital and died.  I didn't understand it and when I went to hospital the following year, I thought the girl who went home had died, and I thought I was going to die.  It was a revelation to me that people actually come home from hospital.

#8 Etcetera

Posted 13 January 2013 - 08:52 PM

My grandfather died recently and my then 4 and 5yo dealt with it ok. My eldest has ASD and didn't do too well with the funeral (I think pre warning him that people would be upset and might cry actually went against us. DH took him outside - he was ok, just hyped up). My second actually fell asleep!
I explained what death meant - that they were gone and we couldn't see them anymore, and that the funeral was for everyone to say goodbye.

My budgie had died not long beforehand so we had discussed death before which helped.

#9 José

Posted 13 January 2013 - 09:50 PM

Kids that aget learn through play. Depending on what ur lo will be exposed to can guide ur play. E.g. if they are going to see s coffin pull out a shoe box pop a teddy inside and explain.  May need to explain just a luttle more about why the petson died not in great detail eg their heart stopped working is detailed ennough. Allow ur lo to ask wuestions. The beginning and endings book already mentioned is quite good.

#10 WibbleWobble

Posted 13 January 2013 - 10:02 PM

I am so very sorry.

My Grandmother died recently and we just tried to be as honest as we could with the kids. After she had a heart attack we told them that her heart was very sick and she had to go to hospital in an ambulance, when she died later that day we said it was because her heart was sick.

They both went and saw her in the hospital after she died and then in her coffin at the funeral. We explained the funeral process and also that there would be people there who would be very sad and that it was ok if they wanted to cry as well.

Any questions they asked we tried to answer and honestly and as straight foward as we could. DD (4) wanted lots of reassurance that she wasn't going to die too.

I think something as simple as telling your DD that sometimes peoples bodies get sick and don't get better again may be simple enough for her to understand, and reassure her that most people do get better.



#11 Tranquille

Posted 13 January 2013 - 10:12 PM

When my beautiful sister in law passed away, we were interstate. We caught a red eye flight, then train and hire car to the destination. my oldest was then. 4 and my baby two. Before the funeral we spent time with family talking through things with the kids on our laps. My SIL had a private cremation with only partner and siblings present. The next day we had a memorial service at the local surf club with the kids present. It was amazing - my two year old fell asleep during the service only  to awake and announce dreamily. - I feel my Aunt Tory here. Sorry for your loss and please do include your kids in what you are going through x

#12 estherfrog

Posted 13 January 2013 - 10:17 PM

I am so sorry that you are facing such a loss in your family.

I have very clear memories of my grandfather passing away when I was five - I had just started school. My mum took my seven year old brother to the funeral, and he did not deal with it well. I was not taken to the funeral, and also did not deal with it well, I felt as though because I did not get to say goodbye he was not dead and would come walking back in at any time. It was not till I was sixteen that we were all able to talk about it. Mum said she made the best choice she could at the time, but hindsight is so much clearer.

In the end, my bro and I dealt with it in our ways, and healed differently from the loss and the memories of the occasion. Your kids will understand in their time, and whether they go or don't go, they will be able to treasure your aunt for the wonderful lady that I am sure she is.

#13 ~~mumsie~~

Posted 14 January 2013 - 09:23 PM

Thank you all so much for your replies - some wonderful food for thought has been given to help at this difficult time Xx

#14 Carmie

Posted 14 January 2013 - 10:23 PM

my pop died last year and my kids wanted to go, even though they didnt know my pop well (from my biological dads family and I have limited contact) I took them (they were DD 7, DS 5 and DS 1, my DS 4 didnt want to come which I was fine with) we sat them down and explained to them what would happen so they werent shocked at any stage and had some idea on what to expect and to try to stop them asking questions constantly through the service.

My dad found out he had cancer in Feb and died 5weeks later (he was only 51) and a huge part of my 4 kids lives. He went into hospital in middle of January and was on life support after brain surgery. My kids came every day to the hospital with me and we were very upfront about my dad and we let them go in and visit him. Some days they went in and other days they would stay and play in the waiting room.

Everyday I went to the hospital to care for my dad with my mum and my kids often came with me if I didn't have someone to watch them or they weren't at school or kindy. Around end Feb I knew theing weren't looking good and we found out he had brain cancer. Again I was very upfront with the kids and I told them that eventually poppy would die and go to heaven.

We were eventually told end of Feb he would only have a few weeks, we told them that he would die and we would have a funeral. They had only been to my pops 6wks earlier (the reason I really let them attend) so this was their second funeral.

We had a viewing a few days before his funeral and I gave the kids the choice to come. My 7yo DD and 5yo DS went and saw him, they touched him and talked to him, my 4yo DS had a look and wasnt interested in anything else and just played around the room with my 1yo.

At the funeral we went and brought all new clothes and were dressed quiet formally. The kids liked 'dressing up' for Poppy's party and we said it was a celebration of poppy's life. People would be sad and mummy would cry and so will daddy, nanny and lots of other people but it was happy tears and nothing was wrong. I was the family member who was left to organise my dads funeral as my mum didnt want to and my brother is younger. So my kids helped me pick out photos and music etc. We also had a long period from his death to his funeral due to autopsy and organ donation etc.

I had organised therapy for the kids incase they needed it after the funeral as my DD had lots of issues following the loss of our baby a few years earlier. The older two did see someone for 2-3mths following dads death but coped so much better then I thought they would.

In the few weeks leading up to dads death a friend told me of a friend of hers being given a teddy for her kids to help them. I had some teddies made up with a shirt on them and had my dads photo screen printed on the shirt. My dads wish (even though he was paraylised from the brain surgery's) was to come home, my mum and I became his full time carers and brought him home for 9 days. I picked up the bears the day we brought dad home and every day we would cover the bed in the bears and snuggle them all around dad (and took some photos of him with them all) the kids would see this and say poppy was filling them up with cuddles. One day he felt the time was right and he gave all the kids their bears (and my brother, mum and I) whenever the kids were sad they could cuddle their bears and it was poppy cuddling them. I then took a photo of all the grandkids the last day I let me kids visit him in hospital (as I wanted them with as happy memories as I could) and had a bear printed up with their photo on it. We had the kids all cuddle this bear and we had the bear sitting on dad coffin at the funeral and it was cremated with him. The kids brought their 'poppy' bears with them to the funeral and it was good as it gave them a distraction and something to hold on to. We were in the front row but we had a support person for each of the kids sit behind us and they would take them out if needed at all during the service. The kids were really good during the service though.My 7yo DD and 5Yo each wrote a message to poppy and they both got up and read their 'reading' during the service which was really special.

We also involved the kids in spreading my dad's ashes and we have some at home still and they know this. We sent balloons up after the funeral and when we spread his ashes. At all the special occasions this year we have let some balloons go. Occasionally the kids have been sad and so we had made up a balloon and sent off.

A big thing that also helped my kids that they got from therapy was to make a poster or book of all the favourite things they liked to do with the person or things that remind them of them. They also each got a shoe box which they decorated and they have it in their rooms. Whenever they feel sad or feel the need they write or draw a picture and place it into the shoe box and poppy comes and collects it and reads it

#15 ~~mumsie~~

Posted 15 January 2013 - 09:02 PM

Carmie, thank you very much for taking the time to post your reply, it has been very helpful.




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