My nan passed away and last Friday was her funeral. I come from a large extended family of cousins as my Grandmother was one of 8 siblings, had her own 7 children, 25 grandchildren and 3 great-grandchildren. A question that came up indirectly with friends and family was should children go to a funeral? It was not a question to me as yes instinctively I knew my twins (almost 4 year olds) were to attend but I was a little surprised to see some cousins not attend and a little bit of the reaction of some parents for allowing my girls to attend. So I here are my personal notes on if you are deciding on whether to take your children to a funeral:
- As parent it is your decision. The fact is we will all die. Irrelevant of culture or religion or family custom, it is part of life. So personally inviting my children to the funeral in an atmosphere that was open to questions and warm arms where I could answer (as best as I could) any questions they might have was something as a parent I wanted to cherish as well as not hide away from my kids. So part 1 of my decision was also acknowledging as parents it was my decision likewise it it your decision on how you want to raise your kids.
- What is your relationship with the funeral family? This was my Nan and hence the girls Great-Grandmother. So it was no issue to have them along. Everyone knew my girls whereas if no-one knew my girls then it may have not been appropriate.
- How old are you kids? My girls are on the cusp of turning 4. Which meant I knew they could sit quietly and not be too difficult to manage. Likewise if they were younger I may have reconsidered as lots of people are grieving in their own way and if there is a church ceremony and burial it may not be appropriate for screaming, attention asking little people to attend. But I was happy at 4 they were okay and they were. Likewise I would expect all children and teenagers of close family member to show respect and attend.
- Be open and warm to the questions. My girls had lots of questions on the day and night. Some perhaps sweet and funny and definitely not to be mocked or embarrassing. They continued to ask:
Where is Nan?
When would Nan jump out of the box?
Why were we sad?
Where is the Angels?
Why are we burying the box?
Where did Nan go?
Is she with Kevin (aka Heaven?)
Why are we 1. Throwing flowers, letting go of balloons….
5. Symbolism doesn’t always relate to a 3 year old. We had helium balloons for all the grandchildren to release but girls defiantly said No to release their balloons. Balloons are for parties and we love balloons. So be open to them not following “ceremony” if they don’t want to. There was curiosity. The wanted to peer in and lean into the grave.
6. Show a response to comfort. The nicest way to respond to grief is a cuddle.
Farewell Nan! – Winifred Mavis Henderson (nee Low) 1927-2013
Until we meet again xxx
An earlier blog post you may like to read was part of the eulogy. I wrote this as a 14 year old English Assignment. When I interviewed my Nan so many years ago. http://thelastdegree.com/2011/08/31/living-history-of-winifred-henderson/