17 different women, 36 crazy children, 0 babies in utero
Adventures, Advice and Questions from a group of Mormon women who met in Queens, NY and have now scattered all over the place.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

A Funeral at 5

My daughter is 5 years old and she has 5 great grandparents still living. When I was her age I think I had 4. I don't recall attending any of their funerals. My first funeral however WAS at her age, and it was that of my cousin who was around my age at the time of his death.

There are a few images from that funeral that will forever remain in my mind. Without going into detail, I was a bit freaked out inside, and ever since I have really struggled with open caskets. I cope well with funerals, but I have a most difficult time with viewings.

My mind is on my grandfather right now as his health is failing him. Our family has been praying for him, for his peace and comfort. I am starting to emotionally prepare myself for his passing, and through that process my mind turns to my daughters. My oldest has been to two funerals at an age where she would never remember. I remember when she saw her great grandmother in the casket she asked: "Is she taking a nap?"

So, here I am, possibly (probably) faced with this again. I want my family to be involved in this funeral. Funerals are a blessing for a family because it brings us all together to honor where we came from and where we are going. It is as much filled with joy as it is sorrow. It is a reunion and a time of unification and bonding. I want my children to be a part of that, but I don't know how I feel about them attending a viewing and a funeral now that they are at an age where they understand and will remember the event.

I know that at the last funeral we attended, there was a nursery for the little ones to go to during the funeral service, is my 5-year-old to old for that if it's an option? Both of my children attended a brief graveside ceremony about 18 months ago, and I thought that was appropriate and very literal for them. I could explain that when someone dies, we put them in a box and lower them in the ground. They never saw the body, so it remained abstract and symbolic for them.

Please help advise me on how you might handle this for your little ones. My 5-year-old is a mature 5 in that she will definitely sit still during a funeral and behave at a viewing. She knows who her Great Grandfather is and she listens to his singing on our ipod on Sundays. She has also been praying for him since he took a turn for the worse. I am just at a loss here....advice would be greatly appreciated.


  • I have never personally taken my children to a funeral so young, but my ex husband did take my son (age 5 at the time) to his great grandfather's funeral. My son was pretty close to him whenever he visited him. My ex said that taking him to the funeral was a good experience for my son to be able to have some closure and make a little more sense of it all. He now knows that his great grandpa is a happy angel in heaven and that death was not "the end". I think if a child is mature enough to handle a funeral, then they should be able to attend it with their family so they can remember and celebrate their loved ones life.

    Best wishes in this difficult time. It's great that you have your grandpa's voice recorded for your children to remember him by.
    posted by Blogger LJ at 1/20/2008 02:42:00 PM  

  • I have never heard of a nursery at a funeral before and just love the idea. If that's what you and your daughter feel most comfortable with, there's nothing inappropriate with that at all! When my brother died 18 months ago, we didn't do an open casket, so that wasn't something I had to worry about at the time with my sons (oldest was 2). I would think that seeing great-grandpa in a casket could easily be disturbing for a 5 year old, but I'm guessing that a funeral (especially an LDS-style funeral) would be something she could probably handle fine.

    Prayers for your family.
    posted by Anonymous Julie P at 1/20/2008 03:13:00 PM  

  • I tend to lean toward letting her attend the full funeral as well as seeing (if there is one)an open casket viewing. At her age, I think it would be an appropriate way to talk about what we believe about where the spirit goes once it leaves it's body behind, etc.. Just treating it as a normal part of life, not to be frightened or sheltered from seems like the right thing to do to me.

    On the other hand, I was pretty troubled by my own grandmother's funeral, that happened when I was maybe 8 or so. I think maybe that was more becuase she was killed in an auto accident by a drunk driver- which obviously is an unexpected way to die, and there was a lot of (understandable)extreme shock and sadness throughout our family over that. I had nightmares for a while when I was young about seeing her in her casket.

    All the other funerals I have been to though have been peaceful and not troubled at all. So I think that one was an isolated event.

    Hope that helps at all! It is always with mixed feelings we have watched our elderly family members move on to the next life. It is a somber reflective time, yet like you said, a happy time to come together with family and share in cherished memmories.
    posted by Blogger Rachel H at 1/20/2008 06:25:00 PM  

  • I have been thinking a lot about this too because it is highly likely that we will be attending the funeral of my husband's step-mother in the near future. Her passing will effect my kids far more than us because she has been a grandmother to them just like their other two grandmas.

    I feel strongly that they both will need some sort of event that will let them say goodbye and give them closure, but it is hard to tell what that should actually be without leaving them disturbed and inconsolable. I don't know what to tell you, but be sure, I will be reading everyone else's advice.
    posted by Blogger TftCarrie at 1/20/2008 08:17:00 PM  

  • I struggled with this a bit when my MIL died. I was 3 1/2 when my grandma died and my experience at her viewing has also left a really negative impression about viewings in my mind. I *really* struggle with them - and I have passed out at two of them.

    My oldest was almost 4 when MIL died and she was so close to her. Maddie always seemed aware of her grandma's health problems (she battled cancer for about 4 years). They spent lots of time together. MIL really was a trooper and only slowed down the last 6 weeks of her life.

    We talked a lot about death and what happens with the spirit and the body. We have talked about it many times since. I chose to have Maddie stay with some family while DH and I were at the viewing the night before the funeral, but she did attend the private family viewing the morning of the funeral. She handled it better than I thought she would and she doesn't seem disturbed by it.

    I think that if it's handled the right way it can be a great teaching experience. You know better than anyone if it's something she should attend.

    Prayers for you and your family.
    posted by Blogger Tandy at 1/20/2008 08:43:00 PM  

  • I know this comment is a little late, but here are my two cents:

    I have a sibling that passed away when my children were very young, and I took them both to the funeral. There was no viewing because it was a closed casket. I didn't think twice about taking my children - to me it was a family event, and a chance to talk to them (at their own levels) about the plan of salvation. They of course went to the burial at the cemetary too. A lot of good questions came of it, and of course, they knew how sad i was as well because of the death of my sibling who died at a very young age.
    I personally don't like open caskets - to me, I'd rather remember the person as they were with their spirits in their bodies, not just as a shell. Good luck with your children at the impending funerals in your life.
    posted by Anonymous amelia bedelia at 1/21/2008 05:36:00 AM  

  • I was at my sister's FIL's funeral last October and my little neice (almost 5) was there. She did fine, I think the times that she did get upset were moreso for the people around her that were crying. I think the funeral itself was fine, it was the viewing and the family prayer part that was more difficult for her.

    I know you would have her fully prepared and I think she would do fine, as long as she always had the option to leave (I'm sure you could have someone on hand that could take her if she wanted to go out). That's how my sister handled it, she explained how things would go (what a "viewing" is, how the body might look, that their spirit is already in heaven, people would be crying and sad, etc), then giving them the option to go or not go, and giving them the chance to leave if they wanted to.

    I'm sorry to hear that your grandpa isn't doing well, it's so hard to go through that and try to be strong and brave for your little ones too.
    posted by Blogger wendysue at 1/21/2008 07:23:00 AM  

  • I don't comment often, but felt impressed to do so with this post.

    If in doubt, I would contact the mortuary who is providing the funeral and ask their opinion. I would also ask if they have any material to help teach young children about death. In the Mtn. West, where a number of mortuaries are run by LDS church memebers (ie my grandfather), they will even have child friendly materials that incorporate gospel doctrines and teachings about death. I still remember one that impacted me as a young child at a funeral called Talk to God, I'll get the Message.

    Good luck with whatever you decide.
    posted by Anonymous Anonymous at 1/21/2008 08:42:00 AM  

  • I have always had trouble at the "viewing" as I tend to remember the person in the casket, and, despite what people say, with the spirit gone, I don't think the person looks like I remember them. One thing we did when my mother died was to have the funeral home filled with pictures of her. We got so many comments on how great an idea that was, and how fun it was to remember her as everyone had known her. Over the past 21 years since her death, I've attended a lot of funerals where the casket is closed, and the room is filled with pictures. Don't know if that is done more on the East Coast, but I find it quite comforting. My children were quite young (5, 8 and 9) and they liked to see the pictures of their grandmother. The concept is death is hard for the little ones, but D is probably old enough to understand some of what is happening. Saying prayers for your family.
    posted by Anonymous HK at 1/21/2008 09:12:00 AM  

  • This comment has been removed by the author.
    posted by Blogger Jessie Jo at 1/21/2008 09:32:00 AM  

  • Growing up I had 2 great-great grandmothers, and 5 great grandparents. Because of that I did go to quite a few funerals before I was 10 or so. The one thing I remember about the funerals are the stories that were told either at the viewing or funeral, stories about when they were young, how they met their spouses, when they were young parents. Stories that I had never heard before, it made them seem real to me instead of just being really old. I don't know why but in my mind (at my great-great grandmothers funeral) I was shocked to hear that she was young at one time, mostly because I had only seen her during her late 80's and 90's. I do not remember what the body looked like, or being upset/traumatized at the funerals, I remember the stories that I heard, and my family being together & supporting one another through a hard time.
    posted by Blogger Jessie Jo at 1/21/2008 09:35:00 AM  

  • I remember my mum telling me that she attended a viewing for an aunt when she was younger and now that's how she remembers her aunt. Because of that experience she opted not she view her parents when they died because that's not how she wanted to remember them. (she wasn't there when they died and they weren't members so she didn't have to dress them).
    I think attending the funeral would be fine, but I'm not sure attending the viewing would be wise.
    posted by Anonymous Anonymous at 1/21/2008 12:21:00 PM  

  • mum anon,
    I know, that's why I have requested no viewing for me...I want people to remember me alive.
    posted by Blogger Kage at 1/21/2008 04:12:00 PM  

  • My grandfather died and he didn't want any sort of funeral. We had a little warning and the kids were able to see him the day before he died. After he died we all went back to the house, made sandwiches buffet style and sat around talking about what an old coot he'd been. We looked through pictures and momentos. There was mostly laughter and happiness at our memories, and my kids were part of that.
    That was it, that's all that was done. My 5 year old freaks out a little sometimes about "not remembering what my great grandad taught me", but the overall experience was pretty good for him. I don't think it would have been good for him to be at a traditional funeral with tears, sadness, and a body, because he's a pretty emotional kid. But I can see taking a more solid kid, as long as you're prepared to leave should it be too much for them to handle.
    posted by Blogger Mo Mommy at 1/22/2008 09:23:00 AM  

  • If your daughter is five, then you can talk with her about it, explain that viewing the dead body can be upsetting and see what she thinks. If she is scared about seeing the body, don't take her to the viewing. If she is ok with it, then take her and be flexible. She may be old enough to know what she wants to do.
    posted by Blogger Nancy at 1/22/2008 03:31:00 PM  

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