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Should grandchildren attend cousins funeral?

(44 Posts)
suzied Sun 19-May-13 17:42:02

My 16 year old healthy niece died suddenly of a cardiac arrest recently. Of course the family are devastated and are struggling with their emotions. We are all trying to support each other and get whatever help is out there. My niece was a lovely happy girl who loved playing with her 4 little cousins and they adored her. We have to face the funeral shortly and are struggling with whether it is appropriate for them to attend her funeral which we are planning to make as uplifting as we can with music, her friends involved etc. should the small children attend? They range from 8 to 3. They have been told she has died but are confused about it and a couple of them have been very clingy. I think if they say they want to go they should. What do others think?

whenim64 Sun 19-May-13 17:45:33

Condolences suzie The little ones won't need to choose, but the older ones could have say in whether they go or not, and if the older ones go, there's no reason why the little ones shouldn't, either. Children will be a happy distraction after, too.

wisewoman Sun 19-May-13 17:50:08

What a difficult situation. I think the current thinking is that it is good for children to attend a funeral so they can be part of the saying goodbye but it is such a personal thing and I don't think anyone can really advise you. If you have a children's hospice near you it might be worth giving them a phone and asking if you can speak to one of their social workers. A friend did this and got some really helpful advice about what is appropriate for small children who have lost someone they were very close to. They have such a lot of expertise in this area. Recently I was at a funeral where a five year old was present to say good bye to her much loved gran. I don't know how much she understood but seemed ok to be there. What an awful time for you. Sending best wishes.

Mishap Sun 19-May-13 17:57:00

Many condolences to all the family - this must have been a dreadful shock to everyone.

I went to a funeral recently where a little girl of 8 participated in the funeral - she went up and lit a candle in front of the coffin and said a few words about her nan. She did not seem to be disturbed by it and seemed quite proud to be a proper part of it.

Maybe some key role could be found for them that gives them a focus and makes them feel they are involved - lighting a candle, making a little wreath with candles in it, making a posy that they lay on the coffin - just a thought - it seemed to work for this little girl.

I also think that *wisewoman's suggestion is indeed a wise one.

Nelliemoser Sun 19-May-13 18:11:30

I would want them to go. I cannot help thinking that its often the adults who don't feel comfortable with explaining death to children, that makes them not want children to attend.

The best thing is to tell them that can come and help say goodbye to their cousin. It is Ok to be sad but we can remember the happy things about her.
wisewoman & Mishap have very good points, they could have a role with something special to do or say.

Being shut out of the grieving and remembering might be much harder for them.
I hope it works out.

merlotgran Sun 19-May-13 18:20:49

I wouldn't take small children to a funeral. They are too young to fully understand what is happening and there will no doubt be some very distressed adults present which could upset them.

I'm sorry for your family's loss, suzied

Nelliemoser Sun 19-May-13 18:25:25

How small is small Merlot?

merlotgran Sun 19-May-13 18:29:47

I'm not going to enter into a debate over someone else's sad family loss. I've said my bit.

suzied Sun 19-May-13 18:32:49

Thanks for the advice here. I think the idea of getting them involved in a small way is a good one. Two of them were talking together yesterday and saying they wanted to build a garden for her. I think they were remembering when their cat died and they made a little memorial in their garden.

gracesmum Sun 19-May-13 18:35:56

Sincerest sympathies on your family's deadful and tragic loss. What a nightmare. I would ask the older ones how they feel and also the parents as they must be the first to be considered. Terribly sad,

Eloethan Sun 19-May-13 18:39:43

I'm so sorry to hear about the tragic death of your niece.

I think, generally speaking, that children should go to funerals. It's an opportunity for them to say goodbye, especially in this case where the children were very close to their cousin. I think it would be wrong if they're excluded from attending - unless they expressly say they would prefer not to go.

There is no harm in children seeing people upset - it's part of life and it's important to feel "allowed" to express one's feelings.

wisewoman's idea about getting some advice from a hospice sounds like good advice.

Butty Sun 19-May-13 18:57:52

suzied My condolences.

There are many ways to say goodbye to someone who has died. It doesn't necessarily have to be at a funeral that the young cousins do this. Their idea of making a little garden for their cousin sounds delightful - so perhaps a special time could be set aside for them to do this.

annodomini Sun 19-May-13 19:02:45

I agree with Gracesmum that you should ask your niece's parents about having the young children at the funeral. I also depends on the children - if they are mature enough to understand the meaning of the occasion. Is it a burial or cremation? I think children might well find the idea of cremation disturbing, especially when the coffin just vanishes through a curtain.

Galen Sun 19-May-13 19:04:20

Condolences! So tragic!

Faye Sun 19-May-13 19:04:54

How very sad to lose a sixteen year old. My condolences suzied.

Most of my mother's GGC attended her funeral. Five were three, two barely four and two were six years old. I agree with the point nelliemoser makes regarding not shutting children out. There was one upsetting incident though when my great nephew (just turned six) became upset when he realised that his great grandmother was in the coffin. I wish my niece had explained more.

The other thing I will add is when one of my grandsons had open heart surgery last year his cousin who is the same age (they were four) was very distressed. I think her father went into too much detail about how life threatening his situation was and that he could possibly die. She then became terrified of dying herself, probably suddenly realising it's not just the old who die.

Bags Sun 19-May-13 19:20:32

I like the traditional Irish approach where everyone goes to weddings and everyone goes to funerals.

It's probably traditional in lots of other countries too. Children won't come to any harm by seeing adults upset. They'll probably accept it as normal, which it is.

Sook Sun 19-May-13 19:22:44

My condolences to you suzied and to your family on the tragic death of your niece.

I think the children should have the opportunity to say goodbye to their cousin if they wish to by attending her funeral and as has been suggested have a small role in the event.

Everyday I walk through an ancient churchyard often accompanied by my DGD aged 4 1/2, she has often asked me questions about the tombstones and she has her favourite ones which I have to read over and over again. It has lead to some very interesting discussions about why people die and why are they buried. She seems quite happy with my answers so far which are simple and truthful. Children understand far more than we often give them credit for and death is as much a part of life as living is.

grannyactivist Sun 19-May-13 19:28:26

This is one of the few areas where my mother in law and I had differing views. When my children's great grandmother died I insisted on them attending the funeral. They saw her regularly, shared holidays, visited her in her later years in a nursing home and she was very much part and parcel of family life. I knew they would be upset and they were, but it was manageable grief. Being at the funeral gave them an opportunity to express it where there were others exhibiting the same emotions and therefore validating theirs.
You know your own children and the situation best suzied; go with your gut instinct. Condolences too on the loss of your much loved niece. flowers

Deedaa Sun 19-May-13 20:36:49

The only thing that would worry me would be the fact that it's the funeral of a 16 year old. I had to go to the funeral of a friend's daughter. She was killed by a car when she was 14. It's about the only thing Ive ever done that was even worse than I expected, all the adults were devastated and her school friends were obviously terribly upset. The whole experience might have been too much for younger children - it was too much for most of us! When I went back to work my boss took one look at me and got the brandy out.

j08 Sun 19-May-13 20:38:46

Definitely not. What good could it do? They are too find any sort of "closure" from the funeral. Bad enough that they have lost their cousin. So sad. sad

j08 Sun 19-May-13 20:39:22

Sorry. Should have said too young

NfkDumpling Sun 19-May-13 20:53:01

What an awful thing to have happened flowers. If the funeral is to have modern upbeat music and involve her friends I see no harm in allowing the children to go - provided they want to and provided your niece's friends are the sensible sort and there's no likelihood of mass hysteria. They may feel more hurt and bewildered if they are excluded.

I would not let young children near a graveside though - that would be inviting nightmares!

suzied Sun 19-May-13 21:11:00

We are planning a celebration of her life at her local church which we are trying to make as uplifting as possible with beautiful live music played by some of her friends and my youngest son is singing and there will be some poems and readings we haven't finalised it yet, as because of the circumstances of her death we have to wait 3, weeks. This will be followed by a short private family committal in the crematorium. We wouldn't take the children to that bit of it as it will be more solemn, though we will play some of her favourite music then as well. But I think they should be fine with the first bit, but we will talk to them about this and ask what they would like as well. We won't be wearing black .

nanaej Sun 19-May-13 22:09:01

I think that it is emotionally healthier for children to attend funerals. The very young ones probably won't understand everything but the older ones will be able to express their grief and recall the loving relationship with their cousin.

We had two pupils at my infant school who died. We had a memorial assemblies. Children were all asked if they would like to say anything about their friend/s and several wanted to. All children were asked to write something they would always remember about the child who had died and we put them in a memory book. I think it is important for children to learn about rituals that are there to help manage the grief process. Ignoring and / or not mentioning death or the deceased is more worrying for young children.

Condolences toy you and our family. flowers

positivepam Sun 19-May-13 22:25:18

suzied My deepest sympathies go out to you and your family and I think it is a lovely idea to have a celebration of a young life that is taken to early and we did the same when we lost our son and many children attended because they knew him and wanted to do something to commemorate his life. It did not have anything to do with closure as most of them probably did not even know what that meant. I think you are handling an extremely sad and very difficult time with great thought and feeling. It will be hard for everyone on that day, and all you can do is what you think and feel is the best for these children. There can be tears of sadness and tears of remembering the joy that this young girl brought to your lives. flowers