“Should my child attend the funeral?” is a question we’re asked often, but there is no single easy answer. Whether your child is ready to attend a funeral depends on many factors, from their age to their comfort level and relationship with the deceased. In general, our view is that children should be allowed to attend a funeral if they want to. When that is not possible, it’s important to find another way for them to say goodbye and express their grief.
Losing a loved one is difficult at any age. Children deserve an opportunity to grieve with the support of friends and family, like anyone else.
However, that does not mean a child must attend the funeral. A funeral can be a valuable opportunity for a child to learn about death and participate in mourning rituals. It can also be an emotionally intense experience. Kids are not usually accustomed to seeing adults cry, which can be distressing. If the funeral will include a viewing or visitation, the child may be nervous about seeing or touching the body. Funerals also tend to be long and require a lot of sitting still and listening, which can be difficult for young people.
The best approach for older children is to explain what they can expect at the funeral and let them decide whether they wish to attend. For toddlers and infants who cannot make this choice, you will have to decide for yourself if their presence there will be a comfort to the family, or if it would be better to arrange for childcare that day.
Whether or not your child will be attending the funeral, expect them to have many questions about death. There are many age-appropriate books on the topic available that you can read together if you need some help talking about this. It’s also an opportunity for you to share your personal beliefs and your cultural and religious traditions.
Here are some tips for attending a funeral with a child: