My family has experienced a lot of death this past year. My husband lost a friend and two grandma's and I lost my father. The kids knew the two grandma's and my father well.
In many cultures, children are completely involved in the grieving and funeral process. There are also many cultures in which children are excluded. It is somewhat standard in our culture to lean away from involving young children.
That being said, I strongly believe in involving children in the funeral process, viewing and all. My children attended the viewings and funerals for the three people that died this year that were close to them. They were roughly one and two years old for these events.
That's right, I held my kids up to see inside the coffin of their deceased and beloved Papa (my father) and GG's (great grandmas). I know some of you think I should be locked up or psychoanalyzed now. Everyone is allowed to have their own opinions!
They did NOT attend the funeral of my husband's friend whom they did not know or love. That would have been unnecessary and inappropriate.
Children learn a very important and valuable lesson when they witness death and the grieving process. Young children are mostly impacted by other people's behavior and feelings surrounding the death. "It is from these responses that children come to understand that death is very important, sad and significantly different from most other events in life. Knowing that children are learning from us during the process can be a motivating force for us to get the support necessary to go through the grieving process in healthy ways." quoted here.
I was a complete mess after the death of my father. Emotional wreck in charge of two small kids. I cried out of no where and was easily agitated. My kids went to the funeral. They saw Papa, mommy's daddy, was dead and that everyone there was weeping and sad for his death. When I was crying my kids gave me a hug and said "mommy sad because papa's dead". When I flipped out about a small mess, I quickly apologized and explained mommy is sad because of Papa's death, but that it was not ok for mommy to yell and I was sorry. They were completely included in the process from start to finish (wherever the finish line is...haven't reached that yet).
I did not say Papa was sleeping. I did not want my kids afraid that I or they would never wake up.
They have not shown any increased fear of death now that they understand it so well.
They have not shown any psycho or morbid tendencies like playing dead or killing animals or anything.
For my family, involving our children in the death process of loved ones was a well thought and good choice. My precious children understand death is sad part of life and how we move on as a family.
I invite you to consider involving your children in the grieving process when a loved one close to them dies. I also respect if you feel it is not something you agree with. Just remember, children will one day be adults and need you to show them how to handle the more difficult times in life before they are completely matured and shocked by life's harsh realities.
About this blog
If you're looking for me to brag about how cute my kids are (which they are) or talk about how much weight I did or didn't lose this week, you are in the wrong place! I have a Facebook account for that. This blog is about the blunt truths of parenting, tips and tricks of the trade, some addicting mommy junk and all the other disgusting hilarity that ensues when you have kids...especially two kids only 12 months apart like myself.