We hope this helps you to decide…
Protecting children is what parents do. Ultimately this is an impossible task because life is always full of ups and downs, which includes change, loss and endings.
At OPALS we believe that we should be helping children by giving them the ‘tools to cope’ with life and death. This would advocate that they should be included.
We fully appreciate that every family is different but we hope the following will help you decide what is right for you and your family.
Tears and Laughter– The wide range of emotions felt at a funeral or memorial service are acceptable and normal. Children have their own feelings, however diverse, let them express them in their own way.
Celebrate a Life– It benefits children to understand the ‘bigger picture’ of the life of a loved one. The sharing of memories,telling of stories are very important. Having an open and inclusive funeral helps children to begin their own ideas of life’s loves and loss into their world.
Children can be allowed to participate in age appropriate ways. Examples follow.
Select a reading or poems – they may like to read them themselves (with some support).
Put a quote in the order of service – Hand out the order of service
Bring a flower
Decorate coffin – Cardboard coffins can be decorated by children before the service
Write a letter to go in the coffin
Write a favourite memory on a memory card – tie it to the coffin, or a balloon and let it go or tie it to a Tree of Life.
I am sure you can all come up with your own ideas as well, we will always be happy to help.
Support– Make sure children know what to expect. If you feel your own emotions may take over assign a special person known to the child to look after them.
Choice– If children do not want to attend, leave in the middle of the service or do not want to participate in the planning, accept their decision. Listen to their concerns. Support them as they will be grieving in their own way.
De brief– Spend time after the service to let them talk about their experience. Ask them questions – ‘What happened that you expected’, ‘Did anything surprise you?’. Be prepared to listen without judging or commenting.
A much loved Uncle (& Great Uncle to my boys) died in 2013. It was the first time we had been faced with the decision whether they should attend a funeral. They were 13 and 11 years old.
Both boys were very fond of their Great Uncle, he had been an important part of their life. They both decided they wanted to come, the youngest thought it was great to be getting a day off school (which made us laugh). Our older son was apprehensive as he really doesn’t like seeing adults upset. I told him what to expect and he decided to attend.
They are both really pleased they came and were included in the family farewell. After the funeral both boys said it wasn’t as bad as they thought it would be. The final music played at the end of the service was the theme tune from ‘Match of the Day’. Everytime that comes on the TV now my oldest son smiles and says it reminds him of our dear Uncle.