31 answers

Am I Wrong Not to Take My 3 Year Old to My Grandmother's Funeral?

My grandmother recently had a stroke and just took a turn for the worse this week. As of yesterday her kidneys were failing and the doctors don't expect her to make it much longer. I am not super close with this grandmother, but I do love her and it's still hard to say goodbye. My concern at the moment is whether or not I should take my 3 year old daughter to the funeral. She is at a very inquisitive age and would ask a lot of questions. I think it's probably just too young to expose her to death. She may also get upset at seeing others cry. Have any of you had to make a decision like this?

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Thank you guys for all of the feedback. I really love this site. Right now my grandmother is still hanging on but she will most likely pass any day now. The doctors are saying it won't be very long. Please help me pray for a peaceful and painless death. I don't think I will bring my daughter. I don't think I'm so much worried about her experiencing death, because I would explain it in simple terms and she does already know about it a little bit. I think I'm more worried about the possibility of her having a tantrum or meltdown of some type. It just seems like it will be less stress for me to leave her with a sitter and be able to go and grieve with my family and just not have to be anxious about whether she is going to behave or not. She's so unpredictable. =) If she was less temperamental I'm sure I wouldn't even question what I was going to do... I'd just bring her. I was just feeling a little guilty thinking maybe I was doing the wrong thing by not taking her... like maybe my grandmother would want her there, but at the same time, I think she would understand me not bringing her too. Thanks again for all of your advice and warm wishes.

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Hi, S. here. I would just like to tell you I am almostin the same situation. My mother in law, who is very close to my heart is in the hospital and not doing well. The subject of her passing and I told my family that I would not be taking my 5 year old and my 2 year old because I want them to remember her when she was alive and not in a casket. I feel this is the best decision for me and my children for the simple reason that I don't want them to go through something that tramatic at a young age. I will sit down with them and explain that Grandma is no longer here with us, she has went to heaven and she will always be there to watch over them. I hope this helps some. S.

Don't take her. Funerals are not the place for children, especially a 3 year old. Just find a babysitter and leave her comfortably at home.

Jana,
Do not take her. She is too young to even comprehend what is going on. My father in law passed away when my son and my nephew were both that age. I did not take any of my kids (3,2,1) to the services. My nephew went to everything and he had dreams about seeing grampa in the coffin and going to the ground. My kids had dreams of grandpa when he was alive. You do not want the lasting memory of her great grandmother to be of her dead. If she will remember, make it be a good memory. I am sorry that you are going through such a difficult moment, but you do not need the added stress of taking her. Good luck.
G.

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We took our 3 year old daughter to her great grandmas funeral. We explained that there would be sad people and that grandma had died. She then told me she wanted to draw grandma a picture to make her feel better, so we let her. I was relieved that she really didnt get it, and we didnt let her view the body. Then, after the funeral she said she wanted to go see grandma and we repeated to her that we couldnt see grandma b/c she had died. Her response? "AGAIN?" It was a funny moment at a sad time. She was fine, not at all phased by the situation.

Dear J.:
How about you explain to her what to expect (black clothes, crying, service, etc.) and ask her?

If you brief her that you may be crying and that it is a special service to remember your grandmother, she will tell you whether she wants to go. Death is natural, especially for really old people. However, make it clear that she cannot be obnoxious or leave early, if she chooses to go. If you depict it as a boring event (which it will be for a 3-year-old), she does not feel left out, but is likely to decline.

Regards,
W.

My father in law passed away just a couple months ago. My son had just turned three. My biggest fear with him being there is that it was an open casket. I was afraid he would see his grandpa and want him, and that was a can of worms I just was not willing to open. Now I am not trying to offend anyone but, I think that the idea that a 3 year old is actually capable of understanding the concept of death and going to a funeral to help them say goodbye is just rediculous! We sat my son down and explained to him that grandpa had died and he said he understood, but he still asks when he gets to see him. He sees him in a picture and talks about him in the present. Childrens minds dont work like a grown person, they, fortunately, do not really understand the concept of death. My son knows grandpa is "gone" but he thinks died means he went on vacation or is just someplace else. I dont believe that taking him to the funeral would have made it easier on him or helped him to understand. The funeral didnt do a whole lot for the rest of us who were close to him, I dont know what anyone could expect it to do for a small child. One of the greatest things about children is their innocence, and I personally think that by trying to make them understand what has happened will only make that innocence fade sooner.

My son is almost 2. I have taken him to two funerals this past year and one last night. I thought of you. I was a bit concerned about him as well but I realized that there is not a real concept of death at that age. If had been someone in my family I don't know what I would have done but how they adjust to these things is all up to us.
When my mother died my brother decided to keep the youngest one away because of the distraction. That is what worked for them but I have found that when I take my son that everyone truly appreciates the reminder of joy and life.
So taking babies to these things has to feel right for you. If you feel that having children see you grieve will affect them negatively then that would be something to consider.
Best wishes and God Bless you for you loss.

Hi J.,

I don't think you're wrong--but I would say that I don't think it would hurt her to go either. My daughter was only 10 months at my Mom's funeral, so she was clueless, but my brother's daughter was 4. I would suggest reading a book on the subject--I don't know a specific one to suggest but I bet a Christian book store or any book store probably has something that would help. Just be prepared ahead of time with your answers to the different possible questions she may ask. Keep it simple and on her age level. This may be an excellent opportunity to teach her about death without scaring her.

S.

It's not too early to expose your daughter to death, you ust wouldn't want to expose her in the same way as, say, a yr old. It would probably be helpful to go to the bookstore or library and get some books for both yourself and her. There are books with advice on have to talk about it and books to read with her that can help approach and explain at her level. Death is sad but it is a natural part of the life cycle and you could explain to her that your grandmather lived a long time and shared a lot of love with her family and friends. Even if she doesn't go to the funeral she will wonnder why you are sad and if she saw your grandmother will probably wonder why she doesn't get to see her anymore. My grandmother died when I was 3 and my family was very close to her. They did not keep that information from me and quite frankly I don't remember that time in my life.

Best of luck with your decision

Every kid is different. I think it has a lot to do with temperament and personality. I have just gone through this with my son so I can tell you what worked for me and you could see if any of it relates to your situation.
My grandfather just passed away a week ago at the age of 99. My son just turned six and I was very ambivilent about what to tell him because he has had a terrible fear of death. It started last year, out of nowhere - there had been no deaths in his life - and it was heartbreaking to see him so sad and afraid. It would go away and then resurface every few months. We would talk about heaven and God and all that and nothing seemed to make him feel any better until we started talking about how my grandmother wants to come back as a cat in her next life. He seemed to like the idea of people coming back again as something they like. Anyway, he hasn't talked about it lately and I didn't want to bring it up if it was going to set him off again, but I also didn't want him to feel like I had kept something from him when he eventually did find out. I told him that my grandfather's body had just gotten too old and worn out and that his body died, but now he's in heaven and he feels much better to not be old anymore. I told him that we were going to a party to celebrate what a long and happy life he had and to celebrate how lucky we all were to know him. I emphasized that even though some people were a little sad because they would miss him, that everyone was still ok and that my father (who lived with my grandfather) was still living in that house and was still going about his daily life and that everything was still going on just as it always had and always would.
My son seems to have taken it in stride. He hasn't been upset. One thing that helped I think was that we had a private burial (which I did not bring him to) a few days before the memorial service so there was no casket and no grave for him to ponder over at the service. To him, it was just a church service and a party.
At three, your daughter might still be too young to even be able to grasp the death part of it. I would imagine that it would be upsetting for her to see you and other people she loves visibly upset. I don't know. I can tell you that a year ago, I would not have taken my son to a funeral with the fears he was having. Two years ago, it might not have been a problem though because he hadn't reached that stage yet. I don't know if any of this helps, but good luck and trust in your judgement as her mother.

Hi J., Answer to your question...NO (my opinion) Age three is sooooo young and your daughter will most likely never remember your grandmother or the fact that she never went to the funeral. My daughter was super young too when we went to a funeral, but we did not take her. Funerals are really no place for children that young. If there is going to be a dinner for the family type gathering afterward, I would say let her go to that. She will be an uplift for the older folks and love the attention...and if there are other children at the meal, she could play with them. I feel like funerals are a sad part of life and it's not necessary for them to see or feel this at that time. A short story of mine...One year ago, my stepdad passed away. At the time, my daughter was five going on six and VERY close to Pawpaw! She saw him at the funeral home (open casket) and she went to the graveside service. It all depends on the maturity of the child too. With my daughter, this helped her to bring closure to the person she is soooo close to. You see, at the age of six, they know so much already. We just can't ice over it and not talk about what happened and where he is. They have to see and know! I sure hope this helps with your struggle. And I am so sorry for your loss. :-( I hope all goes as well as to be expected. God Bless!! Deborah

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