48 answers

Children at Their Parent's Funeral

How young is too young to attend a parent's funeral?

A neighbore of mine just lost her husband in a work accident. They have 2 small children. She's asked me to watch the 1 year old during the funeral, but is planning on taking their 4 year old. I've offered to watch them both, but she wants her son to be able to say goodbye to his Daddy.

Of course, it's NONE of my business to interfere or suggest that she leave the boy with me again, but I'm just curious what you mamas would do. Would you want/allow your young children to attend the funeral of a parent (God forbid)?

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Thanks mamas. I know I'd want my children there too. It would just be too difficult to try and explain it all to such a small child. He's a wonderful little boy and my heart is breaking for all three of them.

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I would most definitely let a 4 year old come to a parent's funeral. The one year old wouldn't be able to sit quietly and would not understand, but a 4 year old does understand and I agree, needs the chance to say goodbye. Just my two cents.

6 moms found this helpful

The 4 year old should DEFINITELY be there! What a sad, sad thing. Little John-John Kennedy (JFK Jr.) was only 3 when his father was killed, and that's a photo etched in history forever -when he stepped forward as the funeral carriage passed and saluted (huge lump in throat just thinking of it). As a mother, if my husband died, I would have the one year old with me too. My son was 3 when my mother died, and it took him awhile to fully understand it, but he did understand that she was dead and grieve over her. A child should go to his/her parent's funeral.

4 moms found this helpful

I was 5 years old when my mother died. I went to the funeral, as well as my sisters who were 6 and 9. I still remember it. At the end of the funeral my father had all of us lean in the casket and kiss my mother goodbye. I know that sounds morbid, but to this day the thought that I got to kiss my mother goodbye brings me comfort. I am glad that I was there. I was old enough to understand and 30 years later I am grateful that I was there. I miss my mother terribly and I am grateful that I had my chance to say goodbye to her.

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My 5 Year Old daughter passed away suddenly 4 months ago and I brought my 3.5 year old to the funeral. We did a lot of explaining what she would see including her sister in the open casket and that her eyes would be closed because her sister doesn't eat anymore, sleep anymore or breathe anymore. We told her she would be in a special box and that people would be sad becasue they miss her sister. From everything I read, it is important for children to be involved in the funeral for a significant person because they need to say goodbye - just like everyone else. Otherwise, the person just leaves and that's hard to understand too. My daughter still talks about the funeral, the special box and the parade for her sister (funeral procession to the cemetary) but it's not in a bad or scared way - just matter-of-fact. I'm glad she got to say goodbye to her sister and I feel she is adjusting as well as can be given the circumstances.

7 moms found this helpful

I would most definitely let a 4 year old come to a parent's funeral. The one year old wouldn't be able to sit quietly and would not understand, but a 4 year old does understand and I agree, needs the chance to say goodbye. Just my two cents.

6 moms found this helpful

My husbands best friend died in March and he had a 3 year old son. He was there, in the front row. I think it was good for him to be there, to see him there and to also see where they took him (burial site). Had he not seen it, I don't know what he would have imagined happened to his father. During the beginning of the funeral, his son had a basket of items that he could place in the caskett if he wanted to. He placed a lollipop, a picture of the two of them, a stuffed bear, and a locket of his hair in there. It was quite sweet. At the burial he asked, "Mom, is dad in there?" His mom said, "Yes, he is." Then he said, "Cause his body don't work no more, right?"

It was a hard day, but in my opinion it wasn't traumatic for him at all. He was hearing great things about his dad and was surrounded by people who loved him greatly.

5 moms found this helpful

I attended one at 6 for my best friends dad. He had cancer so we kinda knew it was coming. I would let a 4 year old come.

4 moms found this helpful

I was 5 years old when my mother died. I went to the funeral, as well as my sisters who were 6 and 9. I still remember it. At the end of the funeral my father had all of us lean in the casket and kiss my mother goodbye. I know that sounds morbid, but to this day the thought that I got to kiss my mother goodbye brings me comfort. I am glad that I was there. I was old enough to understand and 30 years later I am grateful that I was there. I miss my mother terribly and I am grateful that I had my chance to say goodbye to her.

4 moms found this helpful

The 4 year old should DEFINITELY be there! What a sad, sad thing. Little John-John Kennedy (JFK Jr.) was only 3 when his father was killed, and that's a photo etched in history forever -when he stepped forward as the funeral carriage passed and saluted (huge lump in throat just thinking of it). As a mother, if my husband died, I would have the one year old with me too. My son was 3 when my mother died, and it took him awhile to fully understand it, but he did understand that she was dead and grieve over her. A child should go to his/her parent's funeral.

4 moms found this helpful

Yes, I would have the 4 year old come. I would never want to deny the opportunity to say goodbye to daddy. How terribly sad for your neighbor and the kids.

3 moms found this helpful

Jacqueline Kennedy did...and who better to make a judgement call then her?

3 moms found this helpful

My nephew was around 2.5 when we took him to my fathers funeral who he was very close to. And my son was 9months old when we went to my grandfathers. I think it's important for the child to say goodbye.

3 moms found this helpful

I would absolutely bring the child, both, in fact, unless the one year old would be restless or disruptive. (Which most probably would be) Death is a part of life.
so sorry about your neighbor's loss.

3 moms found this helpful

I don't think the little boy is too young.
My aunt and uncle were both killed in a plane crash and all of us children, including their own 3 attended. We were an extremely close family. My uncle was a pilot and a flight instructor and even as kids we knew there was a possibility something could happen.
My cousins lost both their mother and father at the same time and I don't think it would have been any better for them not to attend the funeral. There had to be a good-bye for them.

Like another mama said, the image of John-John saluting his father is etched in American history.

I think it was very kind of you to offer to watch both children. That left the option open for her. But I think she knows best in this situation.

Best wishes.

3 moms found this helpful

I certainly would want to, but you have to take the maturity of the child into consideration too. Maybe having her son there will help her during this horrible time. She will have to talk to so many people, maybe having a part of her husband there will her will be a comfort. So sad to hear. I'm glad that you are a good neighbor to her and are helping her.

2 moms found this helpful

I'd take both kids. It is not just a time to say your good-byes it is also a time to family and friends to provide you with support and love.

If I were in her shoes I would take both kids and ask you to be there to watch the little one if the baby has trouble sitting still and/or quiet for the service.

I'll keep this family in my prayers.

2 moms found this helpful

I think it's imperative for the 4 year old to go, absolutely. They may not be young enough to fully understand it now, but as they get older and look bad, they'll be grateful for the closure. Children do not form permanent memories until 3, so the 4 year old will remember it and understand it later on.

Your neighbor is very lucky to have you to watch the 1 year old... I can't imagine what they're going through right now. Stay strong for them!!

2 moms found this helpful

My grandfather died quickly when I was a child. My brother (7), my cousin (4) and I (5) attended the funeral. I remember asking my aunt why she was crying and holding hands and skipping with my cousin on the walk to the cemetery. My brother was extremely close to our grandpa and probably remembers more. So, based on my experience, I would not hesitate to take my kids to a funeral. It is a part of life that they can learn in ways that they understand. I did not fully understand my grandpa's funeral and death, but I did in a 5 year old way.

I wonder how many people looked at my cousin, brother and me and had some hope for the future and maybe a brief smile at us holding hands and skipping. It's all life, not to be hidden from.

1 mom found this helpful

Oh yes, the child isn't too young to go. If he's old enough to sit still, he should go. The baby wouldn't sit still and would be a distraction so it makes sense to have a babysitter for the 1 year old. I would totally bring my children to say good-bye to their daddy. It's heartbreaking but so important to be apart of the funeral.

1 mom found this helpful

Honestly, I haven't been there... so I can't say.

My son has lost a LOT of people in his life since he was very small. Grandparents, Uncle, 3 of his friends (2 just recently, one when he was in preschool), and friends of mine.

I usually took him to wakes, but not to funerals. But I would sometimes. It completely and totally depended on HIM. As in what I thought was best at the time. To date, I have yet to regret any of my decisions to bring him or not.

You're good not to place your own views of stay v go on the mum. I can't tell you how many people argued with me in BOTH directions. As in if I took him I had people tell me I shouldn't, and if I left him at home, I had people tell me I should (also people who agreed with whichever decision I made). Some people got QUITE heated in their views (strangers or distant friends/acquaintances each. and. every. single. time.)

1 mom found this helpful

That’s so sad. My father passed away when I was 17. My youngest half sister turned 6 the day after he died. We were all at the funeral. I think at 4 he will remember some of his father and should be able to say goodbye.

1 mom found this helpful

I think it's a deeply personal decision for a parent to make (and OMG what a difficult time to have to make such a decision).

I can't say what I'd do in your friend's position. But, like YOU, if I were in your position, I would absolutely support whatever decision she makes.

Praying for that family and yours.

:(

1 mom found this helpful

Just seeing this, I'm so sorry for your friend and her children. I wanted to say that I have taken a child as young as 18 months to a parent's funeral, so they will know when they are older that they were there and a part of it. They didn't disrupt anything, and people actually commented that they were a reminder that life goes on.

God bless.

1 mom found this helpful

It's a part of life, I would bring them both.

1 mom found this helpful

Absolutely. When my mom died my brother, who was 2 at the time, was there. I would take all 4 of my children (ages 2-8). My kids are very close to their daddy and I would want them to be able to see him to say goodbye. It's not as though they are seeing the person in a bad state. They're all clean up and dressed nicely and look as though they are sleeping. I would be concerned at how it would affect them if he just disappeared and they weren't allowed to go to the service.

1 mom found this helpful

I would bring all of my children no matter their age. He is their father and they should all be there for the funeral. How odd that she doesn't want to take them.
Laura

1 mom found this helpful

There is no reason I would want a sitter for my children in the event of death of myself or daddy,we have taken our children as a family to all immediate family funerals

1 mom found this helpful

I would allow the child to go to the funeral home but not take part in the actual funeral. They can't possible understand what the person speaking means, they don't even understand that daddy isn't coming home again. They need to just do the goodbye thing at the funeral home, perhaps not even with the casket open. Can you imagine how traumatized that child will be, makes me think of that movie "The Three Faces of Eve" where she was forced to kiss Grandma goodbye, I think she was in her casket at the time....

1 mom found this helpful

I would take both. I would never leave them home. I would want them close to me every minute. That is what family is even if they are very
young.

1 mom found this helpful

My wonderful grandmother died when I was 4. I think I would have been more traumatized if I had not gone to the funeral.

1 mom found this helpful

I would personally have some come to the funeral home and watch the children in the separate room for kids (that many funeral homes have). Then, any that wanted/needed to say goodbye to daddy would be there to do so without having to be "at the funeral" the whole time...while keeping the kids close for mom's sake and their's. Each child and family is different and you have to do what gets the survivors through.

1 mom found this helpful

I'm surprised at all the responses that the child should go, no questions asked. The key phrase there is "no questions asked."

A child should go ONLY if the child is mature enough to understand what's going on and not be confused and upset by adults breaking down. And no one (that I saw) questioned whether this funeral would have an open coffin. A child this young could be fine with seeing a parent's corpse, while another child this age might freak out and wonder why daddy is "sleeping" and won't wake up for him.

Just responding "Of course the child should go" does not take into account the individual child's maturity, the situation at the funeral itself (open or shut coffin, relatives who will be reasonable and restrained with the child or who will weep and wail and cling to "poor little child"), etc. I do think children should go to funerals-- I went to my dad's when I was 12 -- but for ones this young there are legitimate questions to be asked first.

There is no question about the one year old attending to me -- no. That is stressful for the mom on a day when she should focus on her grief and this passage in her life.

When my father died my grandchildren were ages 3-6 and they all attended the service. When my 3 yr old granddaughter noticed her auntie crying she went over and gave her a hug. I couldn't imagine not including them since Papa was so devoted to his great grandchildren.

A four year old child goes to his father's funeral. So does any child old enough to understand. If you have an intelligent 2 1/2 year old she goes too.
My mother tried to protect us from seeing death. It makes me feel unwanted to this day that I could not go to my favorite aunt's funeral at the age of four. As a matter of fact my mother did not tell us about death.
Myself I have no fear of it.

My Father passed away when I was 6 and my brother 4. We both believed that it was a huge family story to keep us from knowing our Father didn't want to see us any more.
My Mother regrets that she didn't take us to the funeral. My brother and I both wish she had taken us.

My Mom died when I was 7...and my sister and brother were both 5. We all went to the funeral.

However, it wasn't until a few years later when I actually learned about how she died -- while on a playdate. I was absolutely destroyed that my Dad had not shared the cause of my Mom's death with me. I also felt stupid that my friend knew and I did not. I could never forgive my Dad after that. Children know a lot more than you think.

Yes, I would want my children there no matter the age. I have enough family they could watch them.

My best friend said when her Father died, her mother was practically comatose with grief. So she ended up having to make a lot of the decisions.. She was 13, her stepbrother was 12 and her little sister was 3.

They had to fly back to the US from Germany so they could bury him back here in Texas. (Military). Her little sister was pretty quiet about the whole thing and behaved really well.

At the graveside when it was time for them to lower the casket, her sister asked in a really loud voice .." Hey, Who is in the box?"

Her sister now says she remembers parts of it, but does not really remember much.

It's very important that children be part of this, especially when it's someone they're very close to like a parent, grandparent, sibling, aunt, uncle, cousin. If that person's presence will be missed then the children ought to be able to attend as long as they can sit still for extended periods of time.

When my husband's brother passed away, my eldest daughter was only a couple of months old so she stayed with my mother during the wake and funeral. My older SIL was the only other one with small children at the time with kids 3, 5, and 8. Her choice was to shield them and let them stay with my mother too. No judgments from me there.

When my FIL passed away a week ago, my daughters all saw him shortly after he passed the same day. They're 6, almost 9, and 11. Family surrounded them and it was a private good-bye that I know they were grateful for. I spared them the agony of the endless wake where time seemed to have stopped and let them stay with my mom. My youngest SIL kept her 18-mos old with one of her SILs. My other SIL had to bring her daughters, 5 and 9, and it was very hard for them to sit for the 3 hours wake. Two of the eldest SIL's kids, now 14 and 16 attended and it was hard for them but they helped with the young kids. The brother, 19, didn't attend only because he's away at college and couldn't come back.

However, all of the children except for my nephews (the 18 mos old and 19 year old) attended the funeral. They all saw him one last time at the funeral home and kissed their grandfather good-bye, cried in church, put roses on his casket at the cemetery, and prayed with family. They got to be part of the process with everyone and it helped give them closure. No one thought they were too little. Their tears were bittersweet and pure... and their innocence brought wistful smiles to everyone. They were a reminder of what my FIL built.

So in the same way, your neighbor will get to give her son closure and her son will represent what she and her husband made... their family, their children... out of their love. I would completely support her decision either way, of course.

I can't imagine being in that womans shoes. I don't think I could take my small child to the funeral. That's just me, but I hope I never have to be at my husbands funeral with my kids, no matter what age they are.

I am very sorry for your neighbor.

Yes I would.
My stepfather was a major care giver (he & my mom) for my son and he died when my son was almost 3. I thought at the time that my son was too little to understand and have the funeral home be the last memory of his pap. I was wrong and I wish I had taken him to say "good-bye" to him.
Maybe 2 and under--no, but older than that-they should be there.

What a decision to have to make--tragic! :(

I know you already have a lot of answers. I was 4 when I lost my dad. I went to the funeral. I would be angry today if I had not been allowed to go then, I think. I think it gives some closure to the child. I still remember the funeral. I also remember stuff that happened when I was 2 and 3. Its amazing what you remember when you "have" to, since there will be no other memories made with that person.

Yes, it's appropriate to take a 4 year old to his father's funeral. He knows that his father has died and is old enough to remember this sad and confusing time. He needs to express his grief and be a part of the process. I was 1 1/2 when my father died, that would have been too young, it would have served no purpose as I didn't know what dead was and would not have understood where I was or what was happening.

I think he is old enough and should be there. My 3 and 5 year olds know plenty about death, God... I agree though that the 1 year old is too young.

My daughter attended her brother's funeral at age 2 yrs 11 months. She remembers being there. She fell asleep however in the car and I did not wake her when we went to the cemetery. My SIL watched her. My daughter will still occasionally say she wished I woke her up. IMO the 4 yo should go. Personally, I would take the 1 yo too although I understand why she would want you to watch him/her.

When my father died, my children were 5, 7, and 9 (and 6 weeks old). I gave them the choice of going into the service, or staying in the nursery. The 5 and 9 yr old did go in, the 7 yr old did not.

I don't remember whether they went to the visitation at the funeral home, though.... it has just been too many years (20 years since that funeral).

Maybe she needs to give him the choice? Tell him what the service may be like, and explain that people will be sad, and it is ok to be sad.....

when my son was 4, he attended his grandfather's service and viewing. I was not sure I wanted that for him but my husband did. Therefore, I said ok, Turns out, my son was and is ok with the whole thing. However, I would add that I do believe it depends on the child and their sensitivity level. In our house and at the grandparents, we talked openly about death so that may have helped. Again, I think it all depends..

Blessings

My Mother passed away in Jan. My oldest was 5 at the time and youngest was 2. I didn't take either of them. They did go to the funeral home. In my case. My son (oldest) feeds off of my emotions and I couldn't imagine him seeing me cry or hurting like I was. I just wasn't ready to deal with his sadness at the time..I feel its up to the parent, how they are feeling and how they think the child would handle it..

My dad died when I was 9, and my little brother was 6, my older siblings 18 and 14. We all went to the funeral and the cemetery for the burial.

Absolutely okay for the oldest to go. Rituals are important. Robert Fulgum's book "Rituals" is wonderful about this. Rituals even at four are important. If he can talk about it, he should go.

Scary question... I don't think I would allow a child under the age of 10 to attend a funeral like that... That's a very scary thing for a child to see when they can't 100% grasp what is going on...
My best friend lost her mom when she was 8 and her dad brought her to the funeral. She said she can still remember it like it was yesterday, and she wishes she never went..... Her father then passed away at 13 and her relatives (that took over guardianship) DIDN'T let her attend...

I think the four year old should be at the funeral. So very sorry for your neighbor and her kids.

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