Children Attending Funeral

Updated on May 14, 2014
A.R. asks from Danbury, CT
24 answers

My father in law passed away last weekend after a fast and furious fight with cancer.
My sons are 6 and 4. During the 2 weeks that my husband and I were visiting in the hospital, we had a wonderful support system, and they had endless play dates, and got to watch a lot of tv and video games.
From what I have read, they seem to be acting age appropriately in response to his death, although I am still a bit surprised/saddened that they don't seem to feel much sorry. Their grandpa was someone they saw every few months.

We lost my mother in law when they were 3 and 9 months. At that time there was no question that they would not be going to the funeral. Now at 6 and 4 I am considering bringing them. Not to the church memorial, but to the social part afterwards.
I remember going to my grandfather's funeral when I was 7 and although I was disconnected from the emotional impact his passing had on my mother, it did serve as a way for me to say goodbye.

Can anyone share with me their experiences bringing their child to memorial service? Did you bring child? Decide not to bring child?

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answers from Phoenix on

My kids were 2 and 5 when my dad passed away. I brought them to the service, never really considered not bringing them. It helped me immensely to have them there- it gave me something positive and forward-thinking to focus on. The kids had a great time playing with their cousins and extended family. We were definitely of the mentality that my dad would have loved the kids running around, dancing to the music, stealing cookies, getting their dress clothes grass stained. Death is a hard enough concept for adults to grasp. At this age, I think showing them that we celebrate someone's life- with tears and laughter- is enough.

9 moms found this helpful


answers from Reading on

I would not bring them unless people would find their presence a comfort. They will not understand and may even react negatively. My favorite uncle died when I was five. I had to pretend to cry because everyone else was. They made me look in the casket - I didn't have any reaction at all other than to think he looked waxy. But I've hated open casket funerals ever since. I gained nothing by being there, but have odd memories.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Oklahoma City on

I'd say they are acting completely normal. They don't have the cognitive ability to understand death yet. They know everyone's sad but don't "get" why.

They may not even remember him in a few months/years. I have very few memories of my grandmother. We saw her at least once per month and often more.

I think you have to understand they'll be running around and playing, having a great time at any family get-together. They aren't going to be sad or even want to. How much time are YOU going to have to corral them? How much time will you be able to spend managing their rambunctiousness. Aren't you going to be hosting a bunch of people who will ALL want to have a moment with you to give their condolences?

Have a couple of friends come to the activity. It should be their job, their only job, to manage the kids for you. Not that you won't be interacting with them but so they can have a person who can pay full attention to them, to help them get food, help them calm down, recognize when they've had enough stimulation from all those people and remove them from the main rooms.

1 mom found this helpful

More Answers



answers from Raleigh on

We always take the kids to funerals of family. My son attended my grandmother's memorial when he was 2. Both kids attended my brother's memorial when they were 6 and 2. They acted very well behaved. I just had a plan in place to have someone go out with them if they got too restless or fidgety. However, no one had to go out with them.
My family has never been the type to shelter from death, funerals, or services no matter what your age. I was 10 when my grandfather died and I was there with him with the rest of my family when he took his final breath. I have never thought death to be a scary or mysterious process, and I want my children to feel the same way. That begins with taking them to services and explaining what is happening, whether they remember it or not.
I'm so sorry for your loss.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Philadelphia on

When my husband died I made the decision to have my children join us at the memorial service and "party" afterwards and I must say it was the best thing I could have done for all of us. My babies were 23 months and 3 at the time of his death. It was good for me because they were not hidden away and learned that people sometimes died that they do not pass away because that implies a chance they may come back. It was good for them because the people who were there gave them extra special attention and love and I had a note book that we passed around that people jotted memories of my husband down for them to be able to read in the future. Children are resilient and they know far more then they let on. If your gut is telling you to have them go then do it! You know your kids better then any of us. Sorry for your loss

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Norfolk on

In our family kids go to funerals.
All of it - the wake, the service, the grave side service and funeral breakfast/luncheon.
It's the final rite of passage.
Death is a part of life - to live it to it's fullest we should acknowledge the ups and the downs, the light and the dark.
And, after all, although funerals are ABOUT the deceased, they are really FOR the living.
Kids don't understand death.
Heck most young adults don't understand it up till their mid 20's in a personal sort of way.
Up till that age they sort of think they are immortal and it couldn't happen to them.
The presence of young people help the older folks keep it together, they see that life goes on, and the kids get to hear the old stories told by friends/relatives of the deceased.
I've been to funerals for relatives as a child and so has our son.
I don't see funerals as a negative experience - it's a family gathering and the young are part of the family.
We bring kids to weddings too.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Philadelphia on

We always bring kids to funerals in my family.

So sorry for your loss.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

i think it depends somewhat on what the family's expectations will be, as well as what your expectations for your kids are. i'm actually a little concerned that you think boys so young aren't acting 'sorrier.' children this age won't mourn an adult in their lives on a daily basis the same way that adults would, let alone someone they only saw every few months.
some after-service socials have a celebratory tone, and kids are allowed to play with each other and have fun. if that's the case, then bring them for sure. but if the family prefers to have a solemn observance in which kids are expected to remain calm and quiet for an extended period, then you have to make a judgment call based on your kids' personalities, and be prepared to leave if they get restless.
i do think death is something that should be handled honestly and matter-of-factly with kids of all ages. that doesn't necessarily mean that they need to attend a service. some folks take a great deal of comfort from the opportunity to 'say goodbye' but others find other ways to do that.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

I'm sorry for your loss.

I'd bring them. Yes, there will be emotions they don't understand but there will be relatives that can share memories that they will never hear otherwise. They will have a starting point in life to understand death that will touch their lives every so often. Don't expect their reactions to be deep but be prepared to answer questions that will come up at the oddest times.
It's a good time to review your religious beliefs.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

Sadly death is a part of life. When I was a teen, I knew many teens who had never been to a wake or a funeral and were "grossed out" or "freaked out" by a dead body/wake/funeral/burial.

For me, part of raising my daughter is to allow her to learn about death and appropriately deal with it. She attends whatever wakes, funerals, etc. that she needs to attend. That's since she was born.

I will add that when she was three, my father in law died and I didn't bring her to the wake simply becasue she would have been too much to watch after and keep under control - I needed to be there to greet people. But she came the next day for the viewing and funeral.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Baton Rouge on

I would bring them, with the understanding that if things get overwhelming for them, you may need to leave early.
My daughter was four when one of her favorite aunts was murdered. I took her to the funeral, sat near the back of the chapel, and a couple of times, the emotional tension of the event got to her, and I took her outside so that she could calm herself without disrupting the service for everyone else.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

Maybe consider changing the title of your post, because you are not planning to take them to the funeral.

I note that you say you would not bring them to the funeral itself, only to the "social part afterward." So they will not "get" what a funeral means. Either take them to both or to neither -- and with their ages, and the fact they weren't really involved with granddad at the very end and don't seem aware of what death really is, I would take them to neither. They won't understand that the social part (I take it you mean a reception somewhere with food?) is anything other than a party, and you could end up chasing them and telling them to behave etc. -- which takes away your and your husband's abilities to talk to the other adults who are there, to visit with relatives you don't see often, etc.

The kids will not get any sense of death or what a funeral is. Get a babysitter for both parts of the event and let yourself, and especially your husband, be free of the kids. You adults need to spend that time talking and sharing with relatives and his dad's friends rather than always having one eye on what the kids are doing. By the way -- what does your husband want here? This was his dad, but you don't mention how your husband feels about having his own children there. If he very strongly wants them there, take them, but if he's on the fence, mention that he might prefer to spend the funeral and reception really free to visit with the other adults.

Many kids as young as six do attend funerals, but you are not planning for yours to attend a funeral -- just a reception. I would not have them at either especially as they were not really part of their grandfather's final months; they were on play dates etc. That is fine! You and your husband needed them to be occupied during a difficult time! But they are not really clued into the process of death or grieving as they would be if they'd been around him much during his illness or if they were older children. Again, that's fine as a way to handle it.

One last thing -- you mention that you are "surprised/saddened that they don't seem to feel much sorry." Please ramp your expectations for them way, way back. They didn't see grandpa that often, frankly, and they are young children with no idea about death, and they were not there to witness him really declining fast. They should not be expected to feel and behave as adults or older kids would feel. They WILL come to you later and have questions, and be more puzzled than weepy or upset -- this is normal in children this age. My child had just turned six when my mother died and did not cry or seem to get outwardly upset but she was processing things, and did and said things later (sometimes much later) that told me she was thinking of her grandmother and processing the idea that she would not see her again. Please don't feel that your children should react in some specific way that's "appropriate."

By the way, we did not have the issue of taking our daughter to a funeral because there wasn't one for my mother, but if there had been I would have taken her; however, she had visited my mother in a nursing home several times, in the hospital, etc., and was aware how serious things were.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Grand Forks on

My boys (8 and 11) lost their grandmother this past winter. They loved her very much, and she was a part of their life, but they did not grieve the same way we did. They were saddened, but more matter of fact about her death. They did visit with her in the palliative care ward of the hospital twice a week for three months before she died, and watched her deteriorate, and seemed to understand that in the end her death was a blessing. They both attended the funeral and both read scripture at the funeral. I realize my boys are older, but I took them to funerals (for more distant relatives) when they were younger. As long as they were able to sit through a church service they were able to sit through a funeral.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Las Vegas on

hello, my son was 4 when he grandfather passed away, this was a man for whom he was very close. Prior to the funeral, my FIL was in a care facility for which we had taken my son to visit almost every day. I mention this because although my son was only 4, he knew at that time that his grandfather was ill, so when he did pass, I can't say that at 4 years of age, he could comprehend what that meant, but he did know that grandfather was no longer with us. That said, we did take him the funeral and the rosary. In fact, in my son's case, he did go to the viewing.. We just felt like death is a part of life and have always talked openly about it. I feel that when we make things a mystery , it can confuse a child even more so... We don't go on and on about death, however, we do discuss it. In fact, my MIL, who is 87 does tend to talk about when she dies and what she'd like to be buried in (it's a Italian thing :) and my son is very aware of this..
I personally think it's ok to take a child to a funeral.. and having done so, my son is doing just fine.. he's now 12 and has never once said, that funeral creeped me out..

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Austin on

We (our families) always take our children to funerals. They see us all grieve, support each other,. Then we all gather to visit and laugh.. It is like a family reunion.

Your children are young, they do not get the whole concept yet that Grandfather is gone forever.

They feel safe because you and dad are probably being strong and are busy with arrangements and details. This is what parents do.

Also keep in mind, people grieve in different ways.

When my husbands grandmother died, I was kind of excited for her. She had suffered for SOOO long. It had been awful. Parkinson's had stolen her ability to move, to communicate in any way. She was aware of us, but was trapped in her body. I knew that she had missed her momma all of her life, because her mother died when she was a girl. She missed her brothers and her daddy. She was finally after all of these years was going to be able to join them.

And so I missed her, still do, but she had lived a wonderful life. Our daughter had spent a tremendous amount of time with this Great grandmother, she lived down the street from us. Our daughter knew also that Great Gran was not able to be herself and that it was time for her to die. She was most concerned about the rest of us. THAT is what made her sad.

Make sure your boys have an activity so if they get restless they can color or have a toy to distract them. Allow them to go outside and run around every once in a while. They are still children and people completely understand this.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

So sorry for your loss.

Kids grieve differently. The reality that they will no longer see their grandfather hasn't set in. It will take time, and a lot of occasions of never seeing him for holidays or visits, before the realization hits them. Try not to be saddened by their reaction - it's really very typical.

I'm not sure the funeral helps kids say goodbye. For some families, it's too late for goodbyes because the person isn't there. If it's open casket, some kids can be helped by seeing the lifeless body, but others can be upset by it. I did not go to my grandfather's funeral when I was 5 because my parents felt it was beyond me. I did go to many funerals from age 10 up - mostly it was a chance to see my cousins, and it got to be a little ridiculous when all the adult mourners would stop at the open casket and say "My, doesn't Ralph look good?" (My cousins thought this was so weird since they felt the person just looked dead.) The eulogies were beyond us until about age 12 or so, and it was stressful just having to be quiet and not laugh because "it wasn't dignified" and so on.

I do think it's valuable for kids to start to attend funerals, see the rituals, and go to the cemetery for the burial at a certain point so they learn how to deal with things, what to say, how to comfort people, and so on. I also think the current trends of having photo boards and video loops can help celebrate the person's life and can be meaningful to kids in the electronic age.

For the social gathering, it depends on what the mood will be and what you will expect of them. If it's within your family's tradition to laugh and tell funny stories about Grandpa, that's one thing. If it's okay for kids to play with their cousins and at least be seen by the visiting aunts and uncles who haven't seen your children, that might be okay. But if it's going to be very somber and their normal kid behavior is going to be disturbing to anyone there, I'd leave them with a sitter.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

My father died when my grandchildren were 5, 4, and 2. We had a service at the funeral home and a small service at the graveside. The kids sat on the side at the funeral home and when they got bored from sitting they'd change seats to sit by their parents, myself, and 1 of their aunties. They were quiet and obviously didn't understand exactly what was going on but it was ok. My dad would have loved knowing they were there and we loved having their cuddles during a hard time.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

Yes, my kids have been to my grandfather's funeral (full Catholic mass with 3 rosaries, followed by a military burial, followed by a reception at the Knights of Columbus hall), and my aunt's funeral (a casual non-religious ceremony at the funeral home chapel, followed by a festive reception. The kids were fine at both. They seemed fascinated by the Catholic ceremony - the incense, the prayers, the songs, all of it. The burial was likewise extremely interesting to them (21 gun salute, men in uniform, etc). My aunt's funeral was planned with kids in mind (she adored her grandchildren), so they actually had a babysitter with crafts in an adjoining room during the memorial service, and the reception was pretty much a free-for-all for the kids (kids' table covered in butcher paper, with crayons on the table). The kids really didn't seem to process the death part of the event in either case. Actually, I think the kids (mine and others') at these events served to lighten the mood considerably.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Boston on

I would bring them to both the church part and the part after, without question. Be prepared to take your 4 year old out back if he or she gets squirmy during services but at those ages, they should have no problems sitting through a funeral.

My kids are ages 8-16 and have been to more funerals than some adults I know. We just had 4 in the span of a little less than two years (my brother, grandmother, aunt, and grandmother-in-law) where they went to the wake, funeral, burial (and shiva for my GMIL) and they had been to many wakes/shivas before for older relatives, friends' grandparents, etc.

Why not go to the church service too?

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

Yes, I would take them. Funerals are for the living, a chance to say goodbye. They teach children a lot. My son attended his first funeral (family friend) at age 2. He ended up sitting in the widow's lap for a good part of the time and was a great comfort to her. Didn't hurt him a bit. He has been to several services since then and to my dad's funeral when he had just turned 7. It never ever occurred to us that he should not attend. DH actually pulled him out of school and flew down with him for the funeral (I was already there).

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Miami on

I would not take them. Veruca is giving you good advice.

Kids this age cannot understand that death is death. The funeral will not provide closure for them.

If I were you, after the funeral, get pictures out of grandpa and show them to the kids. Talk about stories you remember. At some point, the kids will start asking questions. That's how you help them figure it out.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Las Vegas on

My daughter has attended several funerals.

Kindergarten - Great grandmother. She visited her while she was ill and then went to the church service and went along to spread the ash. She kind of said eww. As well, she went to the repass.

Kindergarten - My cousin. She went to the church/mass and to the funeral.

2nd grade - My niece. She was there for everything and closed the casket with the funeral director.

The hardest one for her was my niece. She was at an age where she understood a little more and there was a little more connection.

I think it is good to include them, but not a must.



answers from New York on

My youngest was 6 when my mother died. It never occurred to me not to bring him to the funeral service. He knew my mother, he knew that she died and there was no reason for him not to be there. If he had asked not to go, I would have respected his feelings. I would leave it up to the children, and if they wish to go to the service, perhaps bring a caregiver so that if there's any reason that they want to step out, somebody can take them. I attended my first funeral at age 7.

BTW, kids that age CAN understand death. I was 21 months old when my father died. When I was little and people tried to tell me that my father was in heaven or my father was away, my mother corrected them immediately and said that he was dead. For as long as I can remember, even at preschool age, I knew that dead meant not coming back, EVER.

So sorry for your family's loss!



answers from St. Louis on

100% take them to the entire memorial AND social.

This is how they learn to accept & adapt. Sheltering them only prolongs the process, quite often creating issues as they mature.

I grew up attending funerals. My sons, too. It was a very proud Mom Moment when my sons, at age 12 & 21, offered their help as pallbearers for their beloved Gma's funeral.....& then 9 months later, again for their Gpa's funeral. Very very proud that my sons accept death as part of Life.

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