Christ, that’s probably the most depressing title for a blog post I’ve ever written, but it’s a question I found myself asking last week.  *pours a double vodka*

 

I had mentioned that my Uncle Tony sadly passed away two weeks ago and I felt it only right that I paid my respects and went to his funeral, even though it was a five hour drive away.  My family and I had decided to stay overnight as it was so far away and I didn’t want to leave Dexter behind.

 

I had never taken Dexter to a funeral before and, unfortunately, there have been a few since he was born (including my Mum’s,) but at eight years old, was he now old enough to cope?

 

I don’t think what I decided is the right or wrong answer because there are so many factors to take into account:   a child’s age, available support, the child’s character.

 

The determining factor for me, apart from what type of person Dexter is, is what type of person my Uncle was.   He was a bloody ray of sunshine that bloke and, granted, I didn’t live with him, (and we all know how different it is living with someone 24/7!) but I just knew that as poignant and sad as the funeral would be, it would also be filled with a lot of laughter.

 

And, I was right.

 

I had explained to Dexter beforehand that we were all sad and that he would see some people cry, but that actually, a funeral was our way of saying goodbye.  It would give us all a chance to think about what a nice person Uncle Tony was.

 

Dexter was a superstar.  He coped brilliantly and was pretty much just uber excited about staying in a Travelodge.  He even managed with the tragic news that … breakfast wasn’t included.

 

I was glad I took him.  It’s a fact of life that these days, we just don’t see my extended family unless it’s at a wedding or funeral – and I ain’t get married any time soon … CLEARLY!  So Dexter got to see Uncle Ken, and Uncle Mike … cousins Rosie, Matt, Dan, Manda, Lee and Paul.  He got to give Auntie Sandra a much needed cuddle and made pretty much everyone smile.

 

It was the right thing to do … for us.

 

 

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Published by Kate Sutton

Writer, Mother, Dater.

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27 Comments

  1. Im glad you decided to. I do agree it’s a personal choice but at the age of 11 I wasn’t allowed to go to my brother’s funeral and I think I still feel I haven’t “tied” up his story in my head because of that. Children are much better than we think they’ll be at these sorts of things.
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  2. I would just expect children to be at a relatives funeral. In Ireland anyway, the whole family goes. A young baby perhaps would be left with someone. But its sort of the done thing. I don’t think there is the same sort of taboo about things like death, funerals and wakes here.
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  3. I think that it is good for children to be exposed to some of the realities of life. Too much these days they live in a cocoon of protection, which just compounds the shock of the harsh world when they are finally exposed to it as young adults. Good for you Kate making this choice. Condolences on the loss of your uncle.

  4. Tragically, both my daughter’s Godmothers died within five years of her being born. They were my wife’s closest friends, and both died of cancer. Our daughter was only two when Annette died, but she was five when Jan died and we took her – along with her seven year old elder brother – to the funeral.

    Did we think long and hard about it? No – we never considered not taking them. It was a long drive, and like you, we stayed overnight – we actually took them to the first Harry Potter film the night before the funeral. The children were fine with it – we explained everything, they understood what was happening and having them there was a huge comfort to my wife.

    I’d say, “When in doubt, take your children to a funeral.” Explain to them what’s happening and be fairly adult about it. They’ll surprise you by how much they understand, and how appropriately they act.

  5. I had never been to a funeral until a few years ago, when my husband’s grandfather died (I’m 40!). I can’t bear the idea of going to a funeral and seeing people crying, without being able to do anything to help them. When I was a child there were a few tragic deaths (not of old age) in my family. I remember being asked if I wanted to go but I refused. Even as a teenager, I made excuses why I couldn’t go. I know one day I will have to attend a funeral of a close family member, but it terrifies me. I think children should be given the choice. In my case I chose not too.
    21st Century Mummy recently posted..Life is cruelMy Profile

  6. I agree that it’s a personal choice and one which completely depends upon the circumstances surrounding the funeral and also whose it is! I think that if it’s not a close relative, one that you aren’t going to be overwhelmed with grief and can answer any of the child’s questions, then it would be a good (?) ‘introduction’ to the experience. If it was someone in my immediate family then I don’t think I could do it because I think I’d be so preoccupied with my own grief that I’m not sure I could help my child. Christ, that sounds selfish doesn’t it? But do you know what I mean?
    TheBoyandMe recently posted..Pink Lining At The MADs (Review)My Profile

    1. I know exactly what you mean! It’s what I was trying to get at but failed really – but you’re right … I wouldn’t have been ‘equipped’ to look after a child at my mum’s funeral.

  7. I lived with my grandparents a lot when I was little and we went to about 10 funerals. Because they lacked babysitting services or whatever, they took me along. Going to funerals helped me understand what happened at a funeral–I know that sounds so practical, but it meant that when I got to a funeral that really, deeply affected me, my grandma’s, I wasn’t at all scared or worried about the process (the unknown can add a layer of stress, can’t it?) I just let the process carry me forward while I expressed my grief.

    It was also reassuring to see how people gathered round a family. And to listen to people telling stories about their experiences with the departed was a wonderful carrying on of oral tradition–learning young how to do this is important for families.

    Even if the child doesn’t really know the person, overall it’s probably good to bring them!
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    1. Thanks for commenting. I think your second point is so true – to see how a family can gather round each other in moments of sadness and tell happy stories about the departed … priceless.

  8. We’re I’m from (Trinidad & Tobago), funerals are just a normal part of life and children & babies naturally go with their parents and walk past the open casket. My parents never made a big deal out of it and I think I developed a healthy attitude towards death as a result. I was so surprised on moving here to meet people who’d never been to a funeral.
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    1. It’s interesting how different countries handle the whole ‘death’ thing differently. It’s still quite taboo here I think and I suppose that’s partly why I took Dexter – just to show him it’s not something to be feared.

  9. It’s a hard one but life isn’t all roses and chocolates is it? Sounds like you handled it right. My two are 18 & 16 and have not been to one yet. They were too young to remember the loss of one grandparent otherwise the nearest they’ve come to a funeral is 2 hamsters and a dog. I think the next 10 years is going to be a hard decade for them in terms of loss

    1. But losing pets is still a step towards learning about death isn’t it. Only time I’ve ever seen my Dad cry was when his greyhound died! I don’t think there’s ever a ‘good’ age to ever go to your first funeral.

  10. Thanks for posting this. It is something I have been meaning to blog about for a while.

    You are right, it is a personal choice and up to the families involved. Only you can know what is right for all concerned.

    My three have lost too many people, included a very close friend of theirs, their half brother and their uncle.

    My feeling has always been that it is right that children see us upset and grieving. It is okay to cry and be sad.

    And also that the children, too, have a right to say goodbye to somebody who was a part of their lives too. For me that is vital to help them with their grieving and would suggest that all children attend funerals. Obviously within reason.

    RIP Tony, he sounds like like one of life’s good uns.

    1. Thanks for commenting. Losing people is awful but I think we need to let our children know that saying goodbye will be sad but that we will move forwards and be ok, but that saying goodbye is part of life.

  11. Really interesting, thanks Kate. I wrote a post earlier this week about talking about death as my Nan has gone into a hospice so we will be facing this soon and dh has already said he will give JJ the choice to come to the funeral. The thing he needs to think through is whether he can deal with seeing his Nanny (who he absolutely adores) breaking her heart crying, as I am pretty sure she will.

    I suppose at least dh will be there to look after him and I can look after my Mum.

    We’ll see…..

    Mich x
    michelle twin mum recently posted..Design the new pig for NatWest – #PidsByKids Children’s competitionMy Profile

    1. Sorry to hear about you Nan Mich. When it’s that close a relationship I guess it does take more thought – but I personally feel at this age they’re more able to cope than we think. Either way, sending love x

  12. Hi,

    This really struck a chord with me as I once had a falling out with the OH about whether to take a 2-year old to a funeral. It was a bad decision and we were slightly bullied into it by other family members. Not a mistake I will make again. I think the call is on the individual child and whether they can understand enough for it to work. At the same funeral another of the ‘wives’ took a strong stance that her two were too young (but old enough to be frightened) and chose not to attend as she had no childcare for them. They are still dealing with the political fallout two years later. Families can be tough…

    TiS x
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