Grief/Last Words

How and When Should Children Attend Funerals

“We know our loved one is resting in the best place possible – – Jonesville Cemetery.” [Lot Owner]
“Thank you for your many kindnesses to us as we have mourned the loss of our child. Your thoughtful sentiments are very comforting to us.” [Lot Owner]

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The Directors of the Jonesville Cemetery fully appreciate the journey everyone travels at the time of the loss of a loved one, as their own loved ones rest in this quiet place. We all find comfort and strength in memories, in religious beliefs and traditions, in family members and friends, in professional counselors, and in our own reading.

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Grief and Loss (American Association of Retired Persons). Provides lots of details offering emotional, legal, and financial advice.

Medline Plus (U.S. National Library of Medicine and National Institutes of Health). Provides many links on bereavement, assisting others, and much more.

Review by Reeve Lindbergh, Published: January 6, 2012, Washington Post, of Roger Rosenblatt’s Kayak Morning, as he deals with the passing of his 38 year old daughter.

He confesses that his grief “colors everything I do.” He fears that his mind is “not right.” He addresses his thoughts to his dead daughter, sometimes talking and remembering (“You were a disruptive influence,”“You hated the cold”), sometimes crying out to her (“Look. I’ve been calling your name.”). He recounts conversations with a therapist friend about his daughter. When he told the doctor simply, “I want her back,” the doctor replied, “You’ll have to find a way to get her back.”

Comfort from a Child

Author and lecturer Leo Buscaglia, once talked about a contest he was asked to judge. The purpose of the contest was to find the most caring child. The winner was:

A four-year-old child whose next door neighbor was an elderly gentleman, who had recently lost his wife. Upon seeing the man cry, the little boy went into the old gentleman’s yard, climbed onto his lap, and just sat there. When his mother asked him what he had said to the neighbor, the little boy just said, “Nothing. I just helped him cry.”

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What to Say: A writer to the Ask Amy column in 2015 shared her comments about what to say to someone who is grieving:
Dear Amy: After my son died, I appreciated these simple words: “I am so very sorry for your loss.” Followed by something simple like, “He had the greatest smile.” Anything beyond that was too much. Don’t say something philosophical like, “God needed him in heaven.” Don’t ask how the grieving person is doing. That question requires a response that is too hard to make. —Grieving Mother.

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How and When Should Children Attend Funerals?

Funerals are a time we gather to honor a person’s life and to mark his or her passing. Attending a funeral helps people experience their loss with community support, and begin the transition to living without a loved one. Even though it may be difficult and painful, this participation helps grieving people, whether adults or children.

Each child is unique, with individual worries and abilities to handle social interactions. Therefore, while encouraging a child to attend a funeral, give a genuine choice about attending. It may be appropriate to allow for some options, such as attending a private family time at the funeral home before the service begins.

Here are some things to keep in mind when talking to children about funerals:

  1. Give children specific information about what they will see at the funeral. Tell them where the funeral will take place, what the room will look like, who will be coming, how long the service is likely to take, etc.
  2. Let children know that people attending the funeral will show many different emotions and may express them intensely. People may be upset, and it is good for people to express these feelings. Also, let the child know that people may smile, laugh and enjoy remembering good and funny things about the loved one who died.
  3. Let children know that funerals are important. They are a place for people to come together in their sadness over a loss. They also honor the life of the person who died and affirm that life goes on.
  4. Funeral homes will usually accommodate allowing children to visit before the funeral with only a few close caring adults. This may allow the children to feel more comfortable and give them a chance to talk more freely and ask questions.
  5. Try to provide for the child to have a close person to be available just to them at all times during the funeral process. This person needs to be a caring presence, able to focus on the child.
  6. Recognize that children often experience short bursts of emotion. They are impacted by loss, but outward signs of their grief will come and go. Allow for the full range of emotions in children, including happiness, playfulness, sadness and anger.
  7. Give the children a choice about whether to view the body. Children often have no innate fear about the body, and seeing the body provides a chance to say goodbye and make the loss more real.
  8. Listen to what children say and watch what they do. It is important to let children express what losing their loved one is like for them.
  9. Provide the child with life affirming messages. Even though loss is painful, life continues.

The Community Hospice, Inc.
Editor of this page: Ed Hughes