Just Another Manic Mommy
When is a Funeral Appropriate for a Child?
Dear Manic Mommy: My best friend’s sister just passed away at age 37, leaving two young children behind. My daughter is 11 and wants to go to the funeral. My daughter did not know the woman very well, but is very close to my best friend’s daughter and wants to be at the funeral for her friend. It is going to be an open casket, and my daughter has never been to a funeral before. What do you think I should do?
Manic Mommy: First of all, I’m so very sorry about this tragedy. I hope your friend gets through her loss and that you’re there to help her through it.
I personally would advise she not go to the funeral, and there are a few reasons for this.
My first concern is for your daughter and her well-being. I remember being in fifth grade and just being so scared that I would lose my parents to death. If your daughter were to go to this funeral and see a person she used to know of who was an otherwise healthy vibrant woman and mother, she might begin to wonder if this might happen to her own mother. At the tender age of 11, this is not something a young girl needs to have at the forefront of her mind, wondering, Could this happen to my mother?
The next reason I think she doesn’t need to be there is that it’s probably just too close to home for her introduction to a funeral, and too much of a tragedy. Again, thinking back to the first funeral I attended, which was an open casket – it was the father of one of my parents’ best friends, and he was old and not someone I personally knew. I think the disassociation of not really knowing the person made it easier for me to understand the process of a funeral and what it was like for a family when someone they loved died. Yes, there were tears, but this was an old man and not a young vibrant woman who essentially had her whole life ahead of her. It wasn’t tragic, as what you are describing.
Finally, it sounds as if your best friend will need you during the memorial and service. If you bring your 11-year-old daughter, I am most certain you will spend all of your time focused on your daughter. I am pretty sure she will be crying, shocked and scared at the scenario before her. If you are there helping your daughter, what good will you be for your own best friend who is drowning in the grief of having lost her sister?
Tell your daughter that she is a wonderful caring child for wanting to be there for her friend during her time of sadness, and suggest ways that she can help after the memorial and funeral. Your daughter’s friend will have plenty of family there to be with her and to share in the memory of her loved one.