When is a Funeral Appropriate for a Young Kid?

A mother seeks advice about whether or not to allow her 11-year-old daughter to attend an open casket funeral.

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?

Signed, Distraught

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.

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0 thoughts on “When is a Funeral Appropriate for a Young Kid?

  1. I respectfully disagree with manicmommy in this case. Sorry, but at 11 years old, a child is able to handle things such as death. And the fact that she didn’t really know the woman who passed away contradicts the first reason given by manicmommy to not take her. I think you should let her attend and be there for her friend.

  2. I remember my first funeral as a 5 yr old kid. It was for my great grandmother that had been in a nursing home for many years and we visited from time to time but I was far from close to her. It prepared me a little better for what was to come when others that I was close to died. My next funeral was when I was 8 and my aunt died at 24 years old. I was glad that I had an idea of what to expect before attending visitation and the funeral.

    Going to funeral for someone that your daughter doesn’t know too well while being given the opportunity to help a friend who is mourning might be really positive for your daughter. It might also prepare her for if the next funeral is someone shes close to.

    In my opinion if she wants to go and is mature enough to handle it I’d let her go. You will be able to help her through the process because I’m sure your best friend will have other family to help her through this tough time.

    Just my two cents.

  3. I think it is important to not shelter children, when I was five my cousin who was two die in a swimming pool. If my parents would have taken me i would have never understand, children need to learn and grow by 11 i had lost 3 cousins and alot of old people death is a natural part of life, we will all die.

  4. I just took my three and a half year old to his grandfather’s funeral 6 weeks ago, and he will be going to the second service tomorrow. My son also went to hospice to say good bye to his grandfather. I felt it was important for him to be involved with the whole process even if he doesn’t understand it at this moment, maybe it will help him later.

    I think at 11 years old, your daughter is old enough to be there for your her best friend, if that’s ok with your friend. We all have to learn about death sometime, and it’s a little bit easier when it’s not someone we were close to, as the ladies above me pointed out.

    Good luck!

  5. I disagree. I don’t think any age is too young for a funeral. In America everyone is so afraid of death, wanting to shield everyone from it. Everyone dies. And the younger you can learn to handle it and deal with it the better. 11 is more than enough years on earth to be able to handle funerals.

    I was 7 years old when a grandmother died. I was 10 years old when my own father died. I was 12 years old when a grandfather died. I’ve been to other funerals and wakes along the years. While of course I’m not glad I had funerals to go to, I’m glad I was never sheltered from the reality of death.

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