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Do Kids Belong at Funerals?

childatfuneralThere was never a question when my grandmother died of NOT taking my daughter to the funeral. She was just shy of three, but this was her great-grandmother’s funeral.

Not having her there would have left me feeling even more bereft . . . as if that was possible in those days after losing one of my favorite people. So I was surprised to get to the church and find that not one but two of my cousins had left their children home.

One had driven through the night from nine hours away, leaving her kids home with her husband. The other left his son with his mother-in-law just a few miles away. They each had their own reasons; they just weren’t mine.

So I was heartened to read the Child Care advice columnist over at Boston.com’s moms blog admitting this isn’t a black or white issue:

“Not that many years ago, children were kept from funerals and burials. The theory was that it was more than they could handle emotionally. That’s been debunked, though, as researchers and clinicians came to realize that those children felt they had been excluded from the family and cut off from their own grieving process,” says Barbara F. Meltz.

My daughter saw me at my most raw, sobbing uncontrollably in the hospital emergency room as my grandmother lay hooked up to machines. For that matter, she saw my grandmother like that.

But to me it was part of the process. It was real life, and I couldn’t hide it from her. Literally, I couldn’t if I’d wanted to – the bulk of my family was at the hospital with me, the others out of town and on their way. The only “non-related” related people (my in-laws) were nine hours away.

Ditto the funeral. We were all there, uncles, cousins, second cousins, great-aunts . . . and to me it seemed fitting that my daughter be there too. This was her great-grandmother too, and this was her chance to say goodbye – even if she didn’t know exactly what she was doing there. Because when she asked – albeit progressively less as time went on – where GG was, I could remind her of the events that had passed. And she would nod, and get back to things.

It’s been hardest seeing her get back to it all, harder still knowing that she doesn’t grasp who GG was anymore. I saw my great-uncle, my grandmother’s brother, this week, and when I tried explaining to my daughter how he was related, I got a blank look. I sighed and changed tacks. Instead of, your GG’s brother, I tried, “That’s Opa’s uncle, so he’s Mommy’s uncle too, and your uncle.” That she could understand.

I haven’t taken my daughter to the funerals of non-relatives, places where I feel her questioning and squirming would be out of place, where she has no part in the grieving process. But I think family funerals are for family – and that includes my daughter.

Do you take your kids along?

Image: eHow

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