Should Young Children Attend Funerals?

A teacher attended a 10-year-old student's funeral and shared some thoughts on the topic.

Reddit user 'Throwaway19995674', an art teacher, wanted to get a few thoughts out there about a recent open casket funeral he or she had attended for a 10-year-old student who died by suicide.

The student who died was very well-liked by her peers and did not leave a note or clues as to why she took her own life.

The students were coping with her death as best they could at school once whey found out about the news. But during the funeral, some (4th or 5th grade) students started to show up and that's when the teacher wondered if it was a good idea for children that young to attend an open casket funeral. The teacher noted that there were students 'curled up in corners just sobbing.' At that moment, the mystery teacher also started to cry with them.

Here was the mystery teacher's Reddit post:

"Today I went to the wake of my 10 year old student who committed suicide

It's been a rough week. Over winter break, one of the nicest 5th grade students we had decided to commit suicide. She didn't leave a note, didn't tell anyone she was going to do it, and no one knows why. She was not bullied and was very well liked at school and her parents could be strict but are very loving. (Edit: What I mean is, she was a kid who does get punished when she does wrong, but also praised relentlessly when she did right. In this day and age parents are constantly letting their kids get away with everyone -- my student did not, but her parents also loved her and constantly talked about how amazing she was. While true, we do not know what went on at home, it appears to everyone who knows the family including some staff who were very close that the family were not unkind.) We all found out this past weekend and the kids have been alright about it at school. I'm the art teacher so I saw her once or twice a week depending, and have been her art teacher for three years.

I didn't really cry. I'm not the most empathetic person. I recognize a situation is sad but it's rare for something to effect me emotionally a great deal. As the week went on it was on the back of my mind constantly... Mostly just trying to understand it, and feeling sorry for her classroom teacher and friends who were close.

Today after school was the wake, and all the teachers who knew her went. It was an open casket and I was getting teary eyed. Then her classmates started showing up and that was horrible. I wish the parents had kept them home to be honest, no ten year old should see their friend in a casket. All of the kids know she killed herself too, despite us trying to keep that private. The kids are all crying and that's when I started to really feel it. I overheard one student say "We all loved her so much, why did she do this?". There were kids curled up in corners just sobbing. One girl came up to me and just latched onto me and cried.

I finally let loose and cried my eyes out the entire 45 minute drive back home. I feel so incredibly sad for these children who lost their friend. No ten year old should lose a friend but it's even worse that they know she chose to take her own life and they'll never know why. This has all been so traumatic for them and it hurts me a lot.

Tomorrow is her actual funeral and a lot of teachers who had her before are taking the day off to go, including two of the 5th grade teachers. I am not, because I guess I'd like to be at the school for those kids. It might be hard for them with their classroom teacher gone and it might make them feel better to see at least one of their teachers they know at school. But I'm also scared that tomorrow will be a hot mess.

Don't really know what the point of my rant is. Just wish I could wrap my head around this."

Should young children attend funerals?

One woman wrote about her experience when bringing her children to their uncle's funeral and stated that her children helped to bring the sounds of laughter while they were playing and sneaking cookies to each other during the funeral service. Their presence helped other family members smile that day. Her children had also learned about family connections beyond their own immediate family and a lesson in sympathy.

Although death is a hard topic to talk about with anyone, not talking about it does more harm than good according to therapists.

Kate Zera Kray, a social worker and psychotherapist, recommends telling young children directly and honestly about what happened to their loved one instead of sugar coating it (don't say "Grandpa is just sleeping," say "Grandpa's heart stopped beating"). What can happen is that some children will take it literally and may be afraid to go to sleep thinking that there's a chance that they too won't wake up. Obviously you'll have to talk about it in a way that's appropriate depending on your child's age. It's nice to keep the reason simple and not too detailed so that they don't become overwhelmed about it. Honesty is good since you don't want your children growing up later and realizing that you had lied to them about it, which can cause trust issues.

So should you allow young children to attend funerals? There's no right or wrong answer. It's recommended that you should let your children attend the funeral IF they want to. They should not be forced to attend a wake or funeral if they will be upset and are not able to handle it. Respect their boundaries.

Photo: Unsplash

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