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Mary M. Wrye
Thank you Lisa for sharing your story. Like Joy, I was struck by the fact that she and her brother got separated from her parents. Funerals are tough to navigate, period. No matter what age, but particularly for a young teenager and it being the first one. Hats off to her for remembering her “church etiquette”. :0) And kudos to her aunt for her love and care at the cemetery. I would have been right there giggling with Lisa and her brother.
#1 – Most of the time I would say that it’s at the parents’ discretion although as we have discussed, parents aren’t always the best judge of that sort of thing. If the children have been close to the person who has died, then I might be inclined to include/encourage them. Otherwise it might just be too confusing. When my mother died, my great niece, Kaitlyn – who was about the age of Lisa in that story – had a difficult time being in the room with the casket during visitation. Kaitlyn’s parents (my nephew is her dad), younger brother, and she would come from Kansas to Kentucky to spend a few days with mom every Christmas and they would talk on the phone/facetime often. So it was tough for Kaitlyn to see her great grandmother in a casket. Her parents allowed Kaitlyn (and Tyler) to come and go out to the hall where there were couches and others milling around as she needed. By the next day – she was able to sit through the funeral with her parents and then say her goodbyes.
#2 – Just acknowledging the child’s anxiety is a sign of paying attention and care. Asking the kids to tell me about this person… what do you like best? And yes, I still use present tense verbs. To me shifting to past tense verbs feels a little dismissive. It may still be the best thing they like about the person. The person will always be their grandparent, aunt/uncle, mom/dad… whoever. That doesn’t stop just because the person has died. I still have a dad – he just isn’t living any more. So to say… what IS your favorite thing about this person? Rather than WAS your favorite thing acknowledges the fact that it really IS their favorite thing… and always will be. And to say to the kids “I don’t know her like you do – tell me about her”? gives them a chance to go any direction they need to.
#3 – Funeral directors are often not present when that “take one last look” kind of thing happens. But I would say – paying attention to the reaction of the kids and then stepping in if need be. One of the funeral homes in this area adopted an emotional support dog. It just wonders the funeral home giving comfort as needed. It really helps with the kids.
#4 – I will follow the direction of Joy. She has good advice. Thanks Joy!