Can a 6 year old handle a funeral?

Obviously related to the CT shootings. Do you think the victims’ classmates could emotionally/intellectually understand the funeral?

My sons were 6 and 4 when my mother-in-law died. Intellectually, they understood Grandma’s body was in the coffin and she wasn’t coming back. Mostly they were bored. But, once the coffin began to be lowered into the ground, they both freaked out and got scared to the point that I had to take them back to the car to calm down. All they wanted to do was leave. I think that was when the finality of the situation really hit them. We stayed at the car until my wife and in-laws finished.

A memorial service, yes. An actual funeral, with a dead body, no. Especially if it’s an open casket.

I remember when my aunt died. My cousin and his wife brought their six-year-old, and his plaintive cry ripped out the guts of everybody attending: “Why isn’t Grandma moving?”


VOW-On reading your post, that’s probably the best course of action.

I have a not-overly-sensitive, pretty mature six year old and I would say he may be able to handle a funeral in general, especially that of an elderly relative.

The funerals of these kids is going to be something else entirely. Not only have the classmates already undergone unimaginable trauma, but the atmosphere of these funerals is going to be absolutely heartbreaking. I can’t imagine being in the position of these parents, but I don’t think my child would be able to come even close to handling this.

I think it really depends on the child, and how well the parent(s) explain death and wakes to the child beforehand.

My daughter was ‘best buddies’ with her great-grandmother. My daughter would spend time with her almost everyday after school for almost a year. They watched Nick Junior together, played together, and made tea and cookies together. They were really a pair, and I’m forever grateful they had that time together. Grandma passed away when my daughter was 5 1/2.

I sat her down, explained to her what had happened, and where Grandma now was (in heaven with Great-Grandpa), and she was no longer sick and in no more pain. I gave my daughter the white bengal tiger stuffed animal (a gift for Grandma from her son) that she loved to play with, it was a comfort to her to hold.

I explained to her about the wake, what it looks like, and what we do there. I explained that while Grandma’s body was there, her soul was in heaven now with God*.

She asked a few questions, and I gave her honest answers at her level.

I asked her if she wanted to go say good-bye to Grandma, and she said yes.

We went to the wake before visiting hours (a friend of the family owned the funeral home) and we went in alone.

I held her (she had the tiger with her), and she looked at her Great-Grandmother for a moment and asked, “She doesn’t hurt anymore?”

I told her no. I watched her as a tear streamed down her cheek, ready to take her out, but she said, “Great-Grandma told me she was tired of her boo boos in her knees.”

I was the one who had to fight back the tears. I asked her if she would like to pray, and she did. I told her she could do it silently if she wanted, and she did.

It was a difficult day for us all, but my daughter, in her own way, understood what happened, and that it was ok. Oh she cried, and we talked and hugged.

Years later in her teen years, we had talked about that day, and she thanked me for letting her say goodbye to Great-Grandma.

She’s 20 now, and she still has the bengal tiger stuffed animal on the top shelf of her book case with a picture of her Great-Grandma.

I’m not sure how she would have handled a death of a classmate or friend however - that may have been too much - I grieve for those parents and kids.

  • I know some don’t believe, to each their own. The few years she had of parochial school and what we taught her was a huge help and while we don’t preach from the mountain-tops, there are moments such as these where He really comes through and I’m thankful for it.

Dammit, you’re making me tear up!

My answer is about like yours - depends on the kid, depends on their relationship to the deceased, depends on the event. IMHO the funeral of someone they weren’t very close to and/or the death of a pet is a good way for kids to learn about death. Not fun, but part of being alive.

I have no idea how to handle the situation in CT - I don’t think I’d want a little kid at the horrible mass funeral that’s going to be, but I also think funerals are important as a marker that officially moves the deaths to ‘past’ instead of ‘happening now’. What a nightmare.

I went to my Grandmother’s funeral a few months before I turned 7. There was a furious debate between my parents(divorced) as to whether I should go. I am glad to this day 35 years later.

That said there needs to be very serious and clear conversation about what to expect and what it all means. IMHO a parent would know from the convo if the child was ready


One of my early and most vivid memories is of a funeral and burial. I was 4. More recently (a couple years ago) I was with my ex’s then-5-year-old nephew at his grandfather’s funeral and burial. That same boy, later in the same year, attended services for a classmate and good friend of his (age 5) who was killed in a tragic accident. He handled it all very well and is a happy and healthy kid, who happens to have more than a passing familiarity with death.

The amount of understanding a child of around that age will have both depends on the child and on the amount of information the adults around him provide. I don’t see any sound reason to conceal the reality and aftermath of death from young children. It’s a part of life, and IME those who don’t gain some familiarity with it at a younger age are harder-hit by it when their first time is as an adult.

One of them? Maybe.

Twenty of them? Oh god. I can’t even think about it.

I went to my great-grandmother’s funeral when I was 3 or 4. My mother actually picked me up so I could see her and had me kiss her goodbye. :eek::eek::eek::eek::eek::eek::eek::eek::eek::eek::eek::eek::eek::eek::eek::eek::eek::eek::eek::eek::eek::eek::eek::eek::eek::eek::eek::eek::eek::eek::eek:
I can still remember exactly how cold & dead she felt (BTW this is one of my memories of her) and still wonder what the fuck Mom was thinking. She also denies ever doing this.

I kissed my dead baby brother goodbye when I was 4. Yeah, it was weird I guess, but what is really weird is how completely removed the last few generations of Americans have become from every aspect of death. Seeing, touching, and saying goodbye to the cold dead body of a loved one is totally normal and healthy in most of the cultures that have ever existed. It’s certainly not by nature traumatic for the living.

OOh, I just wrote a paper on this.

Western culture is now in an “invisible” death as a good death phase. Meaning, the best death possible for one to have is where they don’t know (or at least act like they know)they’re dying. We try to become as removed from death as possible.

We can even hear this in our sayings, things like “he died in his sleep” and we try not to talk about death at all, sugar-coating it with things like “he passed on.”

I’d highly suggest Phillipe Aries “Western Attitudes Towards Death” as a horribly interesting read on western society and death for the last thousand years.

The inclination to hide the reality of death from young children seems strange to me. Why wouldn’t you want your child to learn about it as early as possible, since it is a natural and unavoidable thing?

The funerals of 20 classmates with press, etc. though, are a completely different story. That would be way too much for anyone.

I wouldn’t take them to the kids’ funerals.

Otherwise, it does depend on the child. When my youngest kids were five and eight, we took them to their grandfather’s wake, funeral, and cremation. I talked with them about it, and they were surrounded and supported by a massive extended family. In this way they learned how to handle saying good-bye to a loved one.

My nephew handed his grandpa’s fine at age 4. At one point he refused to go on kissing the kind of relatives who think “kiss auntie!” means “let auntie smoosh you almost flat and cover your face in makeup!”, claiming that the kisses factory was closed.

Depending on the child, going to the funeral of another child (or of several classmates) can be a good way to help explain about death, or a horrible experience. I hope the parents of the kids will know their kids well enough to decide correctly.

Agreed. My grandpa died when I was 6 and you bet your ass I was at the wake and funeral. I think “shielding” kids by keeping them away from funerals is bizarre and can ultimately do more harm than good.* I was very sad that grandpa was gone, but also fascinated when I was up at the casket. I distinctly remember touching his hand and it feeling so cold. I had a strange understanding that it wasn’t really grandpa anymore, which was scary but also good (he had a slow death from black lung and I knew he hadn’t felt good in a really long time).

  • The parents of one of my best friends in high school did this and then when she was an older child/teen, there weren’t any deaths close to her. So when a classmate of ours killed herself our senior year (our entire grade went to the funeral), she freaked.the.fuck.out. Not acting hysterically or anything, but she had no clue how to process anything death or funeral related and couldn’t grok that a lot of the emotions are normal for the occasion. She was incredibly stressed and panicky. I felt so bad for her. :frowning: She ended up gripping my arm for the entire funeral mass and petting my sweater sleeve (it was soft chenille :p). At the end I had a small bare patch of sweater and there was a little pile of fluffy fiber on the pew, heh.

I lost two of my great-grandparents when I was young, and then a little later my Nanny. I remember their funerals, and kissing them goodbye. It was really nice. I loved them, I was sad they died, but I also knew that that is how it works. We talked about it all loads.

The most traumatic thing about it all was the Catholic service, in which we had to say “through my most grievous fault”. Luckily my papa had seen this coming and we had talked about how people believe silly things and to take no notice, even though adults say it too. And to certainly not say that, as nothing was my fault!

To this day I like funerals. I know that sounds weird, but you’re saying goodbye and it can be really nice to be together and celebrate someone’s life. We just celebrated the life of my Grandpa recently and it was beautiful. We all sang his favourite hymns and got sloshed on his favourite champagne afterwards, all talking about what a great man he was! Great time! :slight_smile: I was really, really upset that I couldn’t attend the funeral of my Grandfather-in-law recently. You need sharing and celebration of someone’s life, and I’m grateful I learned that when I was young. I understood that being sad is OK, that can be part of celebrating how great someone was and how much you loved them.

Of course, for those poor children burying all their friends and siblings it will be a different matter. I hope the parents receive some information on what might be advisable in dealing with the situation. I just hope they get the opportunity to be sad, to say goodbye and to be glad for the life they did have.

I’m afraid that in this case, if it were my child who might or might not be attending the funeral of classmates, there’s no way in hell I’d let my child go. The emotions there are going to be running HIGH and the media will be relentless. This is not a “say goodbye to Grandma” funeral–these will be…unreal. No one needs to witness these funerals, least of all a six or seven year old child.

My 10 year old daughter could not handle seeing her great grandmother in an open casket. She spent the entire wake in the lobby with my girlfriend. It depends on the child. But take a 6 year old into the middle of a media shitstorm? Along with the WBC? No thanks.