My father-in-law passed on very unexpectedly yesterday after suffering a massive heart attack the day prior. My 6 yr old daughter was very close to her Grandpa, although we lived about 2 hrs away. Still, he douted on her!
She’s handling this well so far, but the funeral service and burial are still to come. I always felt as a kid that I wanted to be included, even at that young age. I had a high-sense of awareness, perhaps, having two older sisters and a family active in the community. In my own little way, I had an undestanding of life’s realities.
But I lack the experience of a close relationship with (geographically close) my relatives.
I am torn as others argue have a good argument to the other contrary. (The funeral is closed-casket, by the way.) And, should she ride in the limo? Assuming they’ll allow a car seat placed in the limo, my wife argues “yes” wanting us all to be togther. As an alternative, I could drive behind the limo with our little one.
So, how much would you expose her to? She is very sharp, highly observant, and doesn’t forget a thing! I want her to know his is a part of life, but I don’t want to scare or scar her. She is a very caring, sensitive child; yet, seemingly stronger and certainly not shy - as I was as a child. Yet, she is very compassionate, too.
(If this is any gauge to judge, I was very timid, shy, and a compassionate child - easily frightened and/or moved to tears as a boy. I survived - growing into a very understanding and sympathetic, “people-person”. But again, my life has been full of hardships molding me into understanding people and rooting for the underdog. I’m that person people turn to with their problems for sound advice …even back in elementary school!)
So, what would you do?
Good discussion at this recent thread may help.
Another couple of thoughts:
If there is no pressing need and no interfering family members there is no reason that the funeral has to be rushed through as quick as possible. This means that you can have a bit of thinking space.
When judging how to deal with children’s “problems” take your lead from the child. There is plenty of evidence that children’s poor outcomes from traumatic events are created by adult intervention. My feeling would be that, if I had enough time to let her understand the social aspects and no direct family objected, I would let her be as involved as she wants. Hell, I’d let her deliver the eulogy if she understood what she was doing and no-one else cared. I may edit it though.
Will there be other kids around her age there? That could help. When my grandmother died last fall, my sister (8 years old) spent most of the time except for the actual service playing with her cousins, which I think helped.
My grandfather died (not particularly suddenly – he had several heart attacks in a row and was in the hospital for a while) when I was six years old. I wouldn’t say he was terribly close to me and I don’t recall a lot about about him, but I do remember horsing around with him a bit. Going to his funeral was not a big deal. It was winter and I remember how pretty the trees looked blanketed with fresh snow as we drove out to the cemetery.
I think your daughter will be just fine.
Assuming she’s able to sit quietly for the length of the service:
If she wants to go, take her.
We do funerals because it helps us with the grieving process. She’s having a grieving process, too. In the linked thread, so many people sad they resented being forced to miss close relatives’ funerals. It might be worth recruiting a relative or friend to be available to take her outside during the service if she gets overly upset, but otherwise I see no problem.
As far as the limo question–do what ever you need to do for safety and comfort. Is who rides in the limo and who doesn’t significant in your family? One advantage of not taking her in the limo is that it shortens the amount of time that she has to be on “best behavior.”
I would say if she wants to go, then she goes, and have somebody there who can take her outside or something if she gets overwhelmed.
The first death in my family wasn’t until I was seventeen, but my brother was nine, and as far as I remember it was his choice whether to participate. I think that’s reasonable even with a much younger child, since every kid is different.
I second this advice: If she wants to go, take her. If she doesn’t, don’t. In my family and in my faith, children always go to funerals and there is rarely a question of “will we take them or won’t we.” All the adults I’ve talked to about this in my faith (and family) agree that they are glad they went to funerals as young people. This is just anecdotal, of course, but in my observation it makes people more comfortable with funerals (as comfortable as one can be) as adults if they have attended them as children.
I’ll third it: If she wants to go, take her. If she doesn’t, don’t. It is her grief too.
My daughter has just turned 8. Even at six I’d certainly have asked her if she wanted to go, and acted on her wishes (with some back-up quiet activites in my bag, like a book or paper and pencils). But I would explain the process, stages and expected behaviour to her. We know, we’ve been, we’ve seen it on TV. KIds usually haven’t and their guesses can terrrify them.
If a cremation, I’d say what happens, why, and the fact that the coffin disappears behind a curtain - you don’t see it incinerated. Or if a burial, whether it is a graveside service or whether the service happens at one place and then the burial at another. That the coffin goes into the ground, and the earth will go on top. Also, whether she can or should put something on the coffin, maybe a photo or a farewell note, or whether that isn’t done in your religion.
I am sure my daughter would be eased by feeling she had participated, probably by writing a note and doing a drawing about how she felt and to say goodby.
Your child’s MMV, but I’d ask her.
I’m missing the problem. Both you and your wife instinctively want to include her. She is probably growing up with your (combined) sensitivities. I attended my grandfather’s funeral (both wake and actual service) at age 5. I would think the only person who should be able to veto your daughter’s attendance would be your daughter (in which case I would avoid forcing her or laying any guilt trips on her).
I’d make some preparation in case she got overwhelmed (or fidgety), but I would not expect that to actually happen. Does your wife have so many sibs that there is going to be contention for seating in the limo? If that is the case, you might want to drive separately “just to give them room” to be together. (This is the sort of little thing that gets blown up into decades-long family feuds and giving a little bit now can avoid a lot of future grief, but if there is plenty of room and an in-law is just uncomfortable at having your daughter ride along, I would base my decision on whether your daughter might be unable to hold still for the ride.) Riding in the limo has never been an issue in my family, but everyone is different.
I think 6 is almost the perfect age to learn about death. Much younger and it just doesn’t register, much older and it really hurts. Six is that magical age of learning, accepting, questioning but not judging.
Much of the service will float over the head of your little one. All she needs to know is that she is there to say goodbye to grandpa.
You need to be there to support your wife. Is there anyway you can arrange to have a good friend (but not close relative) sit nearby? Your little one will get something from the ceremony (and I am sure you will follow up her questions later) but she possibly will not last the whole ceremony.
If she knows she is there to say goodbye to grandpa she will take in as much as she can but if there is someone who can take her outside subtly when she has sat long enough everyone will be happy, you, her and your wife (and her family).
The most important thing is to have a quiet moment after the service…and after doesn’t even have to mean that day. Tell her your beliefs about where Grandpa is, giggle about some good Grandpa times, tell her something special Grandpa once told you about her, remind her of the best time she ever had with Grandpa.
Little people are awfully accepting, if they are given accepting enviroments.
Best wishes to you, your wife and your little one.