Should my child see my nana or grandad in their casket?
We believe that given a chance, our little ones can teach US about death. Their innocence and honesty mean they can ask simple and direct questions or make observations that can certainly make us adults reflect on the complexities of life and death.
Children tend to express their emotions more openly, and relate well to the simple words of mad, sad, glad, or bad. our team knows that children grieve honestly and want to take an active part in a funeral process – this can allow us to reflect on how honestly, we grieve too.
We have found that open conversations with little children about death are the most productive. How about instead of telling a child that “Grandad is just sleeping” maybe consider simply saying that “the doctor couldn’t make their body work anymore, and that death means his heart won’t go again.” Christianity and spiritual beliefs can also be explained at this time, and separate the physical death from the soul, or spirit.
Our little ones may show acceptance more quickly than adults do. This can come across as potentially harsh, simplistic, or even not realise the reality; but let’s look at it another way: that children can live in the moment, so maybe as adults, we can do this a little more too.
Children can serve as a poignant reminder of the circle of life. Their birth and growth can contrast with the passing of older generations, which can emphasize the connection between generations. Funerals allow children to be passed the ‘baton of generations’ and understand their place in their family. They learn that we honor those who have gone before us. They learn that they are parts of all those who have loved them before, and that love is worth remembering.
Exposing our children to a bereavement in our family can seem to be full of potential harm, but in fact, we believe that encouraging our children to say farewell in a positive environment will serve well when it comes to our turn to die. If we allow our children to be sad, mad, or even glad, we are allowing them the honesty of life as well as death and the value of saying goodbye.
Children who attend funerals know the value of life and the value of love. They know the value of family and whanau. And that is a beautiful thing.