Children And Funerals/viewing

Lounge By emilykakes Updated 4 Oct 2007 , 8:49pm by mbelgard

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emilykakes Posted 2 Oct 2007 , 12:36am
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My ex-husband's grandmother recently passed away and my ex asked if our son (7 years old) could miss school to attend the funeral. I really didn't think that is was necessary for my son to attend as he hardly knew his great-grandmother. But it seemed to be very important to my ex to have our son present. So I agreed that he could attend the funeral service but I absolutely didn't want him to attend the viewing and my ex agreed with me. son just came home and informed me that he actually went to both. I am really upset right now. I am going to have to wait a few days to calm down before I can confront my ex. I am not really sure what I am more upset about, the fact that my ex went against my wishes or that my son actually went to a viewing. Am I wrong to think this? At what age do you think it is appropriate for a child to attend a viewing and a funeral?

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wonderwoman Posted 2 Oct 2007 , 12:47am
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I think it depends on the maturity of your child and the relationship he had with the deceased. I think 7 is kind of young to attend a viewing. How did your son react? Did he have questions about what he saw? I'd be pretty upset with the ex too, but the fact is, it's done now and of course it's Mom who gets to deal with the fallout. After you calm down a bit, maybe just sit down with him and ask him about and be prepared for some tough questions. I once took my 4 year old to a funeral of a close friend at church, but it was a closed casket service. I explained to him before the service what he would see and what a funeral is. He had a lot of questions for a few days and then it was over.

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jmt1714 Posted 2 Oct 2007 , 1:00am
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I think viewings are horrible and I'm an adult. I just don't understand what the possible need is to have one's last memory or a loved one be after he or she has passed away and been placed in a coffin. Just my personal opinion, but I think it is a horrible custom. I wont' attend them at all - I will go to the funeral, but not to a viewing.

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Katie-Bug Posted 2 Oct 2007 , 1:36am
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I personally like open viewings. I have been to many funerals and I have always seen the bodys. My parents always carried me and my sister with them when they had to go and we may have had a few questions, maybe, but it never bothered either of us.

My nephew was two when he went to his first funeral and he went again this past March. The first time he said Pa is sleeping, sshh. My siter explained to him he wasn't asleep and that Pa was in heaven. She didn't want him to associate sleep and being asleep with people crying. He asked a couple times about Pa and she kept telling him the same thing. Then this past March when our grandfarther died he seemed to understand.

I understand why you are upset about your exposed to something you told his farther not to do. I hope everything works out for you.

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nattyk Posted 2 Oct 2007 , 1:41am
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My mother told me to take my children (not sure what age they were, but young) to a funeral of someone that wasn't very close, explain everything to them because you never knew when they would have to go to someone's that was dear to them. Little did we know that the 2nd funeral they went to was my moms. They accepted everything that I had previously explained, cried because gramma was gone for now, but got through it. I was thankful that I didn't have to do alot of explaining while I was in mourning.

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indydebi Posted 2 Oct 2007 , 2:08am
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I think it's better to educate a child on a funeral at the calling/viewing, than at the actual funeral. The calling/viewing tends to be a little more relaxed; people are visiting more. Kids can gather in the corners of the room on the couches and talk to each other, or hang out outside.

The funeral is very formal ... the actual last step. Everyone is very very upset, crying, quiet. Adults are crying and dealing with their own emotions ... the support that a child may need could be very difficult for the adult to give, since they are dealing with their own grief.

The quiet/crying/upset thing can be disturbing to a child who doesn't understand what's going on. At least by attending the viewings, they get exposed to the body in the casket and the funeral environment.

I would take my children when they were small to the calling but rarely to the actual funeral.

The first real funerals my oldest two children went to were the parents of my ex. I knew my children had to be there (they were about 10 and 16) and we (current hubby and I) sat them down and explained a lot of what they were going to see.

We explained that their bio-dad was going to be very upset and crying ... and that was ok and normal. We explained how they might start to feel upset, and that was normal and ok.

I agree with the above post .... take them to funeral/callings of people they aren't particularly close to, so they don't have their first exposure to someone they ARE close to.

(I may have a more open view on this than some, but when you've worked in a casket manufacturing company, you tend to see it a little more pragmatic.)

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dldbrou Posted 2 Oct 2007 , 2:58am
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I went to my first funeral when I was about 10. It was my grandfather's. He and I were very close and I was not allowed to see him. What was weird was the man driving the care we were in for the funeral ride looked just like my grandfather, just a little younger. Talk about confusing a child. The man driving is my cousin who I had never met before that day. The next funeral was my godmother and I was made to go to the casket. Big mistake for me. Now at the age of 51, everytime I think about my godmother, all I can visualize is her in the casket instead of her sweet smiling face and laugh. When my father died, I could not go up to the casket, but had to stay near it to greet everyone. I just do not like remembering them in the casket. I have told my husband that for my funeral, I want a closed casket. If he has it opened I said I will come back to haunt him. LOL The people around here get really weird about funerals, the want to take their pictures with the dead bodies. I told my husband if they could not take the time to visit me when I was alive, they were not going to see me when I'm dead. Sorry for getting off the subject, but my thoughts are you have every right to be upset. Let your child ask and give him honest answers. He will be able to tell if you are putting him off the answers he needs.

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maryjsgirl Posted 2 Oct 2007 , 4:39am
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My grandfather died this past March. My ten year old was closer to him than my eight year old so I knew he would want to be a part of it. I just asked my eight year old if he wanted to go. I explained to him what it would be like and told him it was his decision. He wanted to go. We come from a close family and I think it was comforting for both of them to be around the whole family to grieve. To see that they aren't the only ones that are sad and crying. To see how we all loved one another.

I honestly don't see the big deal about him going to the viewing. I definitely think the funeral itself is more traumatic than the viewing. Like someone else said the viewing is more laid back. The kids pretty much socialize and hang out. Plus, it's a good time to answer questions they may have that you can't answer during a funeral.

I hope I am not out of line, but you didn't state that your son was upset. You didn't mention any negative reactions from your son at all. So are you sure that this isn't mostly about your ex kind of having the control (for a lack of better term) in this? I know as mothers we want to be there for major experiences that happen in our kid's lives. To be their support system. I know I would have an issue with something that had the possibility of being traumatic for my child being handled...and possibly someone else. And you not wanting him to go to the viewing was your little sense of control in the situation? I kind of got that vibe and I totally feel you, because I would be the same way. If I am off the mark then disregard. icon_redface.gif

I would say give your ex a break, because he did just lose someone. Maybe having your son there was a comfort for him? If you want to call I wouldn't do it in a confronting way. I would just call to ask how things went, if your son asked any questions, if he seemed ok, if he got upset, etc.

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mkerton Posted 2 Oct 2007 , 5:09pm
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My niece turned 6 today and she has been to a number of viewings (wakes) and it has not traumatized her in the least, she understands that people die and go to heaven, she grieves for those who we have lost who are loved ones but she is not afraid of viewing or anything like that..... For most children they are not rooted to the spot at the sight nor do they even pay that much attention, at least at all of the wakes I have been too, for the most part the children gather together and just hang out. My son is 2 and has been to several, obviously he has no concept of what is going on, but its not something that I am going to shelter him from either.

Open caskets dont bother me, and I need that kind of closure.....

my grandma remembers when they laid out loved ones in the home, kids were certainly around that (since it was in their home) and my grandma distictly remembers picking up her infant sister (who had passed) and holding her when no one was looking.... and even that didnt seem to be too tramatic for her.

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adawndria Posted 2 Oct 2007 , 10:05pm
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I went to my grandmother's funeral when I was six, and I just remember running around and playing with my cousins. As an adult I'm more "bothered" by the open casket than when I was a kid.

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Star_dust_girl Posted 2 Oct 2007 , 11:00pm
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I will share this hoping that it helps.
At about 9 yrs old, my great grandmother died. I went to her open casket viewing and my mother made me kiss the body good bye ( yes, my actual lips to the dead grandmother's cheek). It was a bit overwhelming but feeling that the body was cold and hard sure helped me to understand that Great Grandma Sue was no longer there. Since then I have not been afraid of death.

So, that is my take on it. I guess it can go either way. The most important thing now would be to talk to your child and determine if he is upset or not. Leave it an open ended conversation so as feeling come up he can discuss it. Good luck!!!!!!!!!!!!

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shelbur10 Posted 3 Oct 2007 , 12:42am
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It absolutely depends on the child's relationship with the deceased. When my children were 4 and 6, my MIL, who they were very close to, passed away from cancer. They saw her getting progressively sicker. I took them to the viewing, did NOT take them directly to the casket (I gave them the choice) and used that opportunity (BEFORE we went) to explain about how our bodies are still here but our souls move on. I chose not to take them to the funeral and am very glad I didn't because I don't think they would have been able to deal with all the strong emotions from the adults present (myself and DH included). I think it gave them a sense of the finality of death and helped them understand it in a less formal atmosphere.

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-jackie- Posted 3 Oct 2007 , 7:20am
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I don't think ur wrong for being upset. My step dad past away when I was 16, and his family had a viewing... all I can say is that THAT is not the last image I wanted of him, but I can't unsee it. And for younger kids... I just don't think its completely neccisary. icon_sad.gif I dunno when things like that ever become acceptable to a certain person. Everyone is different, and it all depends on how u feel

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mbelgard Posted 3 Oct 2007 , 1:19pm
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I don't think it's too young unless the child is immature for their age.
When my husband's grandpa was dying I took my almost 7 year old to see him while he was in the hospital and they knew he was going (he looked really rough and was out of it) because my child wanted to go. We took both boys to the wake and funeral and they both saw the body, I don't know if the little one understood because he was only 2. My cousin-in-law had her barely 6 year old there viewing the body too.

That same year a couple first graders were killed in an accident and one was in the same class with the 6 year old cousin. I know for a fact that the school psychologist approved of taking those kids to the wake (with parental permission) because they went as a class during the day and that was to view the body of another little kid. I really think that if it was too traumatic for the kids the teachers never would have been allowed to do it.

I have a question though about the funeral and viewing. All of them that I've been to if the casket is open they don't close it for the last time until right before the funeral starts anyway. In our area they have the family come up to view the body one more time before they seal it. Maybe it's just the ones I've been to but I'd think a kid would have a good chance of seeing the body at the funeral anyway from what I've seen, in two different states and not all in one church (lutheran, catholic, fundamentalist and funeral homes). In other areas do they close the casket the night before the funeral? I'd assume as a family member your ex would have gone to the church at least 30 minutes before the funeral started.

And the first funeral I went to I was 9 and I viewed my grandpa's body without traumatic results, I know that my younger siblings did too if they wanted. We didn't go to the visitation the night before though, they found a sitter for us.

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indydebi Posted 3 Oct 2007 , 1:40pm
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Having worked in a casket mfg'r company, I learned alot about funeral customs, and one thing I learned is that the traditions differ from region to region and sometimes from state to state. (The traditions in different countries were the most fascinating part of my job ... I handled the international orders.)

In our area, it is common for the the casket to be open for the viewing and for the entire funeral service. After the service, everyone walks past the casket for one last look, and to give some final condolences to the family, who is sitting on the front row. The funeral directors close the lid after everyone leaves the room. Some consider it too traumatic to watch them "close the lid" on their relative.

I've seen in movies how they will lower the casket into the ground while the family is still there. Again, differs from region to region. In our area, they wait until everyone is gone before they lower the casket.

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mbelgard Posted 3 Oct 2007 , 3:23pm
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During the whole service? I didn't know they did that.

I know that stuff does vary some. The area I live in now has some of the oddest funeral practices, a weird mix of Native American tradition and the Catholic church (my husband is Indian). I know there have been times that I've had no idea what was going on at a funeral and the priests look confused too.

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adven68 Posted 4 Oct 2007 , 12:53pm
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Originally Posted by culinarycreations

I personally like open viewings. I have been to many funerals and I have always seen the bodys. My parents always carried me and my sister with them when they had to go and we may have had a few questions, maybe, but it never bothered either of us.

My nephew was two when he went to his first funeral and he went again this past March. The first time he said Pa is sleeping, sshh. My siter explained to him he wasn't asleep and that Pa was in heaven. She didn't want him to associate sleep and being asleep with people crying. He asked a couple times about Pa and she kept telling him the same thing. Then this past March when our grandfarther died he seemed to understand.

I understand why you are upset about your exposed to something you told his farther not to do. I hope everything works out for you.

This sounds like a very healthy approach.....make it no big deal. My children have yet to attend a wake or funeral (they are five and eight), but we do talk about death and dying regularly, and they know that it's just a part of life and we will all die eventually.

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Newatdecorating Posted 4 Oct 2007 , 12:59pm
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I believe that most of it depends on how the parents handle it. Of course people are going to be upset and crying. That is a part of grieving. Viewings and funerals help with closure.

Children learn from experience. If you act like you are scared or think it is horrible seeing a dead person, more than likely your child is going to grow up with the same feeling.

I have a five year old who attended her grandfather's viewing a couple of years ago. We let her see the body and explained to her the best we could for that age. We do plan for her to attend the funeral of the next closest relative.

I lived in a close community and have attended the same church my entire life. Because of that, I have been to many viewings and funerals and have never had any traumatic experience from it.

The thing that I don't go for is taking pictures of the deceased. I have relatives who do that. I don't care to be looking through a stack of old pictures only to come across one of a person in a casket, which has happened.

Parents should explain what is going on and answer any questions a child has. Sickness and death is something that all of us have in common and is something that will touch our lives.

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darandon Posted 4 Oct 2007 , 1:03pm
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I took my daughter when she was 9 to my father's funeral and calling hours. I felt it was important to teach her about how to handle herself during funerals. I explained about what was going on. I also told her that she did not have to go to the casket if she did not want to. She's 14 now and she still has her "happy" memories of her grandfather.

[quote="emilykakes"]. I am not really sure what I am more upset about, the fact that my ex went against my wishes or that my son actually went to a viewing. /quote]
On the other side of this, they may have been your wishes, but your son is also your ex's son. He does have some say in family matters. If you son doesn't appear to be upset, don't make it a control issue between you and your ex. It might have been comforting for the son to be there. Most times, it is a way for families to get to gether if they haven't seen each other in a while. Funeral for me were the only way I got to see some of my relatives while I was growing up.

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mpitrelli Posted 4 Oct 2007 , 6:10pm
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I felt like you did when my kids were young I did not think that the viewing/funeral was a good place for them. When my Uncle passed away I did not want them to remember their Uncle like that he had cancer and I would not even let them visit him near the end because I wanted them to remember his as he was before. Well when they were in there teens I lost my grandmother and thought they were old enough to handle it now. They had a real hard time dealling with it and my mother forced them to go up to the casket. 3 weeks later my other grandmother passed away and they did not want to go. I unforuanly made them saying it would be disrepectful if they did not attend. 3 months later we lost my mother in law (step grandma) and 6 months later my father in law. 4 funerals in less than 7 months was even too much for me to handle, let alone my kids.

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m0use Posted 4 Oct 2007 , 7:13pm
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I've been to different funerals and I don't remember being traumatized by an open casket, I didn't feel too comfortable about it when I was a child when I first saw one, but I my mom explained the reasoning behind it to me.
My son has been to funerals as an infant, in fact when I was pregnant with him we went to a family funeral. My son has a basic understanding of death (due to loosing pet fish, and us always telling him when it happended) so hasn't had any issues at a funeral, nor a viewing. The only time I saw him really sad when he was at a funeral was when his one great-grandpa died. He was really sad that day and clung to me a lot, but no tears really. Which was fine, I told him that it was ok to be sad and if he wanted to talk about it that was fine. Now when his other great-grandpa goes I think he will truly cry at that funeral icon_cry.gif He really loves his other great-grandpa, and he has been the only great-grandchild that great-grandpa held.
I've left the burial before the body was laid in the ground, and I've been there when they've laid the body in the ground. I think the hardest burial I went to was my SIL's sister had committed suicide, everyone stayed while the body was laid in the ground for closure.
Death is never easy for anyone, but I think telling children about death in a way they can understand is the best thing for them. I think what has helped my son is that whenever he lost a pet, we never hid it from him. We always told him when it happened. I think the only time so far that he has cried when he lost a pet was when we had a red belly pacu that attacked and left for dead our plecosamus. We had had our pleco for a long time and he had a wonderful personality and was really smart. He would swim into the fish net for you becuase he was so big he didn't wanna get stuck. We all cried that day when I found him barely clinging to life. I truly think he hung on as long as he could until one of us found him so we could say good-bye icon_cry.gif

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CakesByBabycakes Posted 4 Oct 2007 , 7:55pm
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My children did not attend viewings when they were young. I did not want their last visual memory of a loved one to be of that person in their casket. It is hard enough to view a loved one when you are an adult.

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mbelgard Posted 4 Oct 2007 , 8:49pm
post #23 of 23
Originally Posted by darandon

It might have been comforting for the son to be there.

That is SO true, children can be a great comfort during those times. My husband's brother commited suicide right before what would have been his 33rd birthday, he was buried 3 days after his birthday. My in-laws were left with one child and our two children, during the funeral planning, wake, funeral and after they would stop over to see the kids. My oldest didn't go to the funeral (his choice) but we took the baby, he was 10 months at the time, and he sat with us and his grandparents and made us all smile with his antics. A couple weeks after the funeral my MIL said she didn't know how they would have got through those days without the kids.

A couple years ago when my FIL's dad died my FIL was the one who took my little one out of the church and played with him during the service, I think it might have been easier for him than sitting through it.

I think part of the comfort factor is because children need stuff and remind us that life goes on. My son's birthday was the day after his uncle's birthday, how do you tell 5 year old you don't feel like having a birthday party?

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