At Secure haven we often get asked by parents and guardians of younger children whether it is appropriate for them to attend a funeral service.
My own personal background with regards to this is that my Dad found it necessary for him to decide to not let me attend my Nan’s funeral at the age of 11yrs.
I remember feeling quite upset as I loved my Nan and always looked forward to visiting her in the East End as it also involved a trip to Petticoat Lane and seeing the market traders. followed by a Sunday Lunch.
When my nan died I never saw my Dad upset although I knew that he was. I certainly did not see any tears from either of my parents during this difficult time. Both my parents being true cockneys relied on the stiff upper lip method when dealing with grief.
On the day of the funeral I was packed off to a cousin who took me out for the day to keep me out of the way so that I would not see my elderly relatives grieve their loss.
The down side to this was that when my own parents died some years ago I also made that decision to not let my son and daughter attend as that is what I believed to be the correct protocol.
Moving forward several years I recently trained as a Grief Recovery Specialist mostly due to my own inability to deal with my dad’s loss and too also help others in their grief journeys.
Again, using my personal experience when my wonderful mother -in law- died from a cruel and debilitating illness that is dementia my wife, Cheryl, and myself decided that it was in fact correct to allow our younger children and their cousins to attend. All the younger children had not been to a funeral before so their experiences of grief were far removed from the older generation. In fact, my daughter found it most natural to visit the chapel at the crematorium prior to the service so that she could play Nan a piece of music on her guitar alone beside the catafalque. It was one of the most beautiful things to see and still brings a tear to my eye but to my daughter there were no tears as she was in control of the situation that she wanted.
So, moving on to the question in hand, my answer is always this: Have you asked your children? It seems strange but many parents forget to ask to somehow protect them from the grief that they will feel. I often suggest giving the children a role to play if they wish to attend. Asking them to be part of a funeral service will mean so much more than to be just sitting in the chapel or church. See if they would like to write or even read a poem, choose the colour of the coffin, or maybe get a coffin which can be personalized by the children so on seeing it on the day their fears are lessened. Perhaps ask them to hand out the Order of service sheets or even place a flower on to the coffin top.
There are many ideas like this and in all cases I would always suggest asking first whether they in fact wish to attend.