This year has brought two deaths in our family. While I understand the importance of saying goodbye, I had to wonder if I should take my seven-year-old to the funeral? Let me backtrack for a minute.
I experienced my first funeral at age 11. It was my father’s funeral .
It changed my life in so many ways and not for the better. Knowing the trauma I experienced I was afraid to take my daughter to this funeral. I felt like I had to protect her. But why was my first funeral so traumatic? It wasn’t because it was just a funeral. My trauma stemmed from the fact that I had attended a funeral FOR MY FATHER.
This funeral would be different.
It was my uncle. The great-uncle of which my daughter shares his middle name. He was like a second father to me but my daughter did not have a close relationship with him. His health had diminished greatly and he had become wheelchair bound. The once strong, proud Marine now had people take care of him. That is who my daughter remembered. His prior state did not determine my decision, but it impacted their relationship.
I wondered what kind of questions she would ask and how I would respond? Would she freak out? How would she emotionally feel?
Should I take my seven-year-old to the funeral?
The question ran through my mind repeatedly. I decided to ask for advice from the women in my office. My hope was that my co-worker, who was a mom of seven children, would speak up with an abundance of wisdom and experiences. As we started the conversation, the majority of the women agreed that we should do what we think is best for our family and felt that she would be fine. But the mom of seven did not speak up…until the very end. She shared about her personal experiences in which her husband, who was a preacher, spoke at funerals often because of his job. In the end, their children grew up around it and never knew any other way. And they all turned out just fine.
My co-worker reminded me that it is up to the parent or guardian with the child at the funeral to set the tone. Like most things in life, the little people look up to the big people to learn how to act situations that are uncomfortable. The question “should I take my seven-year-old to the funeral” had been answered. She was coming with me to the funeral.
My seven-year-old did just fine at the funeral.
She held my hand and hugged me big when I cried and even cried a little too. She asked a few questions and mentioned that she was going to miss Uncle Jerry. And she did phenomenal.
A few months later, my husband’s grandmother died. I knew without a doubt my daughter and I would have to make the trip for the funeral. Now, my daughter understood why and what was happening on this trip. The night before we drove out, she asked me questions about death and dying. It was not easy to answer but the responses were simple. She was simply curious. During the funeral, she sat in our laps and sobbed like I have not seen her cry in an awfully long time. At first, I was scared but that would have not helped her work through those emotions. We let her cry it all out because these tears were from true sorrow. She needed to process those emotions.
I watched my baby girl grow emotionally during that moment.
When I think about my choice, I am grateful I made the decision that I did. In the future, I will handle each funeral on a case by case basis. My daughter now has a better understanding of something we had only spoken to her about prior to the actual event. I am glad that I listened to my heart and trusted my motherly instincts.