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On the last track we discussed the terminally ill. Five points we considered are whether or not the grieving child wants to visit the terminally ill, preparing the child for the visit, taking a gift, limiting time, and the benefits of involving a child in terminal illness.
On this track we will discuss the involvement of children in funerals. The four topics we will discuss are how funerals help children accept the reality of death, what if the body isn’t presentable, preparing a child for a funeral, and when not to take a child to a funeral. Let’s get started.
Involvement of the Child in a Funeral - 4 Considerations
#1 How Funerals Help Children Accept the Reality of Death
Merle stated, "At first, Justin acted like he didn’t hear me. I told him a second time that his granddad had died and he just kind of shrugged and nodded."
I stated to Merle, "The funeral may help Justin accept the reality of death. As he looks at the body, Justin may accept that death has occurred and that he won’t see his granddad smile again. Funerals can make death more real for the child. It may allow Justin to proceed with the grieving process by breaking through denial."
Do you agree that confirmation of the reality of death is productive for a child’s grief process?
#2 What If the Body Isn’t Presentable?
Allen’s therapist stated, "What you can do is have a person your child trusts identify the body and then convey directly to Callista that it was indeed Dawn’s body. If Callista ever displays doubt regarding the reality of Dawn’s body, she can go back to the designated viewer and ask, ‘Was that really my mommy?’" Because Callista had always trusted her Aunt Jeanine, Allen asked her to be Callista’s designated viewer. Jeanine agreed and confirmed for Callista the death of her mother.
#3 Preparing a Child for a Funeral
Merle stated to Justin, "The funeral is a special service for granddad. All his friends and the family is putting it together so we can say goodbye. Remember, granddad might look like he’s sleeping, but he’s really dead. You can touch him if you want to. He’ll be firm and cool, not soft and warm like you and me. Now, you and I are gonna dress up. And no horseplay, right? Also, it’s okay to cry, if you want. I might and so will grandma."
Merle made the decision to take Justin to the funeral home before the funeral to help Justin become more familiar with the setting. Merle stated, "I thought it would make it less scary for him."
Do you agree that the more children can anticipate what is going to occur, the more comfortable they will be?
#4 When Not to Take a Child to a Funeral
Mike, age 38, took his children to their Uncle Carl’s funeral. Carl’s late wife, was the children’s Aunt Sally. Aunt Sally was a notoriously highly emotional person. However, Mike did not anticipate that Aunt Sally would throw herself onto Uncle Carl’s coffin as it was being lowered.
Since hearing this story, if the therapist suspects similar circumstances, she suggests to parents to make special arrangements with the funeral director. Funeral directors can usually set up a special time for children to be with the deceased when the potential Aunt Sallies are not present.
Think of your Mike. He or she knows his or her family best and how they behave. Are there times when he or she has to be aware of special considerations to arrange a special viewing?
On this track we have discussed funerals. The four topics we discussed are how funerals help children accept the reality of death, what if the body isn’t presentable, preparing a child for a funeral, and when not to take a child to a funeral.
Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Salinas, C. L. (2021). Playing to heal: The impact of bereavement camp for children with grief. International Journal of Play Therapy, 30(1), 40–49.
Schonfeld, D. J., & Demaria, T. P. (2018). The role of school psychologists in the support of grieving children. School Psychology Quarterly, 33(3), 361–362.
Talen, M. R. (2019). A silver lining playbook? My mom’s death. Families, Systems, & Health, 37(3), 260–262.
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