real life

Is it normal that... I took my four-year-old to a funeral?

Should children go along to farewell family?

I took my son to his great-grandmother’s funeral. He loved his great-grandma and knew she was sick. She’d been fighting multiple illnesses for years, since just after he was born, and I felt it important that he get to say goodbye to her properly.

I was the only member of my family who brought my child to the funeral. This really surprised me. Kids deserve closure too. I believe they can handle more than we think. They know she’s died, they know it’s sad, so why shouldn’t they get to come along and pay their last respects?

When my grandmother went into hospital for the last time we all knew she wouldn’t come out. I visited her often and every time I went, my son asked to come with me. I was hesitant and made excuses. I told him it was too late in the day for him or there would be too many visitors that day…

He continued to ask so I discussed it with my husband. We decided that as long as we prepared him for what he’d see, he should be allowed to visit his beloved great-grandmother.

My son was only four but he became very solemn on the way to the hospital. We talked about her illness, about how she'd be feeling and about what we should do when we saw her. "Just because she isn't awake doesn't mean she can't hear us," I explained.

We walked in and my grandmother looked terrible. She seemed to be unaware of her surroundings and seemed to be in a restless sleep. Every now and then she'd mutter. She seemed to be struggling.

My son walked up to her, took her hand, kissed it and said, "I love you".

When she passed away that night there was no question in my mind that my son would come to the funeral. I left my babies at home because they were too young to understand what a funeral was. But as soon as they are old enough they will be allowed to come too.

When a loved one dies, it's important for children to be given the option to pay their last respects. They also have a right to choose not to go. I'll simply explain it to them and leave the decision up to them, but will definitely encourage them to attend.

The funeral was so sad and my son felt sad and he cried. But he was going to feel sad anyway. Being in church and praying for her was a comfort and he still remembers attending and being able to say a final goodbye.

Did I make the right decision? What's a good age for a child to be able to take part in a family milestone like a funeral?