Posted by Richard Rawlinson
Some say death is too sanitised these days, with few people dying at home where all the family can say goodbye, and with professionals now taking over the duties of preparing the body for the funeral.
Has this social development made us over-protective of children, just as they’re now sometimes even shielded from losing in a sports match or failing an exam? Or is it prudent to exclude under-10s from funerals lest they become traumatised, or distract attending adults by being loud and needy?
For the nays’ side the debate, young mother and widow Rachel West says, ‘It’s hard to imagine what my daughters [aged four and six] would have gained from attending their dad’s funeral, but very easy to imagine the potential damage. I was in absolute pieces that day, and needed to be. That alone would have caused them immeasurable distress. I have remained strong in their presence at all other times, which I believe benefits them in these early years.’
On the ayes’ side, experts say attendance can be therapeutic for little ones as long as they’re well prepared. They advise giving child-friendly explanations about death beforehand: it’s one thing to say grandpa has gone to rest in a peaceful place and won’t be coming back, and another to find safe words to explain he’s in that box and is about to be buried or burnt.
Ann Rowland of Child Bereavement UK also says children need to be forewarned about the possibility of adults crying and be given permission to cry, too. She also recommends an adult is on standby to take them out if they get bored or can’t handle being there.