No one wants to go to a funeral. It's not something scheduled in our weekly agenda, but we go. Despite intense feelings of despair, sadness, anger, guilt or fear--we clear our schedules to attend. The idea is really quite bizarre. Many adults run from these feelings and certainly do not encourage their presence in daily life.
So then why do we attend an event that is sure to bring intense, undesirable emotions in a society consumed with comfort and tranquility? Closure. The opportunity to say goodbye. It is essential for us to experience these terrible emotions so that we can remember the good times and keep those precious memories close.
If, as adults, we need those opportunity to say goodbye, why do we insist on withholding that same opportunity from children? Fear? Intense love? Desire to protect? But the truth is that children, of an appropriate developmental age, need and deserve the same opportunity to say goodbye. This can be a difficult concept and our society works so hard to protect children from these intense feelings, but it is essential to promote emotional development and understanding.
When someone close to a child dies it is important that the child has an opportunity to say goodbye and is given developmentally appropriate answers to questions that may arise. It cannot always be a parent or caregiver providing this support, but it should be a designated adult who can be a stable figure throughout, someone who feels comfortable answering questions as they are presented.
Parents, you are the expert on your child and you must make the decision when the situation presents itself. My wish is that you would have the resources you need to support your child and not make a stressful experience worse. With that in mind, my next few posts will provide some research on this topic, different therapeutic activities that can be helpful, useful resources and things to expect when children experience loss. I hope you never need it, but if you do I hope it helps.