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"Children should not attend the funeral..."

Adults assume that children will be emotionally scarred if they attend the funeral...

"Children should not attend the funeral..."

Adults assume that children will be emotionally scarred if they attend the funeral. This 'protective behavior' though, keeps children away from the process of grief and healing. Research findings, show that for children who participate in their parents' funeral the experience is positive while for children who are not allowed to attend the funeral the experience is negative as they feel regret and repentance (Daffy, 1995 ; Holland, 1999).

The process of funeral and burial permits the child to close the circle of death, to say goodbye to his loved one and yes, to manage loss and bereavement better (EPA, 2006). So children should be encouraged to attend the funeral. However, they must be asked whether they wish to attend the funeral or not.

Although the experience will have a positive impact on the child, children should not be forced to attend the funeral and should be given the choice in attending the funeral or not (Chris Earl of P & SW Co-operative Society, UK).

Preparation

Unless a child has already attended a funeral, most do not know what to expect. It is good to prepare the child in simple words about what will happen before, during and after the funeral. Allow the child's questions to be your guide. Inform the child that people may express a variety of emotions with some people crying (EPA, 2006) when others laugh while sharing memories and stories with the diseased.

If the body will be viewed let the child know, and explain how their loved one will be in the casket: 'your grandmother would lie still and will not breathe nor speak'. It is important to reassure the child that death means the body does not work and the person is not able to feel any pain.

Even if children do not wish to attend the funeral they could perhaps write a note, make a card or a picture that includes something that they wanted to say or do with their loved one before they died (Chris Earl of P & SW Co-operative Society, UK). Allowing children to contribute to the funeral helps them express their grief in a positive way.

It would be good to explain that: the funeral is a time to honor the person who died and acknowledge that the person who we loved can't come back.

Finally, it would be good if the child is accompanied by a calm and supportive person who they trust.

*EPA = Ministry of Education and Culture