When someone you love passes away, it sucks. Hard. Recently, my extended family experienced a couple of these crappy situations. My wife and I wondered what was the best time to introduce our kids -- 12 and 9 -- to the experience.
Our thinking was that, eventually, our kids would have to go thru the experience. Why not introduce them to it now? Or should we wait until we feel it's appropriate?
It's a hard call. We want our kids to remain innocent. We want them to always bask in the glow of youth, immaturity and not knowing about all of the evils that exist in this world.
Now, funerals aren't evil. I know that. They are sad though. Whether the loved one was 95 or 56 (as in the case with my dad), wakes and funerals aren't parties (unless you're going to an Irish funeral).
So the question remains, at what age should we introduce this part of life to our kids?
Reasons for being in favor of doing it early:
- There's never going to be a good time to introduce them to the experience.
- If they are close to the one who passed, it's their right to be there.
- Other family members will be there to console them when they are sad (the whole village thing).
- It's just part of growing up.
Reasons (more questions, really) for not doing it early:
- Will they really understand the finality of the situation and will it scare them?
- Will the emotion be too much to take?
- Will they be scared?
- Will they have nightmares?
- Will they have questions I can't answer?
- Will I be ready for their reaction?
In the most recent cases we experienced, my wife and I decided to go half and half. The first situation was more of a memorial service where the second one was a full-one wake/funeral situation. I guess I answered my own question as we introduced our kids to the experience, briefly, and explained to them what they would see beforehand. Not sure if it made any impact on them whatsoever, but I'll tell you this much, watching them during these times makes me think about how many more of these we will experience as a family.
They suck. Straight up. They suck.
It also brings home the point of a few posts I've read recently about life as a Dad in general. We do what we have to do for our kids and that also means, living a healthy life so we can be there in the long run.
I'd rather have my kids be at my funeral after 90+ years on this earth and that the wake/funeral is actually a party, with loads of beer and good food.