I wasn’t even 12 years old when my Daddy died. He had been home for an entire year, don’t remember what he did all day, because Momma never told us. Who knew he was dying? Who even knew what that meant? Not me, not my younger siblings. We were clueless.
One day they came to take him away for the last time. They placed him on a stretcher and took him from us, straight to the hospital. I was so scared, I couldn’t even come out of our bathroom and say goodbye, perhaps I instinctively know that this was not going to be good. I hid, not knowing what was going to happen next.
And then came time for the funeral, whatever that was. We didn’t know, and we were not allowed to attend. Why not? Because the “adults” in the family wanted to protect us from pain and tears and sadness. They didn’t want to be there, so they figured we didn’t want to be there, either.
What’s wrong with that? When I was 12, I Just accepted it as “that’s the way it is.” Now, after years of both giving and receiving therapy, I know…
First, when the kids do not accompany the rest of the family, they-we-feel left out. We “know” something special, something very painful, is happening, but we don’t know what it is. But everybody else is crying and we aren’t involved.
That’s the first thing wrong with not attending the funeral and cemetery service. We kids are excluded from the rest of the family. It’s not that the adults don’t love us, it’s rather the opposite. They love us so much, they don’t want us to experience what they already know will be agonizing. But they have left us out of this. And it hurt.
There is another reason that kids absolutely should attend the funeral service and the cemetery service.
You see, when kids do not attend, they imagine the worst. That is, even after watching people die every day on social media, they know that real-life death is different. Scarier. And so when they are not at the cemetery, they think the worst.
And there’s more. They do not attend the cemetery service, they imagine the worst, and then the nightmares start. That’s right, they begin to dream about the awful burial service. Naturally, it scares them and they wake up in a panic, screaming. Lots of my clients have validated this to me, that is exactly what happened to their own kids. And to them, when they themselves were kids.
Those are the reasons I advise all my congregants, clients and radio listeners, to take the kids with them to the funeral and burial. If your child is 5 years old and up, and had a relationship with the loved one, they belong with you. Give them the opportunity to cry and tell stories and participate as full-fledged family members who have suffered a heartbreaking loss. If your child is too young, get a sitter for them, so that you will able to mourn with your family, and not be interrupted by your own young kids. Give yourself the peace of mind you deserve.
Mourn in peace!
Rabbi Mel Glazer, D.Min.
Host, From Mourning to Morning, TH nights at 5PM PST.