AIBU to think the church minister has guilt tripped my husband regarding children at DFIL funeral

(86 Posts)
LeeLooLahLah Thu 23-Jan-14 23:20:59

Short summary: DFIL fought cancer for a long time and sadly passed away on Monday. DH and I have never mentioned taking our 6yr old twin boys to the funeral and after going to organise the service with his family we agreed the boys wouldn't be attending.

So today, DH goes to his Mums and the minister who is conducting the service is there. Cut to DH walking in and telling me that the minister thinks children should be there as it is proven to help them understand and cope with death so he wants them to go.

I was like; Erm, These are my children. She has never met them and she has never met me. How does she know I am not helping my DTs understand and cope in other ways? DH got annoyed because I said it sounded like she was trying to guilt trip him into bringing the children.

We are not religious and I have been very careful with the way I have worded answers about the whole cancer/death/cremation topic so I am confident my 6 year olds understand and can grieve. I do not want them to get confused by a lady standing there talking about God and stuff when it isn't something I can back up if they ask questions afterwards.
Plus, DH and I will be handling our own grief that day and I don't think it is fair on children to see Mummy and Daddy upset or else it's not fair on us if we feel we can't get upset because they are there, it'll hinder our ability to release our own feelings

AIBU to think this minister was trying to guilt trip my husband into bringing the children to "godwash" them or am I being a bit emotional and overprotective of my boys?
Should I take them to the funeral? This is so tough.

LeeLooLahLah Fri 24-Jan-14 22:46:10

Thank you for all the replies. I have been really touched by some of your comments and have taken on board others.
So I've just had a discussion with DH. Turns out he feels stronger about the boys attending the funeral than he first let on. He asked the minister for her opinion and then left that detail out when he told me what she said.
We both have reasons for feeling the way we do but have agreed to discuss it with the rest of the family including DT's and make a decision that is appropriate.
There have been lots of posts that included things I hadn't thought of so I am torn.
At the end of the day, my boys are my priority but your posts have helped me to open my mind on how to help them through this.

LeeLooLahLah Fri 24-Jan-14 22:46:09

Thank you for all the replies. I have been really touched by some of your comments and have taken on board others.
So I've just had a discussion with DH. Turns out he feels stronger about the boys attending the funeral than he first let on. He asked the minister for her opinion and then left that detail out when he told me what she said.
We both have reasons for feeling the way we do but have agreed to discuss it with the rest of the family including DT's and make a decision that is appropriate.
There have been lots of posts that included things I hadn't thought of so I am torn.
At the end of the day, my boys are my priority but your posts have helped me to open my mind on how to help them through this.

LeeLooLahLah Fri 24-Jan-14 22:44:59

Thank you for all the replies. I have been really touched by some of your comments and have taken on board others.
So I've just had a discussion with DH. Turns out he feels stronger about the boys attending the funeral than he first let on. He asked the minister for her opinion and then left that detail out when he told me what she said.
We both have reasons for feeling the way we do but have agreed to discuss it with the rest of the family including DT's and make a decision that is appropriate.
There have been lots of posts that included things I hadn't thought of so I am torn.
At the end of the day, my boys are my priority but your posts have helped me to open my mind on how to help them through this.

Pilgit Fri 24-Jan-14 22:01:12

I took my DD's to my grandfathers funeral. It was a big church affair - coffin in the middle. DD1 was 3, DD2 - 5 weeks. My 3 year old nephew was also there. For them, it helped them say goodbye (he was much loved by both of them) BUT we are religious and it was something that helped my mum and my aunts (they were a source of amusement and comedy at various points). However we did not take them to the graveyard (although this was more because it was January and bitterly cold). When they are older we will take them to the graveyard to see both my grandparents. There is more than one way to say goodbye to a loved one and it is down to you and you DH to decide between you what is best.

They can be helped to grieve and accept it in different ways. DD1 and I had a beautiful chat about my grandfather at Christmas - we have some of my grandparents tree ornaments (they are special as they were made for them by a glass blower friend in the 50's - they look old and tatty!) and putting them up made me cry (having DD2 10 days before his death - I didn't process it all). DD1 came up to me gave me a hug and said 'this is how we remember him, how much he loved us and how much we miss him.' Unsurprisingly, I couldn't speak for tears! I suppose the point is - she didn't deal with it because of going to the funeral but because at all points where it has come up we have talked about it and discussed it. Just as the OP is with her sons. It's how it's dealt with in the round that matters.

deakymom Fri 24-Jan-14 21:50:02

i took my daughter to my nans funeral as they were close she cried her heart out and started everyone else off a few weeks later my uncle died and she couldn't attend because she was ill there were a lot of comments saying they wished she was there so they could cry as they felt better the last time (after they had a good cry) kids emotions tend to be on the surface if you think they will get something out of it eg say goodbye have a good cry etc by all means but if you think its going to confuse or upset them find a sitter? xx

Yika Fri 24-Jan-14 21:04:15

I tend to think its important for children to attend funerals. They also experience loss and they also feel grief, just like adults. I think the expression and acknowledgement of emotional truth is extremely important for children.

But I also like the OPs idea of a private family goodbye ritual and this may be enough. The children I think must have the opportunity to express their own feelings, to share in the collective grief (this feels very important to me after my own experience this week of the sudden death of a young colleague) and to say goodbye.

I hope no vicar would try to 'godwash' at a funeral. I have a vicar in my family who, yes, of course has their own strong faith, but also believes very much in the role of the priest as a facilitator of the rites of passage of the whole community - religious or not.

bluesky what a moving and sensitive post. I fully agree and am sorry for the loss of your son.

ukatlast Fri 24-Jan-14 18:54:52

YANBU my parents kept me away from a Great Grandparent's funeral at age 8 when I said I wanted to go...they made the right decision.

The adults need to be free to grieve without worrying about the effect their tears could have on their impressionable 6 year olds.

EmmaBemma Fri 24-Jan-14 18:51:10

"no way of knowing", not "now way"!

EmmaBemma Fri 24-Jan-14 18:50:45

"Someone saying 'Oh NO you should do it THIS way' - err, back off lady - I'm the parent thanks!!!"

You have absolutely now way of knowing that's how it went down. I highly doubt she said that, or anything like it. It's at least as likely that the OP's husband expressed some doubt about whether their children should go, and she gave her opinion. The OP herself said that she and her husband haven't talked about it between themselves very much, even.

skaen Fri 24-Jan-14 14:46:57

I went to my sisters funeral when I was 4. Tbh, the fact that my parents were upset was a fairly minor thing for me then - my sister had died very suddenly and they were utterly bereft. They weren't saving their grief for the funeral.

I still remember though feeling that it finally made sense of what had been going on and gave me a feeling of finality - I knew she wasn't coming back. I am still very glad my parents took me and I fully intend to take my DCs to any close family funerals.

sixlive Fri 24-Jan-14 14:02:32

I was taken to a couple of funerals when under 10. I think it did harm me I was very upset and bewildered that so many of the people I loved were crying and very upset. Funerals can be long and boring for kids at best and harmful at worst. I think people want kids to come for their own adult needs rather than the kids needs. My overwhelming memory of my grandfather over 40 years ago was the funeral.

SparklyTwinkleGlitter Fri 24-Jan-14 13:46:17

I took my DS to his DGM's funeral but he was only 9 months old so not an issue really, especially as he slept through most of it. If anything, his being there looking cute and smiling helped some of the mourners cope with the funeral, or so they told us afterwards.

He's a bit older now and I wouldn't consider taking him to another funeral until he's in his teens because I think it would be too distressing.

I didn't attend either of my grandparents funerals, so the first one I attended was my father's when I was a teenager. Bloody awful seeing my mother and older siblings so distraught. My mums funeral wasn't much better but at least I was a bit older.

I've been to many funerals and find them all quite harrowing and given the choice, I'd happily choose not to attend any in the future. Unfortunately other folk expect/guilt trip you into attending. :-/

I'm happy to remember people in a way that suits me and I don't need to attend a formal funeral to deal with my grief.

I really like the OP's idea of having a special family occasion to remember DGF. In her shoes, I'd do exactly the same thing.

underachievingmum Fri 24-Jan-14 13:35:27

I am also not religious but it may be worth taking the minister up on her offer - she will have experience of children at funerals.

Just to follow something said upthread.... My grandfather died just over a year ago when DD1 was 4 (in reception at school). We had much debate about taking her to the funeral and in the end didn't. She was struggling enough with the concept of death. This was not helped when a few months later the vicar took an assembly at school (church school which also happens to be our catchment school hence the reason she goes there) during which he said that people who have died don't really leave us and live on in heaven...... Cue an absolutely distraught 4 year old at bedtime wanting to know why she couldn't go to heaven and visit great grandad sad

BrunoBrookesDinedAlone Fri 24-Jan-14 13:12:10

To go back to your original annoyance at the minister's comment OP - I think it is entirely understandable and would REALLY have got my back up as well.

Basically you have/had a situation where you and your DH had carefully discussed how to parent your DCs in a sensitive situation - based on not only your own experiences but your knowledge of your own children. To then have a person who is a complete stranger to your family then inform either of you that in fact you 'should' do things differently is completely inappropriate. Doesn't matter what the situation is, and the minister would be well placed to avoid using that language in future - there is no 'should' with a grieving family, and they should know that.

The advice might indeed be sound, but all she succeeded in doing was getting your back up to the extent that you suspected that she was only interested in her own 'gain'. That says it all!

Some of the experiences folk have shared on here might now be leading you to come to a different decision - again, says it all. Sympathetic folk saying 'Well, when we had this situation we found xx really helpful for our dc' - very useful. Someone saying 'Oh NO you should do it THIS way' - err, back off lady - I'm the parent thanks!!!

Meow75 Fri 24-Jan-14 13:06:20

I agree with other posters that the idea of shielding your children from your grief is wrong. Do you want them to think that your DH/you didn't love or like their DGF? Is it so awful that your kids see you cry and realise the emotions that you are capable of? I think that's really sad.

Why do you think attending the funeral will affect their "innocence" whatsoever?

I was 18 before I attended a funeral, and I find them extremely difficult, even when - like the last 2 I've been to - they were for the parents of my very close friend, who I love very much but thought her parents were utter fools - mainly for the shit they tried to pull on their daughter - but I still wept.

JackNoneReacher Fri 24-Jan-14 13:00:34

I don't think there is a right or wrong about them going although if they go I think they'll be fine.

However I do think its for you to decide, not the minister who is entitled to an opinion but certainly doesn't have all the answers.

Also, as she doesn't know the boys, and presumably hasn't been asked for her thoughts on the matter I think she'd be better to keep her opinions to herself.

Gladvent Fri 24-Jan-14 12:58:56

I am sorry for your loss.

My DC have been to funerals since they were babes in arms. When my Nanna died we had open casket at home and they saw her, they were 5 and 7 at the time. DS stood alongside me as I read tribute at crem. Death is nothing to be shielded from. That said it is different for everyone. The best I can advise is to go with your gut instincts.

wowfudge Fri 24-Jan-14 12:51:16

OP - it's up to you. If your decision is for them not to go, that's fine. You know how close the relationships were and can best judge whether your DC should go. Now if you are not sure, then maybe a chat with minister will help.

I don't think it's nice to attend any funeral. That's my view. When one of my grandmothers died I was about 8; my younger sister and I didn't go to the funeral. We did, however, attend a memorial service for her a few weeks later. Our much younger cousin, who was 3 or 4 at the time did the same. Having attended funerals later in life, I don't think we missed out.

A couple of years ago, a friend's father died and her DC (3 under the age of 7) attended. They were, frankly, bored, couldn't sit still and didn't understand what was going on (they were sitting behind us; not at the front so they couldn't run around). After the church service they then went to the burial. I don't know what they made of that as I left after the church service.

treas Fri 24-Jan-14 12:46:29

My mother died last summer. My dc were very close to her but didn't attend her funeral, DM did not agree with children at funerals herself.

However, they do not feel that they haven't said their goodbyes because we went out as a family (DF, DSis, DH, DC and myself) for a meal where we remembered and talked about DM.

DM often pops up in their conversation in fond remembrance and when we visit my dad we are going over to DM's according to them.

People say goodbye in different ways - not attending a funeral does not mean dc are being shielded from death.

Dubjackeen Fri 24-Jan-14 12:18:01

OP, my condolences on your loss. Lots of good advice here already, and some lovely stories. It's a tough one to decide what is best. You can only try to figure, with your husband, how you think it would affect the children, as you are the ones who know them best. Practicalities also are important, of course, in your decision, e.g.if there are long journeys involved, long ceremony, etc, all of these need to be taken into consideration.
Personally, I think it's nice for children to attend, if possible, especially when they knew the person. It's the circle of life, and children often surprise adults, in their take on death. Lovely story upthread of the child saying goodbye to their own relative, and then at the other graves. I think that can help a child to understand and accept death, rather than be fearful of it.
I would think the church minister meant well, and while I understand your initial reaction, it might help to have a chat with her.

MrsMoon76 Fri 24-Jan-14 11:53:56

I do think children should go to funerals. As mentioned by a pp children are welcome at funerals in Ireland. We learn to see death and funerals as a part of life, as a part of family life. We also do a lot of open coffins at the wakes which horrified and upset my 38 year old husband who had never seen a dead body up to that point and never been to a funeral as a child. He has a real fear of death and I think part of that issue is due to it being hidden from him growing up. I have a very sad memory of hugging my dad at a funeral (his brother's) as a small child. He was bawling and my brother and I hugging him for dear life. It was upsetting but I was so glad I was there with him to comfort him.

OldBeanbagz Fri 24-Jan-14 11:35:08

I took my DD to her Grandad's funeral when she was 5 years old. He was a huge part of her life and there seemed no reason not to take her. She wanted to go (despite being the only child there) and the vicar gave her the very important job of lighting a candle.

Neither DH or me are religious but the service wasn't about us. It was about FIL, his wishes and we were merely there to say a final goodbye.

I would ask your DT whather they want to go. Explain to them what's going to happen on the day so that they know eveything in advance. And have a look at the Winston's Wish site. There's loads of good advice on there.

Sirzy Fri 24-Jan-14 11:20:26

The minister has expressed her opinion based on presumably quite a vast amount of experince of bereavement.

I think the important thing is what your children want, if they want to go take them if not make alternative arrangements.

My sister, brother and I went to my grandad's funeral when I was 9, she was 6 and he was 1. I took part in the offertory, I wanted to help and my widowed gran wanted me to take part. We had been to several others before and after that (large extended elderly/sickly family), and the only thing we were ever excluded from was the graveside bit. The only funeral we didn't go to the mass for was my mum's dad, because we didn't know him (my parents went, we waited in the car). Every single one of them was fine, and the wake afterwards was always a good laugh, never been traumatised. As far as my family are concerned the whole family mourns together, and children lighten the mood.
The only funeral I was ever really bothered by happened when I was 21 and my ex's cousin who died after a long illness at the age of 20.

Scholes34 Fri 24-Jan-14 10:55:18

I don't think the minister has guilt tripped your DH. I think a good and supportive conversation has taken place, and had you been party to it too, it's quite possible you would have felt the same as your DH afterwards.

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